Nelson and Sons at Work

In 1845, Thomas Nelson and Sons moved its operations to a printing works at Hope Park in Scotland, big enough for its growing staff of more than 400.

The Scottish printing industry at the time required a printers’ exam, followed by an apprenticeship of four to seven years. Men typically handled composing and printing while women handled the paper on and off the presses, and folded and stitched the pages. Amid union expansion, each trade developed its own working hours and compensation systems. Many of these men and women spent their whole careers at Nelson and Sons, with sons and daughters joining the firm just as the Nelson sons had joined their father. Employees were fed lunch each day at the company’s expense, and preachers often orated while the workforce ate.

Unfortunately, a fire claimed the Hope Park facility in April 1878, and some said that “not a book or sheet of paper was saved” from the conflagration, although plates and woodcuts kept underground did survive. For two years, the company continued on in temporary facilities provided by the City of Edinburgh, and the Nelson brothers offered their thanks in the form of two pillars erected at the east end of The Meadows, a public park.