Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3
An Odd Sort.
Dear Reader! Were you ever an apprentice to a printing firm? Did you ever sweep the floor and put the pie in your pocket, so that you would not have to dis. it? Did you ever have to clear away a parcel of jobbing pie, and get bewildered even to distraction over the want of harmony between great-primer and two-line brevier spaces, and others as nearly approximating? Did you ever tax the patience of a comp by continually asking, « Please, sir, where does this letter go? » or « What space is this, sir? » or « Will you reach me down that 2-line great primer black case, sir? » and did that man ever turn on you with bitter sarcasm and remark with a withering glance « Haven't you got any fingers? » « Where are your eyes? » and « Why don't you grow? » Ah me, don't I remember those days. I was such a little chap, and our racks were built up pretty high. I laugh over it now as I think of the little fellow carrying round a box as big as himself. I have always felt a strong sympathy with David Copperfield's boyhood days, and also with Oliver Twist, which I think is owing to the smallness of my own stature when a boy. It was not very pleasant to have rehearsed to one every day such recipes as these:— « Do you want to grow?—then hang on to the door half an hour every day. Eat plenty of burgoo. Sleep with your head and heels tied to each end of your bedstead. Practice standing on nothing. Hang on to to the door with your mother's flat irons tied to your heels, » &c., &c. One day I was clearing away some pie, when I came across a lot of great primer quads and one other quad of which there was no space or letter of a like kind among the stuff. It wasn't 2-line brevier and it wasn't great primer. What was I to do? I did not like to ask my tutor, for I had already used up all his poor stock of patience. Oh, thought I, as I cannot find the case, I'll stick it among the great primers, (which I had already put away). No one will know, so it will be all right. Away went I to the great primer antique case, and turning over some of the quads I put in my friendless one, covered it over, and was turning away to pursue the even tenor of my way, when—yes, my little game was upset. My tutor quietly turning over the g.p's. until he had found the cause of my trouble held it up for the examination of the room, remarking « Is this how you put away your pie? » I had a most uncomfortable quarter-of-an-hour, and when the proper case was shown to me I found it was a bastard shaded letter. That incident was so strongly impressed on my mind that I doubt whether I shall ever forget it, and I have never since been tempted to put an assortment of pie « anywhere out of sight » but I have thought of the bastard, and the memory has had the right effect.
I heard long ago from an old London comp, now departed, a pleasing anecdote of Thomas Moore, the poet, which, being a personal reminiscence of his own, has never found its way into print. In his boyhood, my informant was a reader-boy at Clowes's, and knew the poet well by sight, as an edition of « Anacreon » was in the press, and the author often looked in to see the proofs. On one occasion, he found the reader-boy in tears, having just had a cuff on the ear for his « stupidity. » Making enquiry. Moore found that the trouble had arisen over some Greek words in the text, and he expostulated with the reader for expecting the lad to decipher Greek by intuition. « Did you ever learn the Greek alphabet, my boy? » he asked. « No, » was the reply. « Then learn it now, » he said. « You will not find it very difficult; and if you know it when I come again, you shall have five shillings. » Whereupon he wrote the alphabets, large and small, on a sheet of paper, and gave them to the lad. The task was duly accomplished, and the reward given, and the poet never afterwards passed the boy without a word of encouragement. « Persevere, » he would say, « and you will be a scholar yet. »
In the far-away days when the late Mr Wood was the only printer in Hawke's Bay, he possessed an imp whose baptismal name—if he ever was baptized—was James, but who was always known as « Moses. » Moses was a devil of the most pronounced type, always as black as ink and oil could make him, and never out of mischief and disgrace. The word « larrikin » had not then been coined—but Moses was a grand representative of the class. If any midnight mischief was wrought in the town, no evidence was ever looked for to identify the perpetrator—everyone knew Moses must be at the bottom of it. Many were his tricks with the types. He it was who, in the shipping column, announced the arrival of a ketch in the firewood trade from Mercury Bay with « 40 tons fireworks, » and, being told to set his master's imprint in Maori, made it, « Emea ta Hemi Rakau » instead of the usual « Hemi Wuru. » He was a sore trial to his long-suffering master, but sometimes, as he well deserved, came off second-best. « Holy Moses! » was a favorite expletive of the boss, and when Jem heard it, he used to say under his breath, « Did you speak to me, sir? » Whereupon his mates would giggle, and be sternly enjoined to « get on with the work. » Mr W. was very absent-minded, and frequently made long and ineffectual searches for bodkins, setting-rules, and other sundries, which were ultimately found in his coat-pocket, where he had placed them in a moment of abstraction. His custom was to make up the form himself, generally in the small hours, and dismiss the lads one by one, remaining himself till it was ready for press. He had not been trained to the work, and did it very slowly, but carefully and well. His chief trouble was in handling type—he had not the knack acquired by long practice, and would at times capsize the bottom lines of the column with his coat-sleeve or squabble a stickfull in lifting—repairing the damage himself with infinite toil. The lads have often described how, coat on, with the matter only half-damped—for he hated type swamped with water—he would « plane the whole form with his thumb » before locking-up—by which precautionary measure he infallibly detected any types or leads under the matter. One night the sponge could not be found. « I am sure I had it just now, » said Mr W.,— « What can have become of it? » After much searching by all hands, Moses mildly observed: « Perhaps it is in your coat-pocket, sir? » Indignant as he was at the suggestion, Mr W. put his hand instinctively to the spot indicated, and drew forth the missing article, dripping wet. It was thenceforth a standing joke, how he « put the sponge in his pocket; » but Moses could have given a more correct version as to how it came there. But his best joke was not at his master's expense. It was past the midnight hour, and the form was nearly made up, Moses and his mate assisting, bringing leads, carrying away the galleys, &c. All was ready to lock up, as the clock struck one, and Mr Wood gave the two drowsy lads the welcome signal of dismissal, as he began the customary tattoo with his thumb upon the form. But he pushed in the wrong direction, and a grievous squabble appeared at the foot of a column. « Holy Moses! » he cried, in a tone of vexation, as the door was closing behind the boys. « Did you call me, sir? » asked Moses, with a grin, his grimy face appearing at the door. « No, you—yes! » was the reply. « Just come and mend this smash. » And the worthy boss retired with a quiet chuckle, and passed the next half- hour in the easy-chair in his sitting-room, while Moses ruefully realized that a fellow sometimes might be just a little too smart.
Taking his Time.
The old Government Printing Office, Wellington, was the scene of many incidents, both grave and gay, and changes from « pica to brevier » as the intelligent comp freely translated Horace Greeley of respected memory. Piece-rooms have always been the rallying point of all odd characters, and I think the piece-room of the Government Printing Office has more than had its share of « cards. » I have repeatedly heard readers remark that if they kept a record of the brilliant flashes of wit which have emanated from the proofs of piece hands, it would soon fill up a goodly pile of paper. We have all of us read many accounts of the way in which the I. C. interprets his orders to « follow copy. » It was strongly enforced upon the writer when an apprentice that he was to « follow copy, even if it went out of the window, » but he has never yet followed it that far. Still we come across men who will follow copy or instructions as implicitly as recommended to the writer. This brings me back to the old Government Printing Office. His name was Mahoney, which carries so much of the genuine brogue with it that it seems hardly necessary for me to inform you that he was an Irishman. Perhaps it is a bull to say so, but all Irishmen are not Irish, but it is a fact. Nevertheless M. was an Irishman. He had been for some time on his lines, when one day the foreman gave him a house-proof to correct, saying as he gave it to him— « Take your time on it, » —meaning, of course, that the time of correcting the galley of matter was to be taken, so as to be charged as author's corrections. But M., in the simplicity of his nature thought the boss was giving him a soft thing, and after an effusive « thank you » to his benefactor, he retired to his frame, and after laying the proof upon that article of furniture he rubbed some invisible soap off his hands, and remarked to himself (a very common practice with the Celts) with a chuckle, « Bedad, this is the finest mike I have had for many a day, » and thereupon filled up his pipe and retired to the back of the premises for half-an-hour's smoke. Included in the programme of his mike was the reading of the paper, and gossip ad lib. In this manner M. managed to spend two days over four hours' correcting, when the boss suddenly entered his elysium and wanted to know what was the matter with the galley, and how much longer it was going to take him before he was finished. « Why, » innocently remarked the Hibernian, « you tould me to take me time, and bedad I think I've managed it pretty well! »