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Significant Scots
William Ged


GED, WILLIAM, the inventor of stereotype printing, was a goldsmith in Edinburgh, in the early part of the eighteenth century. He is said to have first attempted stereotyping in the year 1725. The invention, as may be generally known, consists in casting, by means of a stucco mould, a representation of the superficies of arranged types, which, being fitted to a block, may be used under the press exactly as types are used, and, being retained, may serve at any time to throw off an additional impression. As the metal required for this process is very little compared to that of types, stereotyping is accomplished at an expense, which, though it might come hard upon ordinary jobs, is inconsiderable in others, where it may be the means of saving a new composition of types for subsequent impressions. In the case of a book in general use, such as the Bible, and also in cases where the publication takes place in numbers, and one number is in danger of being sold to a greater extent than another, the process suggested by Ged is of vast utility. [The editor trusts he may mention, without any appearance of obtrusiveness, that his elder brother and himself have found an advantage in stereotyping which was not formerly experienced, and which may be described as a new power developed in the art. In a periodical work published by them, the process is employed to cast more plates than one, to order that the work may be published in various parts of the empire at the same time, without the cost of a different composition of types for each place, and so as to avoid a carriage of paper, which would otherwise be enormously expensive.] In July, 1729, Mr Ged entered into a partnership with William Fenner, a London stationer, and, for the purpose of carrying his invention into practice, allowed Fenner half the profits, in consideration of his advancing the necessary funds. Afterwards, Mr John James, an architect, was taken into the scheme for the same purpose, as was likewise Mr Thomas James, a letter-founder, and Mr James Ged, the inventor’s son. In 1730, the association applied to the university of Cambridge for printing Bibles and Common-Prayer books, by stereotype, and, in consequence, the lease was sealed to them, April 23, 1731. In their attempt they sank a large sum of money, and finished only two prayer-books, so that it was forced to be relinquished, and the lease was given up in 1738. Ged imputed his disappointments to the villany of the pressmen, and the ill treatment of his partners, particularly Fenner, whom John James and he were advised to prosecute, but declined. In 1733, this ingenious man returned with blighted prospects to Edinburgh. Afterwards, however, by the advice of his friends, he gave to the world, a specimen of his invention, in an edition of Sallust, finished, it is said, in 1736, but not published till 1744, as the following imprint on the title page testifies: - "Edinburgi, Gulielmus Ged, Aurifaber, Edinensis, non typis mobilibus, ut vulgo fieri solet, sed tabellis seu laminus fusis, excudebat, MDCCXLIV." James Ged, his son and former partner, engaged in the insurrection of 1745, as a captain in the duke of Perth’s regiment, and being taken at Carlisle, was condemned, but, on his father’s account, by Dr Smith’s interest with the duke of Newcastle, was released in 1745. He afterwards went to Jamaica, where he settled, and where his brother William was already established as a printer. William Ged, the inventor of an art which has been of incalculable advantage to mankind, experienced what has been the fate of too many ingenious and useful men; he died, October 19, 1749, in very indifferent circumstances, after his utensils had been shipped to Leith for London, where he intended to renew partnership with his son James. The Misses Ged, his daughters, lived many years after in Edinburgh, where they kept a school for young ladies, and were much patronized by the Jacobite gentry. [Among the curiosities preserved in Fingask castle, Perthshire, the seat of Sir Peter Murray Threlpland, Bart., is a page of the stereotype of Ged’s Sallust, which had probably been obtained from the inventor or his family by the late Sir Stewart Threlpland, who was a distinguished partisan of the family of Stuart.] Another member of the family, by name Dougal, was a captain in the town guard, or military police, of Edinburgh, in the days of Fergusson the poet.

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