October 3

On the tombstone of one Adam Williamson, a pressman printer who died in Edinburgh, Scotland on this date in 1832, is inscribed:

All my stays are loosed;
my cap is thrown off; my head is worn out
my box is broken;
my spindle and bar have lost their power;
my till is laid aside;
both legs of my crane are turned out of their path;
my winter hath no spring;
my rounce will neither roll out nor in;
stone, coffin, and carriage have all failed;
the hinges of my tympan, and frisket, are immovable;
my long and short ribs are rusted;
my cheeks are much worm-eaten, and mouldering away;
my press is totally down!

The volume of my life is finished! not without many errors:
most of them have arisen from bad composition and are
to be attributed more to the case than to the press;
there are also a great number of my own;
misses, scuffs, blotches, blurs, and bad register:
but the true and faithful Superintendent has undertaken to correct the whole.
When the machine is again set up, (incapable of decay),
a new and perfect edition of my life will appear,
elegantly bound for duration, and every way fitted for
the grand library of the Great Author.

And so many a printer went to his rest eternal, comforted no doubt by the knowledge that such remarks on his craft would appear on his headstone. The last half of the epitaph of Pressman Williamson bears some resemblance to that written—but never used—by Benjamin Franklin during his fanciful youth. In the years of his age and wisdom Franklin directed that a simple marker should read “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin,” along with a date.

Printers, being on the whole a literate group of men, frequently wrote stylish epitaphs utilizing their craft terminology, seeking no doubt to immortalize their simple workaday lives. It is amusing to note that in the Edinburgh epitaph Pressman Williamson continued to his grave the classic rivalry between compositor and pressman which has existed throughout the long history of the art of printing.

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