Robert Smail's Printing Works
Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. Get your hands inky at this living museum of a thriving printing firm, whose premises have remained more or less unchanged for over a century. Test your skills at typesetting, learn the traditional art of letterpress printing and see authentic Victorian machinery in action.
For up-to-date visit information, see here.
Robert Smail founded R Smail and Sons in 1866, which was passed onto his sons and then his grandson. An important part of Scotland’s industrial heritage, it remains very much a part of the town of Innerleithen today, and still produces commercial jobbing work using Victorian letterpress techniques and machinery.
The printing presses, some of which date back to the Victorian era, can be seen in action; shelves of type line the walls, revealing the changing fashions for typefaces; and 52 giant guardbooks showcase almost every item printed by the family firm.
During your tour, you will visit the original Office with its brown paper parcels of letters, pens, inkwells and rubber stamps. You can see copies of the newspaper and tickets for ocean liners sold by Smail's. In the Caseroom, you’ll learn about the meticulous process of setting type by hand, inking and proofing – before having a go yourself. Then watch the Printers operating presses with foot treadles, see belts and pulleys whirr into life and hear the thunderous clank of the automated printing presses.
Admire the waterwheel that once powered the printing works, and discover the origins of everyday sayings such as ‘mind your Ps and Qs’ – and the painful truth of ‘coming a cropper’ in the print room!
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