Ged, William

, an ingenious though unsuccessful artist, who was a goldsmith in Edinburgh, deserves to be recorded for his attempt to introduce an improvement in the art of printing. The invention, first practised by Ged in 1725, was simply this. From any types of Greek or Roman, or any other character, he formed a plate for every page, or sheet, of a book, from which he printed, instead of using a type for every letter, as is done in the common way. This was first practised on blocks of wood, by the Chinese and Japanese, and pursued in the first essays of Coster, the European inventor of the present art. “This improvement,” says James Ged, the inventor’s son, “is principally considerable in three most important articles, viz. expence, correctness, beauty, and uniformity.” In July 1729, William Ged entered into partnership with William Fenner, a London stationer, who was to have half the profits, in consideration of his | vancing all the money requisite. To supply this, Mr. John James, then an architect at Greenwich (who built sir Gregory Page’s house, Bloomsbury church, &c.) was taken into the scheme, and afterwards his brother, Mr. Thomas James,*


George James, another brother, was printer to the city of London; a man of letters, and resided many years in Little-Britain.

a letter-founder, and James Ged, the inventor’s son. In 1730, these partners applied to the university of Cambridge for printing bibles and common-prayer books by block instead of single types, and, in consequence, a lease was sealed to them April 23, 1731. In their attempt they sunk 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 disappointment to the villainy of the press-men, and the illtreatment of his partners (which he specifies at large), particularly Fenner, whom John James and he were advised to prosecute, but declined it. He returned to Scotland in 1733, and had no redress. He there, however, had friends who were anxious to see a specimen of his performance; which he gave them in 1744, by an edition of Sallust.

Edinburgi, Gulielmus Ged, Au­ rifabr Edineusis, non Typis mobilibus, ut vulgò fieri solet, sed Tabellis seu Laminis fusis, excudebat, MDCCXLIV.” The daughter’s narrative says it was finished in 1736.

Fenner died insolvent in or before 1735, and his widow married Mr. Waugh, an apothecary, whom she survived. Her effects were sold in 1768. James Ged, the son, wearied with disappointments, engaged in the rebellion of 1745, as a captain in 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 pardoned, and released in 1748. He afterwards worked for some time as a journeyman, with Mr. Bettenham, and then commenced master; but being unsuccessful, he went privately to Jamaica, where his younger brother William was settled as a reputable printer. His tools, &c. he left to be shipped by a false friend, who most ungenerously detained them to try his skill himself. James died the year after he left England; as did his brother in 1767. In the above pursuit Mr. Thomas James, who died in 1738, expended much of his fortune, and suffered in his proper business; “for the printers,” says Mr. Mores, “would not employ him, because the block-printing, had it succeeded, would have been prejudicial to theirs.” Mr. | William Ged died, in very indifferent circumstances, October 19, 1749, after his utensils were sent for Leith to be shipped for London, to have joined with his son James as a printer there. Thus ended his life and project, which has lately been revived both in France and England, under the name of stereotype, although its application to the printing of books has hitherto been partial, and indeed chiefly confined to such as are supposed not to admit of changes or improvements, such as Bibles, and some school-books. 1

Biographical Memoirs of William Ged, 1781, 8vo.—Nichols’s Bowysr.