Printer's Devil

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PRINTER'S DEVIL. Printing was originally associated with black magic because of the marvelous uniformity of printed works as compared with handwritten manuscripts. Printers cherished their air of mystery and dubbed their young helpers evil spirits, or "devils." Also, some European apprentices were considered permanent menial laborers and so received a disreputable name.

In America the term lost its connotation of magic, but the chore boy or youngest apprentice was still called the printer's devil. Educated in setting type and working the handpress, these workers sometimes became master printers, publishers, or writers. With the mechanization of printing, apprenticeship declined, and the printer's devil became obsolete.


Joyce, William L. Printing and Society in Early America. Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1983.

Pasko, W. W., ed. American Dictionary of Printing and Bookmaking. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1967. The original edition was published in 1894.

Quimby, Ian M. G. Apprenticeship in Colonial Philadelphia. Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts Series. New York: Garland, 1985.

Silver, Rollo G. The American Printer, 17871825. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1967.

Milton W. Hamilton / t. d.

See also Apprenticeship ; Publishing Industry .