Shiells to Ross, 1837

“ Sale of a printer/publisher in Wick, Scotland in 1837”

by

Eunice Shanahan

The letter was written by Archibald Shiells of Wick, addressed to James Ross No 1 George Street Edinburgh.

There are three postmarks:

On the front there is the manuscript charge mark in black ink ‘1/1½d’. Wick is 765 miles from London and Edinburgh is 396 miles the difference therefore is 369 miles , the charge is the correct rate of 1 shilling and 1 penny for a distance between 300 and 400 miles plus the additional halfpenny Scottish mail tax. The fact that the additional ½ was written in manuscript and in black ink it would have to be paid by the person who received the letter. If it had been written in red ink I would indicate that postage on the letter had been paid by the sender.

There are two on the back of the letter
1) a circular date stamp WICK 12 OC 1837,
2) a circular dated Edinburgh morning duty OCT 14 1837 in red.

There is also a filing note written over the date stamp Wick 12/14 Oct 1837 Archd. Shiells

This is a really interesting letter concerning the proposed sale of a printing/publishing business, which as part of the business published a local paper The Star.

12th October, 1837
Dear Sir
I have had several meetings with Stewart since receipt of your letter of the 6th tho’ it was not till yesterday I could get him to give me a note of the sum he expected to receive on giving up the Star – His object is to get free of the printing concern entirely – He would not say what was the value of the additional material which he had been obliged to furnish to carry on the paper – neither would he say what sum he would take to relinquish the Star – and keep the whole of his materials.

I fear he is sadly in want of money and requires the value of the printing press, to relieve him from his difficulties – I subjoin a copy of the proposal I received from him. I cannot give any opinion as to the value of the materials, which he states at £260 – It is surely high – and besides great part of these will be of little or no use in carrying on the new concern. The press will not answer. You will observe what he proposes as to retaining the name of Publisher and printer of the Star while at the same time, he is to relinquish the printing business entirely.

He wishes also to have the privilege of his ‘own and customers jobbing done at the Trade price &c.’
This will never do. In the conversations which Messrs H W Hoth & Mr D Howie had with him I understood it was only such printing as he required himself in the course of his business, which he was to get done at a low rate – I reminded him of this – when he observed
“surely then, they would allow him a
‘Per Catags ’ a discount on all the printing which might be sent to the establishment through him ”
I said this was quite different and seemed reasonable.

If Stewart is settled with in the way he proposes by taking the whole printing concern off his hands – the premises presently occupied by him, exclusive of the Shop will be got at a rent of £10 or £11 &ndash the door communicating with the Shop can be shut up – and some slight alterations would make the back appartments quite suitable for the establishment
I am Dear Sir yours very truly
Arch. Shiells.


Note: As the image shows, this signature is quite fancy, and I like to think of him signing off with this flourish with a quill pen.


Then subjoined in a slightly different handwriting are the conditions which the seller is imposing to allow the sale to proceed.

‘I agree to give up the concern in the printing establishment I at present possess if the following terms are accepted viz

‘ Printing Materials at a valuation consisting of Types, Presses, Frames etc which amounts to £260

For the outlay &c encountered in Starting the Star viz :
canvassing, corresponding &c, which I consider so small that it never can be objected to £60

I expect also to retain the name of Publisher and Printer of the Star if agreeable to the Proprietors, and also the privilege of having my own and Customers Jobbing done at the trade prices or at such only as will remunerate the proprietors for tear & wear and workmen’


There is a very tiny P.S. written in the bottom left corner, which seems to refer to the Mr Howie referred in the third paragraph of this letter.

Have the goodness to remind Mr D.H. to look over my accounts for Registration, 1835 and 1836.

I wonder if Archibald Shiells and James Ross ever came to an agreement over this sale.

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