Edinburgh

Cannonmills
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edinburgh 12012 images
The crazing of the paint around this shop sign indicates that it has been there for a long time; and, yes, the shop still sells wet fish.

'The Old Town': The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile (Lawnmarket, High Street, Cannongate) stretches from the Castle down to Holyrood Palace. The Old Town surrounds it and is described as the medieval part of Edinburgh. It certainly became clear that it is a treasure trove of historic lettering. The street plan is a 'fishbone layout' of the Royal Mile as the backbone and many small passageways and alleys (known as Closes) running off it on each side. The stone buildings of the city lend themselves to signs painted directly on the surface. The antiquity and weathering means that many examples are fugitive, but indicate thriving businesses in past centuries.
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The above signs, over James Court in Lawnmarket, took some working out. On the red-painted background:
'ARGYLE LODGING HOUSE
FOR FEMALES ONLY'
and painted on two of the first floor window sills:
'REGISTERED ... LODGINGS'

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Old Assembly Close is labelled by the gold-on-black, hanging, shaped nameplate and on the modern stone threshold. Modern signs within the archway partially cover a painted trade sign on one side and patchwork mortar obliterates some lettering on the other side. between them we can construct:
'SMITH FLETCHER & CO. LTD.
WIREWORK
MANUFACTURERS'
with a pointing hand, the whole sign inside a deco-style border. The small oval numeral '172' indicates that all these entries have been recorded and numbered. The helpful plaque showing historical information is typical of many to be found in the city.

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Above this arched entry to a Close are three bands of lettering, partially obscured by dodgy-looking cabling:
'GEO. MERCER'
is at the top in serifcapitals with a drop shadow. Even larger capitals appear below, although we can only be sure of the 'ON' at the end; the lettering running under the '166' oval is unreadable. As are most of the characters painted within the arch, left and right (shown below).
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Here are similar traces from other Closes running off The Royal Mile.

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Burnett's Close (below) once displayed its name running round the arch (still visible beneath the nameplate) and has lettered on the lintel entry:
'MARY'S CHAPEL'
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Stevenlaw's Close has its name painted on the inside of the arch stonework (beneath the inevitable modern cable).

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Left: lurking high up in one Close (and see also the similarly quirky spelling on John Knox House, further down the page):
'BLISST.BE.YE.LORD.FOR
ALL.HIS.GIFTS.1578
RESTORED 1813[?]'
Right (above):
'...AGH SUBSCRIPTION
LIBRARY
... Left Hand [?]'
   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edinburgh 26'PICTURES    NEW PALACE CINEMA'

Paisley Close has a very ornate carved support for an upper bay window which features a portrait of sometime resident of the city, Robert Burns (he's also just visible under the awning to the left); also a scroll bearing the quotation:

"HEAVE AWA CHAPS,
I'M NOT DEAD YET"
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John Knox House is Edinburgh's oldest Royal Mile mansion: the home of Mary, Queen of Scots' Catholic goldsmith and the final resting place of Scotland's controversial religious icon. It is a very striking building and bears two main sets of lettering. In gold characters above the window:
'LYFE . GOD . ABVFE . AL . AND . YI . NICHTBOVR . AS . YI . SELF'
which we contrue as Scottish for: "Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself". There is a crest above surrounded by the letters: 'I M M A'. Past the stone staircase to the right is the crest bearing the following:
'GOD . SAVE . THE . KING
IR6 ... AR
1606
BEATI . PACIFIC'
We think that the 'I' can be read as a 'J' and stands for 'James Rex the 6th' [of Scotland and James the first of England]. Perhaps the 'AR' stands for 'Anno Rex'? The Latin at the bottom means: 'Blessed are the peacemakers'.
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The stonebuilt water cisterns with their gargoyle-like spouts are found in the area and, thanks to informative plaques, tells their own story.
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The Netherbow Wellhead close to John Knox House (the Picure Palace is in the background).

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The High Street Wellhead boasts the masks of comedy and tragedy on either side, once acting as water spouts.

'The Old Town': St Mary's Street
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This unprepossessing shop-front has the remaining word 'Furnishings' (with an impressive flourishes on the 'g') visible on the left of the doorway. On the right is:
'LASTS
& GRINDERY
WHOLESALE
& Retail'

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Nearby is this somwhat smarter frontage with a worn pice of lettering, white on pale blue above (perhaps exposed prior to a new shop sign being fitted):
'M. SHEERAN.
EASTERN LOAN OFFICE SALE ROOM'
The image above right is on a building near the top of St Mary's Street:
'THIS IS THE FIRST BUILDING
ERECTED UNDER THE
IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1867
----
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
WILLIAM CHAMBERS
OF CLENORMISTON
LORD PROVOST'


Georgian 'New Town'
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No. 49 Hanover Street is home to a much-lettered clothier's shop. At the top of the shop window in white and gold on black:
'AUBIN & WILLS
'THE NOTED ESTABLISHMENTFOR THE FINEST WORKMANSHIP - GUARANTEED
MANUFACTURERS OF THE FINEST GOODS (surrounding the business namestyle)
UNSURPASSED STYLE THAT IS ALWAYS Second to None
EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE MOST REFINED LADIES
AND THE MOST DISCERNING GENTLEMEN'

Now faded and oft-ignored there is even scrolling, cursive lettering in the grey band below the window:
'The Brand to...
Aspire to...
When Looking...
The Highest Quality &...
Workmanship
Austin
& Wills'

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Above left: we have deciphered the following from these traces:
'EDINBURGH COOPERATIVE
BUILDERS COMPANY
LIMITED
INSTITUTED
1861[?]
???
MANAGER[?]'

And above right:
'BEVERIDGE
&
DILLIES[?]

TAILORS
&
???'


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'...LEN & GIBION
VALUERS ... AUCTIONEERS[?] ... ESTATE AGENTS'
The last three are between the middle bars of the windows. We're not confident about 'Auctioneers'.

'The Old Town': Grassmarket
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The top of the hill of Grassmarket is also called Victoria Street and near the top is a list of cities in ghostly lettering (with a gap where the stonework has been repaired/cleaned) to the left of the green door:
'BRANCHES
AT
GLASGOW
DUNDEE
ABERDEEN
LONDON
BIRMINGHAM
CARDIFF
HULL
LEEDS
...
SHEFFIELD
BELFAST
DUBLIN'

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Down the hill, it becomes West Row and this enigmatic insciption can be seen:
'GOD.FOR.AL.HISGIFTS.1616'

Candlemaker's Row
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'HARVEY'S FURNITURE STORES'
is emblazoned in capitals across the three faces of the building approached up the hill of Candlemaker's Row from Grassmarket. George IV Bridge rises above the building to the left. Below left: the fainter lettering running along the building:
'HARVEYS SHOWROOMS ... GEO. IV BRIDGE'
Below right: lettering between the doors:
'JAMES HARVEY & SON
AUCTION SALOON

UPSTAIRS'
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And finally, in gold capitals, the business advertises itself to passers-by on George IV Bridge:
'HARVEYS SHOWROOMS'

George IV Bridge
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A few yards from the bridge is the central Edinburgh Public Library with its ('EPL') monogrammed gates and proud motto carved in the stonework above:
'LET THERE BE LIGHT'



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