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As you go around Edinburgh, the old architecture isn't the only thing that can tie you to the city's history. We also see a lot of what I think of as "ghost signs" - not actual hauntings, although Edinburgh is reputed to have a few of those, but rather shadows and remnants of paint that suggest to you some of the men and women who have passed through these spaces before.
In Ye Olden Tymes, just as today, you advertised your business by decorating your storefront. Why haven't they been painted over? I'm not sure. If the buildings are listed, which so many are, it may be that nobody's allowed to touch them. It might just be that nobody bothers. Most of the surviving images are either significantly above eye level or on the underside of arches, places we don't use for much these days.
This one's from the Royal Mile: William Geddes, Bookbinder
Particularly fitting, as it's in the doorway now leading to the Writer's Museum.
From North Bridge, a set of old shop signs in what's now an apartment building doorway:
The signs are the same on both side of the arch. With a close-up from the right side to fill in some gaps, we can identify one former tenant as C. Wright, Straw and Felt Hatter.
Just around the corner from my flat, on West Preston Street: a very well-preserved paint sign on the site of an old tailor's shop:
On Nicholson Square, near my favorite Indian restaurant (Kebab Mahal - voted first place in Scotland's curry awards for 2009!) This sign has clearly been painted over more than once, but as best I can make out, it says
"Baskets, Foreign Baskets, Rugs, Mats
Fancy Leather and Wood Walking Sticks
Hardware and Woodenware"
Not sure what this one says. As I recall, it was around the corner from Black Medicine Coffee Co. I'll look if I'm in the area again.
Across the street from the photo above: "Stalls to let. Apply 50 South Bridge."
On Greenmarket: the 19th century version of the Au Bon Pain window, showing off your presence in some exotic locales.
Finally, some more recent former tenants: The Friendship Centre, off Nicholas Square - presumably religious, I'm not sure.
... and the University of Edinburgh Bookstore. This site still is the University's bookstore, but it's a Blackwell's now. If you click through to the zoomed version, you can just make out "University College General Bookstore."
Surely something that would be a bonanza to scholars of advertising, as it's not something I've ever seen studied. Or perhaps for font geeks like me (down with Papyrus!).
So if you're in Edinburgh, try looking up! There are lots more cool images like this that were too faint or too large to photograph, but are still easily read as you stroll by.