Over the past 10 years we (RareNewspapers.com) have put together a series of videos designed to help educate novices about the hobby of collecting historic newspapers. While some may be a smidge old (compared to today's high-tech standards), the information within is still pertinent. Pick a topic of interest, turn up the volume, and enjoy our perspective on the collectible.
One of the biggest surprises--and a pleasant one--novice collectors of newspapers discover is that the oldest newspapers they purchase, those from before 1870, are in much better condition than the more recent "old" newspapers of the late 19th or 20th centuries. How could this be?
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="204" caption="Printed on "Rag Paper""][/caption]
It's all in the paper. and I literally mean in the paper. Prior to the 1870's, newsprint was primarily made of cotton & linen fibers. It was handmade and very dependent upon the raw ingredients being available, which was not always the case. It was common to find newspaper advertisements seeking "rags" for the printer, to be used to make the paper upon which the newspaper was printed. Equally as common would be a note from the printer that an issue would have fewer pages or be skipped altogether due to the lack of newsprint. "Rag" paper, as it is called, was not an inexpensive or easily made commodity.
Typically, the older the newspaper, the better the quality. It is not uncommon to find newspapers from the 1680's which are very white, relatively thick, and extremely pliable. They can be bent, folded, creased, wrinkled and no harm will be done. Do the same to a newspaper of the 1890's or early 20th century and it will crack and crumble. I recall some years ago a novice customer returning an issue of the London newspaper "The Observator", 1683, because he claimed "it looked to new to possibly be over 300 years old". I could not convince him otherwise. Newsprint of 300 years ago simply does not yellow. We occasionally receive similar feedback from similar titles: The Spectator, The Post-Boy, and more. Even a select number of 20th century papers were printed on rag linen as well, typically for use in institutions.
Such handmade paper, particularly that used in the 17th and 18th centuries, can be distinguished from paper made later by holding it up to a light and looking for “chain-lines” which are left from the wires in the paper mold. With this method, fewer fibers accumulate directly on the wire, so the paper is slightly thinner and more transparent to light. This pattern is usually very apparent and appears as lines that run about an inch apart, with several horizontal short lines connecting the long wire lines. Some modern paper has artificially-applied chain lines, and is usually referred to as “laid” paper, which is the name given to handmade chain-line paper.
The handmade chain-line paper made of cotton and linen rags which were soaked in liquid until the fibers broke down into very small bits. Paper was formed by hand by dipping a paper mold into the fiber suspension, and then lifting and shaking off the excess water. The paper sheet was then partially dried before being removed from the mold. Modern handmade paper (used in fine printing of small editions by private presses, as well as in artists books) is basically made by the same process.
The high quality of newsprint was an expensive process & caused newspaper subscriptions to be beyond the means of the average citizen. Consequently holdings of newspapers are relatively small. They were never printed in huge quantities because they cost too much to be widely purchased by the populace. And keep in mind that the percentage of literate people in the 18th and early 19th centuries was not what it is today.
The use of "rag paper" for the publishing of early newspapers is one of the great joys of this hobby. Early newspapers--including issues dating back to the Revolutionary War and beyond--need very little care to maintain their state of preservation. We keep such issues on open shelves where they have been for years to no harm. They can be handled & read from beginning to end without risk of damage or harm. Truly, a collector can hold history in his hands, enhancing the tactile experience this hobby enjoys beyond others where "do not touch" is more the norm.
Another benefit of rag paper is that it allows for easy detection of reprint or facsimile newspapers. A common question crossing our desk is "are you sure it is a genuine newspaper?" or "is my newspaper genuine or not?" When I authenticate newspapers one of the easiest determinants is the quality of paper. If the newsprint is browned or yellowed and fragile to the touch, chances are exceedingly good it is not a pre-1870 newspaper (although there are exceptions). Newspapers from the Revolutionary War should not crack when folded or creased.
The vast majority of reprint or facsimile newspapers on the market were never meant to deceive the collector but rather were anniversary issues, done 50, 100 or 200 years after a significant event, or in celebration of the very first edition of that title. They were often give-aways to subscribers. The "New York Herald" of April 15, 1865 is perhaps the most commonly found reprint newspaper, and most fail the rag paper test; they are much to browned or fragile to have been printed in 1865.
It was the industrial revolution of the latter half of the 19th century which resulted in the technology to create newsprint from wood pulp and chemicals. It was a welcomed innovation for publishers as newsprint become much less expensive to make, but it began the downfall for long-term preservation. But then, newspapers were never intended to last more than a day. Another issue would be on the streets for the consumer the next morning, to the delight of publishers across the country.
A genuine collectible, over 300 years old, for $60 or less. Is there a field of collecting today which has items of such age-- in nice condition--for $60? The hobby of collecting rare & historic newspapers likely sits at the top of what must be a very short list. And such prices, along with tremendous availability of titles & content, are part of the intrigue of this fascinating hobby which remains unknown to almost everyone. And this, in large part, is the reason prices are outrageously low in comparison to the relative rarity of other collectibles. While issues do run the gamut price-wise from newsbooks (at the upper end) to coffeehouse newspapers (typically at the lower end), it is a fascinating field for the historical hobbyist on a budget ($20 and under).
The 'London Gazette' is the world's oldest continually published newspaper, having begun in 1665 and is still publishing today. With such historical depth you would expect to find virtually every major event in world history within its pages, and you would be right. The Great Plague and Great London Fire, William Penn being granted land in the New World, the death of noted pirate Captain Kidd, the battles of the French & Indian War and Revolutionary War and so much more are found in not only this title but other newspapers of the era. First reports of such notable events can sell in the thousands of dollars, but an interesting facet of this hobby is that follow-up reports of a few days later can fall well within the comfort level of the average collector.
Both age and graphic appeal come together in the London 'Post-Boy' newspaper, with issues from the 1718-1725 period featuring two ornate engravings in the masthead in addition to a very decorative first letter of the text. Add to this the relative small size of this single sheet newspaper and you have a terrific item for display for under $55.
With American newspapers not beginning until the first decade of the 18th century (one title was published in 1690 but lasted just one day), and most American newspapers through the Revolutionary War being very rare, British titles are an excellent source for collecting all the notable events not only in American history, but in world history as well. And the reporting was often extensive, for remember that the colonies were part of Great Britain through 1776.
The ‘London Chronicle’ was a popular British newspaper which documented amongst its pages virtually all American events since its founding during the French & Indian War. Yet another periodical, the 'Gentleman's Magazine', is an excellent source for period reports of American events since its beginning in 1731, and one of its features was the printing of maps of all corners of the globe, many of which show North America and specific colonies. From James Oglethorpe's settling the colony of Georgia, to Ben Franklin's famous kite experiment, installation of the Liberty Bell, the enactment & repeal of the hated Stamp Act, all events of the Revolutionary War, to the mutiny on the Bounty & so much more, the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ offers a terrific repository of American and world history at very affordable prices. Plus, there are reports of Colonel George Washington from 1754 when he was just 22 years old and relatively unknown, and for the music buffs there are works by the composers Hayden, Handel, and death reports of Mozart and Beethoven within its pages. The early battles of Napoleon & other European reports are logically found in this title as well.
While American newspapers of the Revolutionary War and before are generally pricey, ranging in the $400 - $1000+ range, two notable exceptions exist being the ‘Boston Chronicle’ and the ‘Pennsylvania Chronicle’, both from the 1768-1769 years. Because their circulation was widespread they are among the more commonly held colonial titles by institutions, & consequently come on the market when libraries convert from hard copy to microfilm or digital. They detail the entire spectrum of American life from just before the Revolutionary War while providing an interesting perspective on American politics during those critical years. Complete, genuine issues are typically available for under $200.
American newspapers from after the American Revolution become more available and at dramatically lower prices while still containing a wealth of notable content on the founding years of the federal government. The ‘Pennsylvania Packet’ of Philadelphia was one of the more successful titles, and was the very first to print the Constitution of the United States. While that issue, September 19, 1787, ranks well into six figures, dates surrounding it are typically found in the $45 - $80 range and offer a perspective of life in the city where and when the Constitution was being created. The ‘Columbian Centinel’ from Boston was perhaps the most successful title in 18th century America and its pages document the complete scope of America politics and life from 1785 thru Washington’s election and inauguration to his death just weeks before the end of the century.
Other 18th century American titles which are within the budgets of even the most modest collectors are the ‘Connecticut Courant’, ‘Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser’, ‘Gazette of the United States’, the ‘Massachusetts Spy’, and ‘The Herald, A Gazette For The Country’ and others. Nice issues from the formative years of the federal government can be had for under $50 each.
While first reports of the most historic events of the 17th and 18th centuries will always command top dollar among the most savvy of collectors, the hobby of collecting rare newspapers offers a tremendous wealth of issues at surprisingly low prices, while at the same time offering fascinating content on life only known to others through history books. And this hobby is one that offers the entire spectrum of political, economic, and social history to every collector. What other hobby can make that claim? But perhaps most importantly, this hobby let’s you hold—quite literally—history in your hands.
"Newspapers that shaped the world..."
Some of the better & more fascinating items found in old newspapers are not the most historic or significant, but rather the casual appearance of seemingly innocuous reports which excite collecting interest beyond the historic headline or dramatic presentation which are the more usual draw.
Much of what intrigues collectors can be lost within the body of reports, yet they tell a story of their own, such as the patriotic fervor of some colonist during the Revolutionary War. I recall an issue of the Edinburgh Evening Courant of June, 1776 reporting on American soldiers: "…Their uniform is a dark grey coarse linen frock, which covers the whole body...with the words, 'Death or Liberty' marked in large red letters on the right sleeve; and many of them are so enthusiastic as to have them marked with their own blood...". This report is almost lost on page 3 yet its message is very telling of the spirit which caused the Americans to win the war against a world power despite insurmountable odds.
Some reports are fascinating by their bias. A Richmond newspaper of July, 1863 reporting on the Battle of Gettysburg notes: "...The Confederates did not gain a victory, neither did the enemy. He succeeded in defending himself & we failed in some portions of an attack...We killed more of the enemy than we lost; we took very many more prisoners than lost. The Confederate army did not leave the enemy until it had tried every link of his armour…” Another newspaper notes: “ ..Information, certainly authentic, is in the hands of the Government, which leaves no doubt of the safety & triumph of the noble army. General Lee was victorious in all the combats which have taken place. He has been engaged with the whole force of the United States & has broken its backbone...", Perhaps the most extraordinary example of optimism appeared in the Richmond Examiner of July 25: "…The result was not a defeat, it was not a loss; it was only not a victory...It was little else than a disappointment of extraordinary expectations...". What a precious statement as an example of Confederate optimism.
Other little gems were very prophetic in their reporting, particularly when read with an historic perspective. A Scottish newspaper from 1775 sensed a lasting war with America as it reflected on the Battle of Bunker: "…The mischiefs which have already arisen & the greater calamities which are threatened from the unnatural war excited in America...It is impossible we can see, without the utmost alarm, preparations making for the prosecution of an expensive & ruinous war with our own Colonies...". Some can be very recent, like the New York Times comment on rookie Mickey Mantle in 1951: "...Mantle, who gives every promise of developing into an outstanding baseball star, was ordered to report to his draft board next Wednesday..." An editorial comment in the Army & Navy Journal just after the Gettysburg Address opined: “…a dedicatory speech by President Lincoln, which we give in full, as decidedly the best feature of the occasion, as well as one of the most felicitous utterances of its author." How true.
Some were prophetic even when the reports were simply wrong, like the Illustrated American article of 1898 reporting on "A New Flying Machine That Flies"--five years before the Wright brothers--when it said: "...It is impossible to imagine without terror the day when these mechanical birds, these flying apparitions, will be able to rain upon armies, hostile towns and escalating parties most deadly and most destructive explosives...". How true it would become.
There can be much to be found in newspapers beyond the headline. What a thrill it is to discover such hidden gems; reports that have escaped hundreds of years of history only to rediscovered with new-found relevance today. Such are just some of the joys of collecting early newspapers.
Please enjoy: "Newspapers that shaped the world..."
Each month Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers releases a catalog containing a new set of historic and collectible newspapers (1600′s through 20th century). However, on November 1, 2012, at 12:01 AM ET, the special edition, “Newspapers that changed the world…” will be released. Whether you already collect newspapers, or desire to simply view a sampling of what the hobby has to offer, check back for this special occasion:
WELLBUTRIN SR OVER THE COUNTER, A few months ago we received an inquiry from one of our friends wondering why pre-1900 newspapers included a period after the newspaper's title in the masthead. While I hold hundreds of such issues in my hands each week, I had never taken notice of this. Wondering if this was in fact the case, I quickly began searching through our 19th and 18th century archives, and low and behold, every title ended with a period. Searching through our 20th century inventory I discovered that none of the issues did. I asked Tim Hughes his thoughts on the matter, and his response was as follows:
Regarding the query about periods at the end of 19th century titles, I don't believere there is a reason beyond it simply being the grammatical style of the period. In fact the practice goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries as well, where can i buy cheapest WELLBUTRIN SR online. WELLBUTRIN SR from canada, It was just the way newspapers (and magazines) were laid out, perhaps following some sort of grammatical "rule" of the day, WELLBUTRIN SR pics. My WELLBUTRIN SR experience, There was also--compared to today--an excessive use of commas within text, which again was just the style of the day.
Perhaps the more interesting question would be when & why was the period eliminated at some point in the 20th century, WELLBUTRIN SR used for. Order WELLBUTRIN SR online c.o.d, I would suspect one paper just made the decision and everyone else eventually followed, as there was much competition and copying among newspapers, WELLBUTRIN SR description. WELLBUTRIN SR blogs, Sorry I don't have a more intriguing answer!
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While we've written several posts identifying some of the factors which impact the value of a rare and/or historic newspaper, a "price guide" showing prices realized is as of yet unavailable. Our hope would be to have such a resource accessible within the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, we'll be taking the next few Mondays to provide some information in this regard which we hope you will find helpful.
Finding authentic newspapers from this period (16th and 17th centuries) is becoming exceedingly difficult. As a result, what would these same issues be valued at today? What impact did the condition, displayability, content, proximity (date and location to the content), rarity, etc. have on each? While these factors, and more, impact the valuation of an issue, the above examples are what they are - prices realized.
Note: Many price guides (in other collectible areas) show highly inflated prices. This enables resellers to offer items at slightly under "established" prices, giving buyers the illusion that they are getting a bargain. However, the truth is, the value of an item is really the price that others are actually willing to pay - not what a catalog/price guide lists. In the field of Rare Newspapers, our approach will always be to base prices on hard data - the track record of previous sales. Additionally, at Rare Newspapers, we try to set prices at a point where both resellers and individual collectors are comfortable. As a result, we do not have a two-tier system (one price for resellers, and another for collectors). We believe this policy provides a degree of integrity within the collectible community. We hope you agree.
Over the past two weeks Timothy Hughes has explored his thoughts on what he believes to be the top ten pre-18th century and the top ten 18th century newspapers (see below). Some of these thoughts were captured in the following video:
Collecting authentic rare and historic newspapers from the 1500's - 1700's can be exciting, rewarding and surprisingly affordable. British titles such as the London Gazette, London Chronicle, Gentleman's Magazine and more, are all available for much less than you would expect, as are their American counterparts, the Columbian Centinel, Dunlap's Daily American Advertiser, Concord Herald, and more.
Whether your interest is in the Colonial Era or the Revolutionary War Era, or extends to the 1500's and/or 1600's, original newspapers provide an excellent view of history in context. History is never more fascinating than when when it's read from the day it was first reported. If you love history... you deserve to have it in your hands. Rare and early historic newspapers make this possible. Please enjoy the hobby!
As Guy introduced a few days ago, we will use the Mondays of December to consider the top ten events to be found in newspapers for various periods of time. In a few cases the desired "event" is actually a specific newspaper.
Today we consider the 16th & 17th centuries, which is a bit difficult as the mere existence of newspapers--or even their predecessors: newsbooks--is limited. And all would be European, as no American newspapers existed in this time period (only exception noted below). Nonetheless I've created what I consider to be the top ten historical events or newspapers collectors would love to add to their collections.
I do offer apologies to our non-American friends as this list, and those to follow, have a decidedly American bias, primarily because the vast majority of those who purchase from us are American. But there are a few European events noted.
Here we go, beginning with number ten and ending with the most desired event or newspaper:
10) Coronation of William & Mary, 1689 (after all, they were the king & queen of colonial residents as well. Almost like a very early Presidential "inauguration")
9) King Philip's War, 1675-6 (America's first war)
8.) William Penn's charter for land in the New World, & his settlement there, 1682 (an issue of the London Gazette includes: "...Mr. Penn bound for Pennsylvania with a great many Quakers to settle there...")
7) Capture of Capt. Kidd near Boston, 1699 (who wouldn't want a period report of this very famous pirate)
6) Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588 (my one entry from the 16th century; available in period newsbooks)
5) Great Fire of London, 1666
4) The volume 1 number 1 issue of the Oxford Gazette, Nov. 16, 1665 (great to have the first issue of the world's oldest continually published newspaper: become the London Gazette with issue #24)
3) Salem Witchcraft trials, 1692 (famous event, but try to find period reports of it!)
2) Settlement in the "New World" from 1607-1630 (from the very earliest period of European settlements in America, predating newspapers but newsbooks did exist)
1) Public Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick, Boston, Sept. 25, 1690 (America's first newspaper. To this date only one issue has surfaced. Could there be another?)