It’s a daunting world — Rare & Early Newspapers  — and at first it can feel like being in a foreign country, overhearing a few words that sound familiar in a vague sort of way. At least, that’s my sense. But I suspect it appeared that way to many collectors at the beginning. With that in mind, my plan is to share some of my observations, discoveries and even mistakes over the coming weeks, months and years as I learn to navigate this universe of newsprint. If you have never even held an old paper, much less thought to purchase one, perhaps my adventures will pique your own interest and you’ll find yourself browsing the titles and descriptions of the details of life in a bygone era. Having “met” a few of you veteran collectors and scholars, I suspect you might enjoy a little reminder of the early days when you turned that first purchase over in your hand, skimmed the columns, and then settled in for a read.
I began and then discarded multiple versions of this initial post — there’s no way to convey the immensity of standing in a treasure trove that is more than three times my height, wider than my house, and filled with papers. Without moving my feet I can examine the headlines from Harper’s, published every Saturday in the first half of 1869. 1869. That is not a misprint! The proper title is “Harper’s Weekly” , subtitled “A Journal of Civilization”. It is astounding that one hundred and fifty years after these rolled off the printing press, were cut and bundled and delivered to 100,000 people living in a completely different world (regardless of our shared geographical location), I am able to hold an original issue in my hands. It’s a rag paper, so the pages can be turned without any fear of damaging it. I verified this before opening an issue; gloves aren’t even required. The details of manners and battles and grocers and treasury debt emerge and bring the inevitable conclusion. Life in a different time –even with dramatically changed fashions, altered lifestyles, and varied circumstances– is still life. Civilization is after all the story of people. Sometimes it’s seen in broad strokes, sometimes in classified advertisements. I found the following in an 1861 publication, “When families send for ‘Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce’, observe if it is the genuine JOHN DUNCAN & SONS…” I am amazed the condiment has been around so long (and wonder, who was making fake Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce?). Others might be more interested in the 15″ map of Major-General McClellan’s Operations Along The Potomac.
Anyway, the Harper’s Weeklies  section is a good place to stand and introduce myself and tell you I am privileged to be here. Please check in and see the “progress” part of my experience. Also, tell me what I should look for if you’ve been around a while. And if you’re new, feel free to ask any questions. If I don’t have the answer (which is likely, as I am new here) I have recently met some brilliant people who probably do.