Collecting Historic and Rare Newspapers Basics – Part One
The purpose of this guide concerning historic, original, collectible and/or rare newspapers is to answer the three most common questions related to the hobby: How you can determine if an issue is authentic, the meaning of commonly used terms related to the hobby, and why the original issues do not just fall apart.
How Can You Determine If An Issue Is Authentic?
It was not unusual for newspapers to celebrate the anniversary of an historic event or their inaugural issue by reprinting that issue for their subscribers or the general public. Never meant to deceive, through the years such issues were tucked away in attics and dresser drawers as interesting souvenirs only to be uncovered by distant relatives convinced they found the genuine item.
Although only an expert examination can definitively qualify a newspaper as genuine or a reprint and such experts with sufficient knowledge & experience are few & far between, there are a few clues which can guide a novice in making a determination:
* Does the newsprint match that used at that time? Genuine pre-1880 newsprint usually has a high rag content and is very pliable, sturdy & reasonably white. Most reprints in the post-1880 era are more browned, fragile and lacking in physical substance.
* Does the issue contain an historic or significant report? Many reprints contain very historic reports rather than mundane news of the day, and such genuine issues are rarely found randomly outside of a larger collection.
* Is the issue a volume one, number one issue? They were commonly reprinted on anniversary dates.
* Does the format, content or any extraneous printing on the issue appear out of the ordinary? Many reprints were used for promotional purposes and altered to serve another purpose beyond just reprinting a genuine newspaper.
Reprint, fake, or facsimile newspapers are a rarity in this hobby with the vast majority of such issues limited to less than 20 titles. The Library of Congress maintains a check-list of points to look for on most of these issues and can be accessed through their website.
What Are The Most Frequently Used Terms & What Do They Mean?
* Octavo (8vo): Approximately 8 1/2 by 5 inches. Popular size for 18th Century magazines.
* Quarto (4to): Approximately 12 by 9 inches. Common size for many early newspapers.
* Folio: Full size. Eighteenth century issues are approximately 17 by 11 inches, while 19th century issues come closer to present day newspapers.
* Foxing: Dark spots due to age, chemical content of the paper, or storage environment.
* dblpgctrfld: Doublepage centerfold. A print, typical in Harper’s Weekly, which stretches across two pages.
Why Do The Issues Simply Not Fall Apart?
To the surprise of many, newspapers published before 1880 remain in very nice condition as the paper had high cotton and linen content. Most issues from the 1600’s and 1700’s are in much better condition than issues from World War I, hence little care is needed for issues over 120 years old.
(Note) Invitation: In order to provide an ongoing resource for newcomers to the hobby, feel free to add additional insight which you feel might be beneficial to those entering the hobby on the ground floor. Our hope will be to include many of these comments within a future post. Thanks in advance for your contributions.
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