They put it in print… in two different editions…

November 9, 2015 by  
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“Newsbooks” from Europe, those small pamphlet-looking periodicals which were the predecessors of today’s newspapers, have always been difficult to find. But rarely have we had a more intriguing issue than one recently added to our inventory, and its the back story which makes it interesting.

Rather than one, we have secured  two issues of the “Mecurius Aulicus“newsbook, both of the same date, “The five and thirtieth Weeke” of 1643, one the “regular” Oxford edition, the other the secretly-printed and exceedingly rare London edition.

Blog-11-23-2015-MERCURIUS-AULICUSThis newsbook was created because of the English Civil War during the early 1640’s, as a means for the Royalist faction supporting King Charles I to promote their views in Parliament-held London.  It was published in Oxford, the stronghold of Charles I at the time. Any person or any publication promoting the cause of Charles I would not have been welcomed in London.  It was a short-lived publication which began to lose support from 1644 onward as the Royalist losses on the battlefield continued. This Oxford newsbook found it more & more difficult to obtain current news and issues became badly delayed. It finally ceased publication in 1645.

But an intriguing article in Wikipedia adds an interesting tidbit to the history of this publication: “…The Mercurius Aulicus was printed in Oxford, which was at this time the Royalist capital…then smuggled into London where it was sold by local women, often at heavily inflated prices. It was also reprinted on occasion–albeit not necessarily accurately–by local sympathizers in London…”.

So as we see, there was also a  secretly-printed edition done in London, with print runs which had to be  exceedingly low. On the rare occasion we have had the opportunity to offer an issue of the Mercurius Aulicus it has always been the Oxford edition. Never have we seen a London edition. Until now.

The photos show the complete text of not only the “regular” Oxford edition but the very rare London edition as well. Comparing the two gives evidence to some subtle differences between them (embellishment at top of front page is different; heading type sizes are different; embellished first letter of ftpg. is different; dated headings on inside pages are different, etc.) Although I am struck but the considerable similarity between the two issues given they were printed on different presses in different cities, put side-by-side several differences are very evident.

Not only is this London edition very rare, but we were fortunate enough to secure the Oxford edition of the same date as well. If ever a pair of same-date newsbooks deserve to be kept together, here it is. A fascinating pair from an intriguing period in British history—and in newspaper history as well.


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