The “Pennsylvania Packet“, Philadelphia, issue of September 24, 1788 contains on page 3: “Dean Swift’s idea of an attorney…”. You can read it for yourself (see below).
Today I traveled back to England by the way of The London Gazette dated February 4, 1666. The back page has “The Kings Most Excellent Majesty having been graciously pleased… to give Authority… for the erecting of a Light-House on St. Anns point in the County of Pembroke, to prevent such damages as ordinarily accrue to seafaring-men, through the want of such timely Prevision in that Case…” While this original lighthouse no longer stands, there have been two others built in it’s place, with the current lighthouse viewable at: St. Ann’s Lighthouse
“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.
This 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.
A few months ago we wrote about what is considered by many to be the most successful literary magazine of all time, The Gentleman’s Magazine. While RareNewspapers.com continues to offer many original issues of this title from the 18th and early 29th centuries, few know of the magazine’s or its founder, Edward Cave, Junior. A collector friend recently came across a wonderful posting by The Society of 18th-Century Gentleman which goes into considerable detail concerning both. An excerpt includes:
“…Edward Cave eventually purchased a small print house and shortly after began The Gentleman’s Magazine. The first issue appeared in January of 1731. Cave quickly became a highly respected publisher and businessman, and “a multitude of magazines arose” all over the world. The magazine was soon the most well-known and highly respected publication in the English language. It is widely believed that Mr. Cave was the first person ever to use the term “magazine” to describe a monthly publication of this type…”
If you’ve never perused this little gem, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with its detailed coverage of events of the day.
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.
Our peek at the lower-end entry points into the hobby of collecting rare and early newspapers draws to a conclusion today with a gander at inexpensive newspapers published prior to 1700. A list of titles priced at under $50 includes: The London Gazette, The Athenian Mercury, Votes of the House of Commons, The Observator, and The Weekly Pacquet of Advice From Rome, all of which are British publications.
The following link will take you to these potential pre-1700 entry-point issues: Pre-1700 Inexpensive Issues
I decided to take my travels a like further back in time and to a place that always intrigued me. Through letters from Boston and Philadelphia, The London Gazette dated February 12, 1711 reported on a vessel that had been shattered from Rio de Janeiro. The French had landed and were being beaten off with the reinforcement of eight thousand men from the mines… the French retreated.
In my readings, I see numerous “An Act..” within newspapers, but found this one quite unusual. “An Act to enable John Lord Gower, Baron of Stitnham, an Infant, to make a Settlement upon his Marriage.” I wonder what the terms of the settlement were??
Last, the back page had an announcement about “The Corporation of the Amicable Society for the Perpetual Assurance-Office” for the Affidavit of the Health. The way the announcement read, this may have been part of the qualification testing… if you understood it all, then you were in good (mental) health.
A 1685 issue of the “London Gazette” newspaper contains on the back page the following interesting advertisement, not the type typically found in newspapers–at least not in more modern times. Interesting that the coffin maker notes that he makes them: “…of a sort of wood that will endure until the body is fully dissolved…”.
I saw a piece recently where Walmart now sells coffins on-line. And just in time for Christmas:
If you have some 1600’s newspapers in your collection you may have a few with dates showing years as “1683/4″ or 1686/7”, or perhaps you have a few issues from a single year where a later date has an issue number lower than an earlier date, and you’ve wondered “how could this be?” Well, it’s due to the calendar, or more specifically which calendar was in use at the time.
Although the differences between the older Julian calendar and our current Gregorian calendar are many and very complicated and can be understood by visiting this site, the short answer is that in the latter part of the 17th century & a portion of the 18th century both calendars were in use in England, and the date of the issue would reflect which calendar was in use.
The new year of the older Julian calendar began on March 21, so an issue dated March 17, 1675 would be followed by the next weekly issue dated March 24, 1676. This would also mean that an issue dated December 31, 1675 would be followed by an issue dated January 7,1675. This was how the London Gazette dated it’s issues for much of the 17th and early 18th centuries. At first glance one would think that the issue of Jan. 7, 1675 was older than one dated December 31, 1675, but the opposite was true.
Other titles were a bit more helpful in noting the year of publication by dating issues from January 1 thru March 20 with a double-dated year such as “1684/5” or “1686/7” so the reader would know that it was from the year 1684 under the Julian calendar, or 1685 under the Gregorian calendar.
Some American newspapers of the 18th century have similar double dates, but by the beginning of the 19th century–if not reasonably before–newspapers had converted exclusively to the Gregorian calendar. The same was true with most of the Western world, while other portions of the globe adopted the Gregorian dating system much later.
Hopefully this answers a few questions you have had. Be in touch if we can be more helpful!
One of the key issues featured in our latest catalog is a newsbook of the Mercurius Politicus, from London, dated March 24, 1659. Newsbooks, for those unfamiliar with the term, were the forerunners of newspapers. This particular newsbook measures about 8 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches and has 16 pages. While looking for interesting content to describe, I noticed a report datelined “Marienburgh, March 5”, that contained details about a military engagement. In the report is word that: “..Colonel Drake came with a party back, fetching from hence Morter pieces, Balls, Handgranadoes, and other amunition, and is gone back to the army which lyeth near Rysenburgh…” In reading this passage I was fascinated by the term “Handgranadoes“. I did some research and discovered that the concept of “throwing” grenades may date to the Ming Dynasty in China, although the first known use of grenades occurred during the early to middle part of the 8th century. The research also suggested that some “Medieval petards” were small enough to be considered primitive hand grenades. Later, during the Song Dynasty, Chinese soldiers began to pack gunpowder into ceramic and metal containers, resulting in what one expert determined to be the prototype of the modern hand grenade. Variations of this prototype eventually appeared in Europe during the late 1460’s. About 200 years later, “Grenadoes”, according to a Wikipedia source, were used during the English Civil War (1642-1651). The source also says: “The word ‘grenade’ originated in the Glorious Revolution (1688), where cricket ball-sized iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wickets were first used against the Jacobites in the battles of Killiecrankie and Glen Shiel. These grenades were not very effective….and, as a result, saw little use.” Obviously the mention of “handgranadoes” in the newsbook report confirms the use of such a weapon during the mid 1600’s. More importantly, this may be one of the earliest references to a distance cousin of the modern hand grenade to appear in newsprint. Note: The term “grenadier”, which is derived from the word grenade, was a classification given to soldiers in the 17th century with the specific role of throwing grenades. You simply never know what you might find while perusing collectible newspapers (and newsbooks).