Today my journey took me to London, England, by the means of The Post Boy dated September 20, 1716. There I found the Ottoman-Venetian War was going strong with little relief for the Turks. Even their truce request of a couple hours in order to bury dead had been denied. Then only to be faced with coming into battle with nails and iron and iron spikes being hidden in the sand and planks at the Communication Bridge which lamed their horses and then to be fired upon by cannon and small shot, killing more men.
I found an interesting article on the back page. “…Last Wednesday night, a Man being at the Gallows, about to be hang’d, was pardon’d; and the Friday following, another being just ready to be turn’d off, the Duchess of Berry pass’d by that Place to the Opera, and ask’d what was the Matter. Being told, she order’d the Lieutenant-Criminal to deferr Execution, while she went back, and interceded for him to the Duke-Regent. Having obtain’d his Pardon, she sent one of her Pages with it; whereupon, the Cord was cut from about his Neck, and he with much ado brought down the ladder…”
Newspaper reports from the “other side” always provide some fascinating reading, such as Confederate vs. Yankee accounts of Civil War battles, or Allied vs. Nazi reports of World War II battles.
The same is true of the Revolutionary War. The “Pennsylvania Ledger” was a Loyalist newspaper and they spared little in criticizing the American, or “rebel”cause as they called it, for freedom. The January 21, 1778 issue has a fascinating letter which heavily criticizes Washington’s letter to Congress of October 5, 1777 (see below or go to this issue for full details). In the letter Washington puts an admittedly positive spin on his tragic loss at the battle of Germantown, which gives this writer a cause to respond.
He begins: “Mr. Washington’s letter to Congress…is perhaps the most extravagant piece of Jesuitical quackery that has been exhibited during the present rebellion. This heroic epistle abounds in deception, and incongruous contradiction in the extremely; it is calculated to mislead…”. His treatment of Washington doesn’t get any nicer. “This military quack…” is his next reference to the American leader, and he takes on one of the more famous quotes from Washington’s letter: ” ‘Upon the whole, it may be said the day was rather unfortunate than injurious.’ what a delicate and nice distinction here is held forth!…Who can help laughing at such an heterogeneous jumble of inconsistencies. Mr. Washington & his confederates have gained immortal honour by being suddenly put to flight by his Majesty’s troops…”.
Today I journey to Boston, Massachusetts, by the way of the Boston Gazette dated September 12, 1814. There I found the headline “Escape of the British down the Potomac”. “The Intelligencer of the 7th inst. states, that from several of the gallant officers, under Com. Porter, and our other naval heroes, who were stationed at the White Houses, a few miles below Mt. Vernon, on the Virginia side, we learn that a very severe engagement commenced between the enemies armed vessels, and the battery stationed at the formed place, about 2 o’clock on Monday evening. The battle lasted for some time, and ended in the loss of about 12 killed, and 17 wounded on our side, principally sailors. The seamen distinguished themselves by their usual intrepidity and coolness, and the militia stood their ground with much firmness… About 4 o’clock on Monday evening, the contest commenced between them and the battery under the command of Capt. Perry,… We have not yet heard how it terminated; but there is no doubt but Perry has severely mauled the enemy, and upon the whole, that the vessels have been so severely handled, that he will not hastily venture up this river again…”.
Also in the issue is a large advertisement for “The Town of Harmony with all its Improvements, and about 9000 acres of Land adjoining — on which are Three Villages, in the tenure of George Rapp and Associates is Offered for Sale…”. This town is located in Butler County, Pennsylvania, and the advertisement provides a detailed description of the town. George Rapp was born in Germany and began his own preaching – breaking away from the Lutheran Church. His group was banned from meeting, so he moved to America to be able to have religious freedom. Harmony was one of the towns that he established.
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.
Advertisements for physicians have certainly changed much over the last 270 years. This ad for “Richard Rock, Practitioner in Physick and Surgery” has a curious list of ailments he treats. This ad appears in the March 30, 1734 issue (and others) of “The Country Journal or the Craftsman” from London. Note that he keeps officers hours of 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m…
After 35 years in the hobby I can honestly say today as I said then: collecting early newspapers is an inexpensive hobby when compared to other collectibles of like vintage. And the reason is basic economics: supply and demand. Although the collecting fraternity has increased through the years, and the supply of early newspapers has dwindled some, prices still remain a relative bargain for material over 100—and over 200—years old.
Exceptions exist. American newspapers of the 18th century are few and far between today. When I began in the hobby in the mid-1970’s, finding the occasional 18th century bound volume of American newspapers was rather common. I even purchased a number of volumes of colonial and Revolutionary War newspapers printed in the colonies. Such purchases are very rare today, and consequently prices for American titles before the1790’s can be exorbitant for many collectors.
Which brings me to this topic. We are fortunate in this hobby to have a terrific alternative to American newspapers of the colonial era: British newspapers. Keeping in mind that the American colonies were British possessions at the time, considerable American reporting was not uncommon (and I can attest that American newspapers of the same period had considerable European reports!). In fact most British newspapers took their accounts directly from American newspapers so the reporting was identical. And the added bonus of British newspaper reports is commentary with a British bias, offering an interesting perspective to what we remember from history class.
Hobbyists of 25 – 50 years ago eschewed British titles because American titles were so common. But today the collecting market is much different. In many respects I see today’s availability & pricing of British titles much like the situation with American titles 50 years ago. We can find major American events of the colonial era at prices still under $1000 (higher for the “best of the best”) in the London Chronicle or like titles, and under $300 for second tier events. We find there is typically a 5 fold price difference between reports in American versus British newspapers. We’ve sold the Boston Tea Party for $1150 in the London Chronicle. In an American newspaper a like account would exceed $6000. We’ve sold the Boston Massacre in the London Chronicle for the same price. And it would easily exceed $6000 in an American title. One of the most significant documents of the Revolutionary War, “The Causes & Necessity For Taking Up Arms”, we sell as a $340 item in the Gentleman’s Magazine, yet we sold it for $5550 in the New England Chronicle. Same complete document, both from 1775, one within the budget of most collectors, the other not.
But prices are rising for British imprints as more collectors are becoming aware that if they want their collection to contain all the significant events of the 18th century, British newspapers and magazines are their only alternative. The Declaration of Independence remains the most desired event for American collectors. An American newspaper printing is beyond the budgets of almost all collectors, if available at all. An auction price of $50,000 – $75,000 would be expected, while we recently sold the same document in the London Chronicle for $8775. But I will also note it was not long ago that we sold it for $4450. Our current price for a front page account of the Battle of Lexington & Concord in the London Chronicle is $985. Our previous sale of the identical dated issue was $440.
Where will the hobby be with such events in another 25 years? Will all 18th century newspapers–American and British–be considered museum pieces? Much will determine where prices go and I will not hazard a guess. But I am pleased that as the hobby enters a crossroad in availability versus pricing, we currently have a reasonable path to follow for the foreseeable future. These are interesting times for the collecting fraternity.
Over the past month the History’s Newsstand Blog has explored the lower-end entry points into the hobby of collecting rare and early newspapers. This next installment takes us back to the 18th century. The further we move back in time the higher (price-wise) is the entry point. One of the common ways to keep your early (into the hobby) 18th century collecting budget under control is to start by collecting newspapers/magazines from England. Typically, reports on American affairs found within British publications cost as little as 1/10 (and sometimes even less percentage-wise) than the corresponding reports in American issues. With this in mind…
The following selection provides a glimpse of the wide variety of 18th century issues available valued at $25* and under. Many more exist on the Rare Newspapers’ website, but others can be found throughout the collectible community as well. The item numbers for each are linked to corresponding images.
The oldest newspaper in the world…
120436 THE LONDON GAZETTE, England, dates ranging from 1726 to 1730 – This is the oldest continually published newspaper in the world, having begun in 1665 and is still being published today. Reporting is almost entirely concerned with Parliamentary items and European news with some advertisements near the back of the issue. $18.00*
From Pre-Revolutionary War England…
121059 THE ST. JAMES CHRONICLE; OR, THE BRITISH EVENING POST, London, England, 1767. Nice engraving in the masthead makes this a displayable issue. Various news of the day and a wealth of ads, from not long before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. $18.00*
From Post-Revolutionary War England…
208968 THE GENERAL EVENING POST, London, 1792 A nice “typical” folio-size newspaper of 4 pages from the 18th century. There is a wealth of news of the day on the front page and inside pages with some ads scattered throughout as well. $18.00*
By the town critic…
121100 THE CONNOISSEUR, London, 1755. See the photo below for an example of this title from our archives. An uncommon and early title “By Mr. Town, Critic & Censor General” as noted in the masthead. Done in editorial format. $20.00*
From 18th century Scotland…
208447 THE EDINBURGH EVENING COURANT, Scotland, 1785. A nice 18th century Scottish newspaper with the entire front page taken up with ads, with various news of the day on the inside pages. Some of the ads have illustrations as well. Complete in 4 pages, partial red-inked tax stamp on the front page, folio size, some light browning or dirtiness, but in generally nice condition. $20.00*
Additional issues priced at $25* and under may be viewed at: Entry Level Newspapers
* All prices shown were valid as of the release date of this post.
The December 11, 1775 issue of the “Hampshire Chronicle” from Southampton, England, includes a witty note from Ben Franklin to a friend in London, which appeared in several newspapers of the day. By his mind, the Revolutionary War was not going to be won by England through attrition.