Early reports can be unassuming…

May 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

As many collectors have found, the earliest report of an historic or significant event is often not the best or more detailed. Usually the report of a day or two later is best, when all the particulars were known and the accuracy more credible. Yet there is still the fascination of reading of a major event before it would become part of world history.

The first report of the Great Fire of London–one of the more notable events in 17th century British history–is somewhat unassuming. The bottom of the back page of The London Gazette“, September 3, 1666, has a report datelined the day before noting: “About two a clock this morning a sudden and lamentable Fire brake out in this City, beginning not far from Thames Street, near London Bridge, which continues still with great violence, and hath already burnt down to the ground many houses thereabouts, which sad accident affected His Majesty with that tenderness, and compassion, that he was pleased to go himself in Person with his Royal Highness to give order that all possible means should be used for quenching the fire, or stopping its further spreading…” with a bit more (see).

The next several issues would provide more detail, but this first report gives some indication this was to be more than a small event. Indeed, it would grow to consume some 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, and make homeless 70,000 of the city’s 80,000 inhabitants.