The History Of The Newspaper

Before continuing our compilation of the different steps in the art of stereotyping, a few remarks pertaining to the history of the newspaper will be of interest.

A newspaper in its modern acceptation can only be properly dated from the time when in Western Europe the invention of printing made a multiplication of copies a commercial possibility.

We find news in a form similar to what we call a newspaper in the times of the Assyrians and Egyptians, and later on in the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar ordered a regulated publication of short hand-written records, called Acta Senatus, of the courts of law and of public assemblies. Another publication, called Acta Diurna (daily acts), recorded descriptions of public works, buildings in progress; lists of deaths, births and marriages; trials for divorces, which were of frequent occurrence among the Romans. These hand-written publications were made accessible to the people through posting of same on public buildings.

Soon after the Chinese had invented their method of block-printing, they established an official Gazette and printed it in Pekin. This publication is still in existence and is called the “Court Transcript.”

There is, however, no uninterrupted connection between these different hand-written or printed publications and the real beginning of newspaper makings; these date from the beginning of the 16th century.

The ancestors of the modern newspaper are four-fold:—troubadours or wandering minstrels, the leaflet, the letter and the so-called market-relations or statements of an isolated piece of news.

The troubadours have been called the wandering journalists of the Middle Ages. They roamed through many countries, visiting the courts and castles of the mighty, and in song and speech they brought to the world of those days what we moderns glean from our daily newspapers. They gave the best and the newest in the sphere of music and poetry, and being widely travelled personages, they desseminated knowledge of all events, big and small, that happened in the cities and countries they had roved in. This news was delivered by the minstrels in epigrammatic, vigorous songs, which were often memorized by the hearers and carried further.

After the art of printing from engraved wooden-blocks was invented, the next step was to disseminate news through hand-bills or leaflets. The contents of such leaflets were made up from the momentous events, for example, the dangers of the Turkish invasion of the Occident, the acts and utterances of emperors, rulers and great men, great ceremonies, finances, battles. Also short, vivid accounts of occurrences of Nature, pestilence, crimes, executions, etc. During the period of the Reformation, the ninety theses of Luther were printed as leaflets and distributed all over the country.

A very important member in the chain leading to the newspaper was the written letter. In the Roman Empire the high officials in the provinces had slaves or liberated slaves in Rome send to them regularly reports by letter covering all political and social events of the empire. In the Middle Ages, princes, monastaries, city administrations, learned men, etc., had writers of occupation report to them on various topics. Then scribes appeared who reported only on commercial matters of importance; these men had as seat of their activities great commercial centres, Venice, Ulm, Rome, Antwerp, Augsburg. In due time these letter-writers dropped the form of addressed letters and issued written circulars, becoming thus less personal in their reports. In the 16th century scribes began the practice of selling accumulated news in copies. The men who conducted these flourishing news agencies were called scrittori d’ avisi (writers of news) and formed the first reporters guild.

The next step was a certain regularity of making and delivering such news information. The first printed newssheets, which through the combination of giving news and giving same regularly, resembled the present day newspaper closely, were the so-called market-reports or “relations”. These publications were issued semi-annually for distribution at fairs held at the commercial centers and contained all important news, covering the past six months. The inventor of this system was Michael von Aitzing, who in March, 1583, issued the first relatio historia (historical report).

July, 1588, an English newspaper appeared intermittently, called “The English Mercurie, for the prevention of false reports, imprinted and sold by the Queen’s printers, Field and Barker, London.”

Within a few years London had no lack of such Mercuries, Corantos, and Gazettes. Many imitators followed on the continent and as next step there appeared the weekly news-sheet, of which one, issued in Strasbourg in 1609 carried the following title: “Account of all capital and memorable histories which on and off have occurred in Upper-and-Lower-Germany, also in France, Italy, Scotland, England, Spain, etc., etc., in this year 1609. All newes shall, as I may obtain and collect same, be set up in print.”

The FIRST ENGLISH newspaper in the present day sense of the word was established in London by NATHANIEL BUTTER, in 1622. It was a small quarto of eighteen pages, called the “CERTAIN NEWES OF THE PRESENT WEEKE”. The editor solicited subscribers by the following advertisement:

“If any gentleman, or other accustomed to the weekly relations of news, be desirous to continue the same, let them know that the writer, or transcriber rather of this newes, hathe published two former newes, the one dated the second, the other the thirteenth of August, all of which do carry a like title, with the arms of the King of Bohemia on the other side of the title page, and have dependence one upon another: which manner of writing and printing he doth purpose to continue weekly, by God’s assistance, from the best and most certain intelligence. Farewell, this twenty-third of August, 1622.’ This was the first English newspaper, because it was the first publication of news which the editor publicly proposed to continue regularly.

Very shortly afterwards a number of “Weekly News Books” put in their appearance, such as “News from Flanders”, “News from Italy”, etc. On March 7th, 1649, in Number 7 of “The Impartial Intelligencer” there is to be found the first regular advertisement. It is from a gentleman in Candish in Suffolk, from whom two horses had been stolen.

France printed its first weekly newspaper in 1632. It was established in Paris by DR. THEOPHRASTUS RENAUDOT, a physician, famous for his skill in collecting gossip and news to amuse his patients. Encouraged by the reception his news received from not only clients but also from others, he realized it would be advantageous to print periodically and sell his accumulations of news. He obtained a sole privilege from Cardinal Richelieu for publishing the “Paris Gazette” and the first number appeared in April, 1632. King Louis XIII was a frequent contributor to the “Gazette”, taking his little paragraphs to the printing office himself and seeing them set up in type. Renaudot asked 6 centimes for each issue. His children and grandchildren kept up the publication; in 1765 the paper was the first to bring stock exchange quotations and in 1792 also the first newspaper to publish theatrical advertisements.

The first daily newspaper appeared in Leipsig, Germany, in 1660, the same still being published. In 1695 the censure fell in England and in 1709 the first daily newspaper was published in London, called the “Daily Courant”. In 1777 the first daily in France was issued, the “Journal de Paris”, and in 1778 the first Sunday newspaper, Johnson’s “Sunday Monitor”, in London.

One kind of a newspaper must yet be recorded, namely the “spoken newspaper” ; news read in church to the congregation, or after church on the public square by the town crier.

The first newspaper published in North America was “The Newsletter”, founded in 1704 by a Scotchman, JOHN CAMPBELL, at that time postmaster and bookseller in Boston. The first issue was “From Monday, April 17th, to Monday, April 24th, 1704,” and the newspaper was printed by BARTHOLOMEW GREEN in a small wooden building on New-berry Street. The second paper was “The Boston Gazette”, which appeared in 1719, and the third was the “New England Courant”, of which the first issue was made on the 17th of August, 1721. This newspaper was published by JAMES FRANKLIN, the elder brother of Benjamin Franklin. James’ friends shook their heads over his project, being of the opinion that one newspaper was all that America, with a population of 400,000, could support. Benjamin, 15 years old, set up type, ran the press and delivered the papers. The first newspaper in New York was published by WILLIAM BRADFORD on the 8th of November, 1725, and was “The New York Gazette”. The oldest newspaper in America published daily is the “Hartford Courant”.