There are a small number of English language newspapers that are older than the News Letter, but none of them are dailies (The Times began almost half a century later, in 1785).
The first surviving News Letter is dated October 3, 1738, which is October 14 in the modern calendar – 275 years ago on Monday.
The existence of News Letters dated January to March 1738 has caused much confusion and they are often wrongly assumed to predate the October 1738 paper, but in fact they are dated March 1739 in the modern calendar.
This is because the new year then began on March 25. December 31, 1738 would have been followed by January 1, 1738 (not 1739), and 1738 continued up to March 24. The day after that was the first day in the new year, in this case 1739.
That means that the so-called March 1738 papers in fact date to 1739 in the modern calendar.
On its first centenary, in 1837, the News Letter wrongly reproduced a March 1738 News Letter as the earliest copy, due to confusion about the calendar, which had changed from the Julian to the Gregorian in Britain in 1752.
This error has been repeated on later dates. It was perhaps an understandable error even as far back as 1837.
Only someone aged 90 in that year could have had any memory of the old calendar.
Last year, on the 275th anniversary of the News Letter’s launch, September 1737, the paper celebrated with a major supplement to mark the occasion including messages of greeting from the Queen, Prime Minister David Cameron, First Minister Peter Robinson and others.
Colin Armstrong, pictured right at the Linen Hall Library with its librarian John Killen looking at the first surviving News Letters, wrote a multi-page history of the News Letter which was published in that anniversary supplement.