This is the last of our two-week serialisation of the earliest surviving News Letters, from October 1738.
The paper was founded in September 1737, making it the oldest English language daily newspaper in the world, but no editions survive from the first 13 months of publication.
The first two surviving papers, which are kept in the Linen Hall Library, and date from October 14 and October 17 (when converted into the modern calendar), have now turned 275.
To mark the anniversary we have been publishing daily snippets from them since Monday, October 14, when we also reprinted the earliest edition.
The stories from 1738 have given us a snapshot of life in Ulster and beyond almost 300 years ago.
There have been the major stories, such as the one about Dick Turpin’s father being found in possession of a stolen horse (for which his son was hanged six months later), and the reports about Indian “murders” in the then British American colony of Virginia.
But equally remarkable have been some of the seemingly less significant excerpts.
For example, this week the News Letter reported a sculpture that has been unveiled as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of Belfast harbour. By coincidence, on that same day we ran a report from the October 17, 1738 News Letter which told of the traffic in and out of Belfast port, including a “sloop from Killough”.
That random snippet from an early News Letter gave proof of early activity in the harbour that would later make Belfast famous, due to the Titanic.
Yesterday we ran an October 1738 advertisement for the July 1738 edition of the London Magazine, with contents ranging from an account of the character of the “late Queen Anne” to lists of executions.
That magazine can be read online. It gives a fascinating insight into life at that time, such as the report of a traveller who visits Lapland. He expresses surprise at the quality of the roads through Scandinavia, and how they managed to travel 300 leagues (almost 1,000 miles) in 10 days, despite having many rivers to cross.
These first News Letters show sophistication among many people living in the north of Ireland at that time. Access to publications like the News Letter and London Magazine meant that they were informed about events in Europe and the Americas.
Even the ads in the early News Letters are a treasure trove. Look at the advert that we reproduce on page 20 about land for sale in what now would be a built-up part of Antrim town. Let us know if you know more about that site.
The next surviving News Letters are from December 1738, and we will be publishing excerpts from them when they turn 275 at the end of this year.
Note that there are News Letters dated March 1738 which are often wrongly thought to be the earliest surviving News Letters, but which in fact date to 1739 in the modern calendar (until 1752, the New Year began in late March).
To buy a copy of last week’s October 14 News Letter, which reproduced the earliest existing News Letter from October 1738, call 028 3839 5536 Monday to Friday.
Do you have a News Letter from the 1700s? Please contact us if so.
Since we began asking this last year, when the paper turned 275, we have found about a dozen private owners of 18th century News Letters, but none from before the 1780s.
Contact email@example.com or phone 028 3839 5577 Monday to Friday.