It is 275 years to the day since the publication of the earliest surviving edition of what has become the world’s oldest English language newspaper.
That historic copy of the News Letter is reprinted as a pull-out in the centre of this newspaper today as a souvenir.
The edition is dated October 3 1738, but a different calendar was used then and the date is October 14 in the modern calendar that Britain has been using since 1752.
The paper was founded by Francis Joy earlier, in September 1737, but no papers from the first 13 months survive.
The Belfast News Letter and General Advertiser, as it was known then, was not in those earliest years a daily paper, but was printed twice a week, becoming a daily in the 1800s, which it remains.
Today is not so much a celebration of the entire history of the News Letter, which we did last year with our 275th special supplement edition and the unveiling of a blue plaque to Francis Joy, but more a specific celebration of the earliest surviving copy, and its status as the first physical example of a title that continues today in print, online and tablet form.
The remarkable history of newspapers is apparent in that earliest News Letter, as you will see when you open your pull-out copy.
Each day this week we will also publish daily extracts from both it and the second surviving News Letter from October 6 1738 (October 17 modern calendar)in a News From 275 Years ago column opposite the letters page.
The snippets will include reports about Dick Turpin, Indian “murders” in Virginia, a highway robbery in Newbury, advertisements from Belfast and Co Antrim, and other foreign and royal reports.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were shown the earliest News Letter in 2009 at the Linen Hall library, where it is held. The paper has a report on a predecessor, as Prince of Wales and his princess planning to go “with a Handsome Retinue for the Bath”.
It is a reference to King George II’s estranged 31-year-old son Frederick, who pre-deceased his father and never made it to the throne, which passed to Frederick’s son George III.
He was the king who ‘lost America’. There are few surviving newspapers today that reported on the July 4 1776 Declaration of Independence, as the News Letter did in August of that year, when word reached Europe. The Times, for example, was not founded for another nine years.
Rankin Armstrong, the current editor of the News Letter, said: “We hope readers will enjoy both today’s souvenir copy of the oldest surviving News Letter and the fascinating daily snippets that we will be publishing this week from the two surviving October 1738 editions.”
Visit our Nostalgia section all this week for snippets from our old editions.