Our 1738-1739 papers are a major source of local and global history

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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On the next page of this newspaper our serialisation of a 1739 Belfast News Letter is printed.

Regular readers will know that since last October we have been serialising papers from 1738 and 1739, exactly 280 years ago.

This is because there is an intact nine-month batch of News Letters from October 1738 to the end of August 1739.

Sadly, that serialisation ends on Monday, because the papers have run out. Most News Letters between September 1737, when we were founded, and the 1750s, are lost.

It is possible that some of the papers are still out there somewhere, hidden in a loft of garage or outhouse. A hotel in Carrickfergus found, during renovations, a News Letter from the 1760s in a fireplace that had been bricked up.

No newspaper in history has done an On This Day 280 Years Ago column before because no daily paper has ever reached 280 years old (or not one in the English language). Our deputy editor will write about the serialisation in an article to be published in the coming weeks.

We hope readers have enjoyed finding out what Ulster folk in the 1730s were reading about the world – and it was the world. The papers had much news from Europe and the Americas, and had some (less) news from Asia, as well as a tiny amount from Africa, which was largely unknown.

Early News Letters are a pillar of local history, as well as a snapshot of the global past. The web version of this editorial will include a link to all the serialised 1738/39 stories.