A newspaper is a regular publication containing news, information, opinion and advertising. It may also include sports results, reviews, weather forecasts, obituaries, classified adverts and cartoon strips.
Most newspapers are printed on a daily or weekly basis and on a national or local scale.
National newspapers are circulated throughout their country of origin and contain articles which are of interest to an entire populace. Local newspapers are circulated on a smaller scale and are usually focused on the current events of a particular city, county or region.
Collecting old newspapers is a popular hobby as they can offer a unique view of social, political and economic history.
They are an important tool in historical research, as they feature reports and personal accounts of events with an immediacy that books written decades or even hundreds of years later cannot.
They are also an important record of changing social attitudes, interests and activities which are presented without historical perspective, and can offer revealing insights into societies through the popular culture of the time.
Many collectors focus their collections on a specific area such as a particular time period, publication, location or subject.
A popular area is collecting newspapers published during a historically significant period, or those with the story of an important event on their front page.
Such examples may have headlines announcing the first Moon landing, the outbreak of World War II, the sinking of the Titanic or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. These significant editions are the most sought-after on the collectors' market and can fetch the highest prices at auction.
Newspapers are predominantly printed on low quality paper and are intended to be ephemeral in nature, with the vast majority of them thrown away or recycled.
This means that they can be extremely difficult to find in good condition, due to paper and print deterioration.
However, the oldest newspapers are not always the most expensive and editions from the 19th century or earlier can be purchased for a relatively low price.
The first newspapers
Newspapers started life as handwritten pamphlets in Renaissance Europe during the early 15th century.
They featured information on significant events such as wars, political and royal news, economic conditions and social customs.
They were distributed privately between merchants on a small scale, but the invention of the printing press in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg in around 1439 changed the entire nature of how information was passed on.
Suddenly these pamphlets could be produced on a larger scale and distributed or sold, and in 1605 the ‘Relation aller Fürnemmen un gedenckwürdigen Historien’ (collection of all distinguished and commemorable news) became the first regularly-published newspaper in the (then) imperial free city of Straßburg.
The first half of the 17th century saw a number of European countries begin to print their own newspapers such as the Dutch ‘Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c.’ of 1618, the first English language newspaper the ‘Corrant out of Italy, Germany, etc.’ (published in Amsterdam in 1620), and the Gazette de France in 1631.
The first American newspaper is considered to be the ‘Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick’ published by Benjamin Harris in 1690. It only ran for one issue before being banned by the government.
In 1704, the American governor allowed ‘The Boston News-Letter’ to be published and it became the first continuously published newspaper in the colonies.
By the end of the American revolutionary war in 1783 there were 43 American newspapers in print, but the number rose rapidly to 346 by 1814.
The first English daily paper was the ‘The Daily Courant’, published between 1702 and 1735.
In England there were twelve London newspapers and 24 provincial papers by the 1720s, and the later years of the 18th century saw the first editions of the Times in 1788 and the Observer in 1791.
In 1845 the only known surviving example of the ‘Publick Occurrences’ newspaper was discovered in the British Library.
The Industrial Revolution and the developments of continuous paper rolls and the steam powered printing press took newspaper printing and circulation to an unprecedented level.
By the early 19th century there were 52 London papers and over 100 other titles, including the Manchester Guardian (founded in 1821) and the Sunday Times (1822).
Technological developments and new printing techniques led to the first photographs being printed in the ‘New York Graphic’ in 1880, followed by the British ‘Daily Graphic’ in 1891.
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the development of the modern style of newspaper known today, with banner headlines, illustrations or photos, reports on sporting events and the inclusion of comic strips.
The 20th century saw an even greater expansion as literacy rates increased and prices fell.
In England the notable paper the Daily Express was first published in 1900 and the Daily Mirror began publication in 1903.
This was also a period in which corporate consolidation began, and many smaller independent newspapers in Europe and the United States were swallowed up by larger publishers heralding the first ‘media empires’.
The world’s most expensive newspaper
The most expensive newspaper ever sold at auction is a copy of the Romanian newspaper, Zimbrulu and Vulturulu (The Aurochs and the Eagle) from 1858.
The paper was mailed to the city of Galati on the day it was published, using eight Cap de Bour (Bull Head) stamps.
The rarity of the stamps combined with the number and quality led the newspaper to be sold in 2006 by the David Feldman auction house for a record $1.1m.
It was purchased by the famed philatelist and collector David Hackmey.
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