“much Relief by Blisters”; or, Rose loves research

The heroine of my current WIP is the widow of a small-town printer/newspaperman, her brother-in-law having inherited the paper on his death. It’s an important part of her story, so I’m reading Freshest Advices: Early Provincial Newspapers in England by R. M. Wiles. It mostly focuses on the first half of the 18th century which is a little early for me obviously, so I’ll have to do some supplemental reading, but I’m guessing there was a lot of continuity.

Several old-timey newspapers

“It takes a twentieth-century reader a little time to accustom himself to look at the end of a paper for the latest news [because it was typeset last], but the eighteenth-century reader had no reason to look elsewhere for it.[...I]f anyone perused the six-page Worcester Post-Man, number 267 (Friday, 6 August 1714), only as far as page 4 he would see on that page that the ailing Queen Anne, after suffering ‘a Fit of Convulsions, others say the Appoplexy,’ had been given ‘much Relief by Blisters’; only on page 5 of that same issue would the reader discover that the Queen had died on Sunday, 31 July.”

2 Responses to ““much Relief by Blisters”; or, Rose loves research”

  • J:

    That’s very interesting. I wonder why they had to have the last page typeset last. It almost seems like you should have been able to make the last typeset page the first page too… Hmmm. :)

    • Rose:

      Well, you could have, but they printed the news chronologically rather than in order of importance and as the author of the book points out, there was simply no reason to do it differently at the time. The other thing is that newspapers were much much shorter back then–these papers were only four pages long and page 4 was generally ads (because the paper was a single sheet folded in half, so generally pages 1 and 4 were typeset together and printed off a few days in advance, then page 2 was typeset, and as soon as the day’s post was in on the publication day, they’d quickly typeset page 3 and run off those two pages on the other side), so really “the last page” is page 3. And the newspaper only came out once a week, so I imagine most people read the whole thing cover to cover anyway.

      It IS a little hard to wrap your head around, though…

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