A little more of the who and why of news

So I followed up a footnote in Alastair Bellany’s The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England, a reference which I later discovered was also in Joad Raymond’s Invention of the Newspaper.  In 1637, John Taylor published a list of where the carriers from a number of cities and areas stayed while in London.  He republished it, with some minor corrections and additions (at least as I can see from a brief skimming) in 1642.  The first one was called The Carriers Cosmographie and the second A Brief Director.  I’m not yet entirely certain what to make of these pamphlets, but they very much interest me.  Assuming that it is the same John Taylor, one can see how he got into newsmongering; he knew where to get news from around the country.  However, it is the fact that he, a publisher, and a printer carried out the project that I find most intriguing.  The first post began in 1635, so it would seem that these pamphlets were geared either to those who wanted their letters carried more quickly or specifically wanted to avoid the post.  I’m not sure how secure these carriers were, but since the post was monitored, they certainly would have been more discreet than the official post.  Anyway, I can spend more time on that later; I just thought it was interesting.

I also had another thought today.  I’ve still been mulling over explanations for the explosion of printing in 1640-2.  I took another look at the great chart that Cressy has in England on Edge of numbers of publications per year.  In Politicians and Pamphleteers, Jason Peacey discusses how and why politicians resorted to print, often in clandestine ways.  Well, there were large spikes in publications in late 1640-2, 1646-7, and 1658-1660.  These periods have in common intense politicking and uncertainty.  I would argue that these spikes were the result of politicians trying to win political battles.  I don’t think it is a rise in demand or that censorship was that much less effective in these periods than the rest of the 1640s and 50s.  I have to assume that people would be as interested in the peace as in whether or not someone had won the war, or whether or not the war would be in their backyards soon.  If anything, I would guess that there was more demand for news of actual battles.  Politicking went on in the winters, but newsbooks tended to fail without military news to report (at least according to Anthony Cotton’s dissertation, “London Newsbooks in the Civil War”).  At the very least, there would not be such a widely varying demand.  I think it would be better to think of the print explosions in the 1640s and 1650s not so much as a result of the breakdown of censorship, but of its active circumvention by political elites: a push rather than a pull.  The more stable periods in between the spikes represent the regular “demand.”  I’d be happy to hear other peoples’ thoughts on the matter.


Filed under Long Parliament, Print Culture

3 responses to “A little more of the who and why of news

  1. Nick

    The Taylor of Carriers Cosmographie is the same John Taylor of water-poet, newsmongering and Walker-baiting fame. I wasn’t quite sure what you meant about him cooperating with the publisher – is this just the usual partnership over printing, or is there some evidence the publishers were involved in some other way?

    It’s an interesting point about the print explosions. I do wonder about it, though – the explosion I’ve probably read most about is 1641 and my own sense from EEBO is that a lot of the texts were not propaganda in the sense of being commissioned by or reflecting the views of grandees. There are some that obviously do, and others where we are waiting to discover connections, but it would be interesting nevertheless to look at the different categories of print that make up the explosions.

  2. gilbertmabbott

    As to the first part, I guess all I meant was that I was surprised that all these people thought that a book describing where to find letter carriers in London was worth putting into publication. I was really tired when I was writing that last post
    As to the second, Joad Raymond suggests something similar in Pamphlets and Pamphleteering. I just have a hard time believing that demand varied so greatly during the 1640s and 50s that it would account for 1647 having so many more printed works than, say, 1645. But you are right, many of the items in the early 1640s have a definite independent (little “i”) feel.

  3. Nick

    Oh I see – yes it’s not the most obvious topic for a book, is it? I guess it would be of interest to anyone wanting to communicate with friends in the provinces.

    The whole explosion of print is an interesting debate, though – I do agree that as you get later into the 1640s, there is a lot more interaction between grandees and print. Speaking of which I have just finished reading Jason McElligott’s book on royalist newsbooks which is extremely critical of Peacey’s arguments…

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