Belfast Telegraph

1738 daily newspaper reprinted

The first surviving edition of the oldest English language daily newspaper in the world still in print has been reproduced today, 275 years since it first came off the press.

The Belfast News Letter from October 1738 includes a report referring to notorious 18th Century highwayman Dick Turpin.

Its foreign coverage includes dispatches from the American colonies of "Indian" murders of "four more families" in Virginia.

With 4,000 words of densely packed reports with no illustrations, the paper is far removed from the present day version of the Northern Ireland regional.

But current news editor at the News Letter Ben Lowry said the edition included the "seeds of every element of modern newspapers".

"There are hints of the serious, candid reporting that has held authority in the western world to account for three centuries," he said.

Mr Lowry said there were also flashes of "lurid journalism" of the sort that the modern day Leveson inquiry into the press was set up to investigate.

But he added: "At a time of Leveson, and widespread awareness of the failings of the press, this incredible item from history is a reminder of the force for good that newspapers have been since their earliest days.

"Crammed with varied information from home and abroad, it is a gripping, amusing and at points moving document."

The edition re-printed alongside today's News Letter is dated October 3 1738 - October 14, by the modern day calendar.

The reference to Dick Turpin was in a report on his father being jailed for possession of a stolen horse he insisted was left by his infamous son.

"A few days since the father of the noted Turpin was committed to Chelmsford Goal (sic), for having in his possession a horse supposed to be stolen out of Lincolnshire which, he pleads, was left with him by his son to pay for diet and lodging," states the paper.

Dick Turpin was hanged six months later.

The Belfast News Letter was founded in September 1737, but copies of the first 13 months' output are lost.


From Belfast Telegraph