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Free access to newspaper history

If you would like to read a newspaper report of any important event of the last 188 years, you should consult The Scotsman's superb new digital archive. The Edinburgh paper - one of Britain's best - has made available every page published since its first issue in 1817.

An anagram for THE SCOTSMAN is HASN'T COST ME, so it seems appropriate that access to the archive is free. You are also offered a copy of the first issue of the newspaper as a free sample. However, if you want to view or copy an entire article, you'll have to pay for it. There's a choice of options for unlimited access, from a 24-hour pass for 7.95 ($AU20, $US15) to a one-year pass for 159.95 ($AU386, $US308).

The Scotsman was founded by a lawyer, William Ritchie, and a customs official, Charles Maclaren. The price of the first issue was 10 pence, the 1817 equivalent of about 3 today.

"We have a wealth of history within The Scotsman which has been sitting in our archives for over a century," said David Speirs, director of the archive project. "What we wanted to do was open up the books, dust down the newspaper and open it to a world wide audience."

The New York Times has a similar archive, offering browsers access to thousands of stories dating back to 1851. It presents useful free abstracts (document summaries) an innovation we'd like The Scotsman to adopt.

Purchase prices for stories published from 1996 to 2005 range from $US2.95 for a single article to $US25.95 for a 25-article pack.

The NYT website says:

Search the Article Archive: 1851-1995 for more than 15 million articles from Sept. 1851 to Dec. 1995. Articles, Including their accompanying photos, charts and graphs, may be purchased in PDF format, Adobe Acrobat Reader required (see sample). The New York Times Article Archive: 1851-1995 is hosted by ProQuest through their ProQuest Archiver service and all purchases are processed by ProQuest.
One of the earliest stories we found was a report (from the UK) published on September 30, 1851 by The New York Daily Times (the paper's title from 1851 to 1857):
AN EARLY-RISING MACHINE.--One of the Birmingham contributions to the World's Fair that affords a considerable amount of amusement, and attracts a good deal of attention, is the alarm bedstead, invented by Savage, of St. James' Square, and manufactured by Peeton & Harlow. To many persons this will be an invention of real utility.
The Scotsman and The New York Times are far from being two of the world's oldest newspapers. The oldest still in circulation, all founded in the 17th century, are:-
1   Post och Inrikes Tidningar   (Sweden)   1645
2   Haarlems Dagblad   (Netherlands)   1656
3   La Gazzetta di Mantova   (Italy)   1664
4   The London Gazette   (UK)   1665




Story first posted April 2005

Copyright 2005

Eric Shackle

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