We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Media ethics in 1702

It will be found from the Foreign Prints, which from time to time, as Occaſion offers, will be mention’d in this Paper, that the Author has taken Care to be duly furnith’d with all that comes from Abroad in any Language. And for an A&#383&#383urance that he will not, under Pretence of having Private Intelligence, impo&#383e any Additions of feign’d Circum&#383tances to an Action, but give his Extracts fairly and Impartially ; at the beginning of each Article he will quote the Foreign Paper from whence ’tis taken, that the Publick, &#383eeing from what Country a piece of News comes with the Allowance of that Government, may be better able to Judge of the Credibility and Fairne&#383s of the Relation

– from the The Daily Courant of March 11, 1702. The Courant was probably the world’s first daily newspaper.

Bloggers might not like the next bit:

Nor will he take upon him to give any Comments or Conjectures of his own, but will relate only Matter of Fact ; suppo&#383ing other People to have Sen&#383e enough to make Reflections for them&#383elves.

15 comments to Media ethics in 1702

  • [PARAGRAPH IN SQUARE BRACKETS ADDED BY NATALIE SOLENT LATER: Following advice on how to do it from commenters, I have now re-edited the post using the HTML “long s”. As a result Steven Den Beste’s comment below and some of the subsequent comments no longer reflect what you see on the post. Apologies to Mr Den Beste for inserting my addendum here; I wanted it to come in at the top so as not to mystify new readers and couldn’t see how else to do it. Steven Den Beste’s original comment starts next line. – NS.]

    All those words which seem to incorrectly include an “f” where an “s” should be (e.g. “suppofe”) are the result of a misunderstanding by the person who transcribed this quote.

    There was an alternate form of lower-case “s” used then, which looked like a lower-case “f” but with half a crossbar. An otherwise-identical character with a full cross-bar was used (and still is) for lower case “f”.

    The two were considered distinct, but the one with half a crossbar fell out of common usage by about 200 years ago. A modern reader unfamiliar with the typographic convention who looks at 300+ year old publications will usually see it is a rather strange looking “f”, but it should actually be transcribed as “s” because that’s what it actually was.

    There were several other archaic typographic conventions which also appear somewhat less commonly in printed texts that old.

    You can see many of them here. The first two lines would properly be transcribed as follows:

    “Then let us take a ceremonious leave
    And loving farwell of our severall friends.”

    But it seems to look like this to someone not familiar with the typographic conventions of that time:

    “Then let vs take a ceremonious leaue
    And louing farwell of our feuerall friends.”

    Compare the first characters of the words “severall” and “friends” and you can see the distinction.

  • Well that would be more accurate, but leaving the “f”s in place of the “s”s just makes it looking a bit more archaic, and just downright cooler.

    As for the “senfe” of the people back then the media hadnt realized that it was so easy to manipulate the masses.

    I suppose the fact that newspaper readers were probably a small and relatively well-educated minority probably would have made manipulation harder.

  • Dan

    Den Beste, you old wet blanket! I was just thinking how wonderful it is to have something that almost looks like a ‘long s’, and then you come along and comment the joy right out of it. I have half a mind to go read a few chapters of Ashmole’s “Most Noble Order of the Garter” just to enjoy the typography.

  • Yes, I did know about the “long s” (and the character for “th”, called “thorne” I believe, that is often misread as “y”). As Hallex guesses, I just thought it looked more picturesque to transcribe the long s as “f”. Does anyone know if HTML has a character for the long s?

    Since you are such a learned lot, perhaps someone can explain something from the next paragraph. In the extract below I have shown the long s as an ordinary s, to satisfy all tastes:

    This Courant (as the Title shews) will be Publish’d Daily : being design’d to give all the Material News as soon as every Post arrives : and is confin’d to half the Compass, to save the Publick at least half the Impertinences, of ordinary News-Papers.

    I would have supposed “half the Compass” meant one hemisphere, if the implication that other papers devoted more than half of their impertinences to the affairs of the (eastern?) hemisphere did not seem so unlikely. Can anyone explain?

    And another question for punctuation geeks: when did it become customary to drop the space before a colon or semicolon?

    Hash: SHA1

    “I would have supposed “half the Compass” meant one hemisphere, if the implication that other papers devoted more than half of their impertinences to the affairs of the (eastern?) hemisphere did not seem so unlikely. Can anyone explain?”

    I read it as simply saying it has half the range of coverage other papers; it “encompasses” less than the rest.

    Version: GnuPG v1.2.4 (MingW32) – GPGshell v3.10
    Comment: My Public Key is at the following URL:
    Comment: http://www.alapite.net/pgp/AbiolaLapite.txt


  • Guy Herbert

    &int , since the integral sign is a long-s gone native in the modern world.

  • While I love the typographic stuff, I move to a different point in your post:

    Bloggers might be chastened more in their commentary if newspapers provided less in their “news reports”. There is plenty of room for commentary–viz “The Tattler”–but I still–futiley–believe they should be kept separate.

  • ernest young

    The last quote says it all, in essence, “just the facts and nothing but the facts “. – No moralising comment, and no political spin.

    Could be the journalists version of the Hippocratic Oath…

  • Eric Blair

    I definitely have spent too much time reading 18th century documents.

    I didn’t even notice what SdB was talking about and had to go back and peer at it again.

    Sort of like all the “Ye Olde” whatevers, that people pronounce with the “Y” sound, but actually should be prounounced with the ‘th’ sound, as that ‘Y’ was some sort of runic holdover still in use then.

    You want more wierdness? Go look at 18th century military German, with its mix of French (in Roman letters) terms and German (in Fraktur letters). Sometimes in the same word.

    Ah, Anitquarianism!

  • Guy Herbert: thank∫! I should have thought of that. If I can find the time I might go through the piece correcting it.

  • Bloggers might not like the next bit…

    If I had any pretensions towards journalism, Natalie, I might not like it.

    As a comentator (okay, grouch), it worries me not a whit.

    But the El-Ghard’yan and New York Slimes should be worried.

  • Monsyne Dragon

    ſ. is the ‘long s’ in HTML it’s ſ
    The runic letter thorn: þ is the one that used to be used for ‘th’ , along with the letter eth: ð

  • Alasdair

    As a Brit, I take from the context that “half the Compass” would be equivalent to ‘half the spread’ – based on a half-sheet of paper rather than a full sheet – or full broad-sheet (as I seem to recollect as an old usage).

    Does this ring any bells with anyone ?

  • Somewhere out in my garage I’ve got a book which was printed in 1615. It isn’t really all that valuable. There were a lot more books being published by that point than most people realize. I bought it in the late 1970’s for about $30, and I doubt it’s worth even $100 now, despite inflation.

    I used to show it to people and asked them to try to read it out loud, especially the forward. It was a book about heraldry and the forward was a fawning suckup to the then reigning king of England, James I, who is best known to us as being responsible for creation of the “King James” Bible.

    After Elizabeth I died without an heir, ending the Tudor line, the then-reigning King of Scotland (only son of Mary, Queen of Scots) was picked to take the throne. When he died he was succeeded by his son Charles I, who is most famous for ruling with such a heavy hand that he provoked the English Civil War, in which he was deposed (and ultimately executed). After Cromwell died, James’ grandson in turn became King (as Charles II) and in his turn was deposed by revolution in 1688, after which the English turned to a Dutchman, William of Orange.

    Not a very distinguished dynasty, all things considered. (At least from the viewpoint of this outsider.)

    History has generally judged James himself as being a rather mediocre, undistinguished monarch, as such things go. (He was sort of a Claudius: not an Octavian, but also not a Nero.)

    But you wouldn’t know it from what this guy wrote in his forward as he dedicates the book to King James. He makes it sounds like James is the greatest monarch since Augustus Cæsar. The author was apparently angling for a court appointment as a herald, so he engaged in major-league ass-kissing in the forward, which makes for a rather amusing read — if you can read it. Few among those I’ve shown it to can do so.

    But when I read it aloud, most found that after a pretty short time listening to me while reading the text, they picked up the typographic changes and could then read it themselves.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    The ‘long S’ was used until the middle of the 20th century, in Fraktur.

    Anybody who’s tried to read German books from before World War II can tell you about the joys of Fraktur. 🙂