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The Value of Old News


The Cheltenham-Chronicle is available as far back as 1809.

The Cheltenham-Chronicle is available as far back as 1809.

Here’s one summer day-trip planned for us already:

British Library to unveil £33m newspaper reading room

State-of-the-art facility will store more than three centuries of newspapers and magazines dating back to the English civil war.

The Newsroom, offering more than 750m pages of newspapers and magazines and 4.8m archived websites, will be officially opened by the culture secretary, Sajid Javid.

A hi-tech reading room, the first at the British Library in St Pancras for more than 10 years, offers researchers free access to microfilm and digital newspaper collections dating back to the English civil war. Together with a purpose-built robotic storage facility in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, it replaces the Colindale newspaper library in north London, which closed last November.

The British Library’s holdings include the Thomason Tracts, which my own students have only recently used during their third-year studies, but also extend across most of the other periods taught by us here at Gloucestershire. You can learn more about the British Newspaper Archive here: newsprint is a fascinating and often invaluable source, often for the eccentricity of the detail (here’s Hannah Velten, for instance, on what it was like to be kicked by a horse in 1889).

The oldest document held in the Newspaper Archives was published in 1620 under the title A Corrant out of Italy, Germany, etc. As one of the comments in that Guardian story notes, it infamously begins: “The new tydings out of Italie are not yet come.” Fortunately, newsprint is often more telling that that suggests! At Gloucestershire, we have access to A Corrant out of Italy and many other early modern newsbooks via EEBO. The British Library is once again the place, it seems, to read and discover even more.

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