Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

You’ll never know until you ask.

I was going through my DTPO database (loving the Keyboard Maestro macros, BTW), and I came across mention of an intriguing reference in a London Gazette newspaper from 1693. As is too often the case, the secondary source I took the note from failed to quote from the issue in question, making it critical for me to see the original. And while I do have 1,400 issues from the London Gazette, those only cover the years 1701-1712.

Without access to the online Burney newspaper collection, I attempted a Hail Mary and checked Google. Lo and behold, the company responsible for the London Gazette, sometimes known as the British government, is still around, and has actually gone to the expense (err, expence) of providing a screen to search back issues.

What the hell – I thought – I’ll just type in 1693 for the year and see what happens. It’s not like they can take away my Historian’s license if their archives only go back to 1815. And to my utter amazement, this popped up:

London Gazette search screen

London Gazette search screen

London Gazette view

Then this – London Gazette view

It’s a thing of beauty I tells ya.

So download ’em while ya got ’em. (If you have a macro app, you could probably even make a macro to navigate through the pages and either download or take screen shots of each.)

One warning though: the search apparently doesn’t realize that the official government calendar back then started the year on March 25 (Lady Day, the day of Jesus’ supposed conception). Regular readers know what I’m talking about. So, for example, I’m looking at an issue dated “Thursday 15 February to Monday 19 February 1704”, which mentions how the garrison of Verrua was still defending itself. The problem, of course, is that the mountaintop fortress of Verrua wasn’t invested until mid-October 1704, and it defended itself into early April of 1705. Or you could check a dozen other factual references in each issue and discover the same. You might even be able to tell those first three months are out-of-order from the issue numbers printed on the first pages – but there are sometimes typos in those. ;(

It must have been confusing for contemporaries as well, given the frequency with which we can find handwritten notations such as the following:

London Gazette, year corrected

London Gazette, year corrected

So caveat emptor!


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