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Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Curator of Rare Books

During the summer of 1997, the Library acquired The Folke Dahl Collection of Early Newsbooks, Corantos, and Newspapers. A finding aid is available. (The above illustration is item 303 in the collection.) Call number of the collection is (Exov) AP1 .F64. Note: some items in the collection have separate call numbers, these may be found via the online catalog.

The following text is from Sotheby's (NYC) catalogue sale 7001 ("Fine Books and Manuscripts," 3 June 1997) lot 315:

The Folke Dahl Collection of Early Newsbooks, Corantos, and Newspapers

 In his Sandars lectures on The English Newspaper (Cambridge, 1932), Stanley Morison wrote that "the great invention of the craft [of printing] is the newspaper ... Books there were in the Middle Ages, books there will always be because men who can write will write; but printing is a process optional to literature and to booksellers. On the other hand, newspapers are the invention of the printer, and printing is absolutely essential to newspapers and news vendors. The business of newspapers is to give the news of the moment at the moment. Hence their entire existence and progress depend upon speedy multiplication and transport ... the fundamental economic character of printing is seen at its fullest in the history of newspapers ..."

The greatest scholar of the origins and early development of newspapers has been Dr. Folke Dahl (1905-1970), librarian successively at Göteborg University Library and Lund University Library. In the mid-1930s, as a student at the University of Uppsala, Dahl began his pioneering researches into the earliest English newsbooks, or corantos. On his return to Stockholm, he serendipitously stumbled upon an uncatalogued and overlooked bundle of early newsletters in the stacks of the Royal Library. His investigation of this archive marked an epoch in international research into the development of newspapers. As he showed, these French and Dutch newsletters had been sent from various places to Gustavus Adolphus or to the Riksråd as annexes to manuscript diplomatic reports. They thus entered the royal archives and had the unique good fortune of being preserved, contrary to their intrinsically ephemeral quality as news of the day, to be discarded after reading. Dahl's discovery threw important new light on the origins both of Dutch language corantos, and of French language ones. The "French" discovery was revolutionary. It had been a longtime article of faith in France that its national newspaper history had a specific birthday: 30 May 1631, when Théophraste Renaudot produced the first issue of his Gazette, under patent from Richelieu. Dahl moved this history eleven years back in time, from Paris to Amsterdam, and from official sponsorship to private enterprise in bringing to light in Stockholm two weekly issues of September 1620 of the Courant d'Italie et d'Almaigne, &c., published by Caspar van Hilten, "Maitre des Courants du Camp du Prince D'Orange" as an offshoot from his Dutch language corantos. Moreover, within the same archive he found evidence that in Paris itself, Renaudot's Gazette had been preceded by a much more obscure weekly paper, the Nouvelles ordinaires de divers endroits published by Louis Vendosme.

Dahl's monographs Dutch Corantos 1618-1650 (1946) and A Bibliography of English Corantos and Newsbooks 1620-1642 (1952) are groundbreaking bibliographical classics. More broadly, the corpus of his writings demonstrates that early newspaper history, which had hitherto been an almost exclusively German domain, must be studied from an international standpoint. The cross border interrelationships of the early newsletters and newspapers, both as to text and to design, are continuous and fundamental. Much fruitful work still remains to be done in "source criticism" of the reports provided in the newsletters of various languages. Over the decades, Dr. Dahl visited a very large number of European libraries and archives in search of early newsletters and newspapers; those that he catalogued in his major publications are a small fraction of those he saw. Along the way, he gradually built up a private collection, which well represents his pan-European outlook. Many of his acquisitions were clearly chance discoveries, but small groups include certified duplicates from the University Library of Uppsala; several items from the library of the Swedish bibliophile Thore Virgin; and a series formerly in the Bibliotheca Lindesiana. Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Crawford & Balcarres (1812-80) had, amidst his multifarious scholarly interests, a deep fascination with early newspapers, and it may not be amiss to quote one of the young Lord Lindsay's recollections from his Cambridge years, when he was a frequent visitor to Madingley Hall, a few miles out of town: "what interested me most was a most curious collection of the newspapers and official gazettes of Cromwell's time and before it ... I used to sit in a deep embrasure of the ancient coeval library [at Madingleyl and read the news of the day -- of two hundred years ago" (Nicolas Barker, Bibliotheca Lindesiana (19), p. 58).

 ... Folke Dahl's collection [consists] of approximately 300 pieces related to early European newspaper history. The great majority of the collection is devoted to the period pre-1700, and is distinguished by its international character. There are items in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish - besides Latin. Printing towns include Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, Delft, Leyden, Antwerp, Brussels, London, Paris, Rouen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stettin, Strassburg, Wallstatt, Florence, Venice, and others; and a number of items unsigned or unattributed. A few categories and specific items are described below, but the diversity of the Collection is considerable, reflecting Dahl's unique knowledge of this field. A detailed inventory has been made.

Early Newsbooks: Printed pamphlet reports of recent events - comets, battles, and monster births - began in the late fifteenth century, but only in the early sixteenth did they begin to acquire, in Germany, a kind of generic or genre title, "Neue Zeitung...' (and in English "Newes ..., " "True Newes ...") The Dahl Collection contains ten such newsbooks, including a report on the famous battle of Mohacs, June 1526, in which the army and much of the high nobility of Hungary was annihilated by the forces of Sultan Suleiman, sending a shock wave across Christian Europe: New zeytung. Die Schlacht des Turkischcn Keysers mit Ludouico etwan König zu Vngern ... Item des Türckcn seyndtsbrieff, König Ludouico zugesandt vor dcr schlacht ... New zeytung vom Bapst zu Rome am. xxvij tag Septembris geschehen 1526 (4', A-B4, [Augsburg?, 1526). The report from Rome came by post to Augsburg, news from Poland is presented as an extract from a letter "that one good friend wrote to another." One of the most interesting items is a fragment only, preserved as binder's waste, of an apparently unrecorded STC book of the early l550s: Newes come late from Pera, of two most might[y] Armies ... translated out of Italien [into] Frenche and so into Engleshe. And first of [the gr]eat Duke of Muscovie & of the Soffy, And [fur]there of an Hebrewe people neur [kno]wen of before, found not long ago comming from the Mountains called Caspie ... Only a fragment of a small title-page battle cut is preserved, as best clue to the printer. The news here was sent from Pera, i.e. from Istanbul, and centers on Ivan the Terrible's conquests of Tartary. The references to the newly discovered lost tribes of Israel contain reminiscences of the early medieval Hebrew kingdom of Khazaria, in the Caspian.

German Newspapers: The earliest weekly news publications appear to have developed near-concurrently in several towns and cities of Germany, 1609 or (for discoveries continue to be made) a little before. The Dahl Collection contains about 40 German news items, including the Unvergreiffliche Postzeittungen from Frankfurt (1621), and the Ordentliche Wochentliche Zeitungen from Frankfurt (1628). Titles of these weekly series tended to change rapidly and unpredictably, and most are without imprints. Dahl contributed information to the standard bibliography of these newspapers (Else Bogel & Elger Blühm, Die Deutschen Zeitungen des 17. Jahrhunderts, 2 v., Bremen, 1971), but a number of his items are apparently unrepresented there (Zeitung ausz Leipzig, Num: 23, 1633; Newe wöchentliche Berlinische und Stättinische Zeitung, No. XVIII, 1633). Besides weekly newspapers, there is a group of the German monthly reports of l635-36 on the exploits of Gustavus Adolphus's troops in the Thirty Years' War, issued under the heading of Continuatio Relationis.

Dutch Corantos: Dahl was the first to emphasize the significance of Amsterdam, in the beginning years of the Thirty Years' War, as the center for internationalization of the phenomenon of the weekly (later biweekly) newsletter, and his bibliography of Dutch corantos is the classic study. The Dahl Collection contains about fifteen such Corantos, including issues of the Courante uyt Italien en Duythsch-landt &c, 1626 (Dutch Corantos, p. 38); the Tijdinghen uyt verscheyde Quartieren, 1626 et sq. (ibid., p. 59); and the Europische Donderdaegs [--Saterdaegs] Courant (ibid., pp. 73-74). A number of these are issues not yet located when Dutch Corantos was published, 1946.

English Corantos and Newsbooks: Dahl's bibliography is, again, both the pioneering and the standard study, allowing for scattered discoveries of new copies since 1952. Both Corantos (half sheet leaflets printed on both sides) and Newsbooks (printed in quarto, with title pages) were intrinsically ephemeral. Richard Brathwait's Whimzies (1631) includes a satirical "character" of the Corranto-Coiner, in which he wrote, "our best comfort is, his Chymera's live not long, a weeke is the longest in the Citie, and after their arrivall, little longer in the Countrey, Which past, they melt like Butter, or match a pipe and so Burne ... it is the height of their ambition, to aspire to the imployment of stopping mustard-pots, or wrapping up pepper, pouder, staves-aker, &c". The Dahl Collection contains three very early examples of Nathaniel Butter's Newsbook series, 1622-23 (3 June 1622, 27 August 1622, 7 May 1623: Dahl 44, 71, 110), and also the quasi-clandestine More Newes from the Palatinate, [late March] 1622 (Dahl 37), without imprint and without typographic ornament. Whether the report was printed in London remains uncertain, but it could not have been openly acknowledged, its writer refers sarcastically to the court's ban on including domestic news in the London Newsbooks. Besides these four Newsbooks, the Dahl Collection contains the title leaves only of four more, 1622-31. One of these, 2 August 1622 (Dahl 64) may conceivably have been printed as a placard of advertisement. Although there are stabholes on it, its verso is blank, whereas the only recorded copy, in the Rutland collection, has a woodcut armorial of Bohemia there.

For further particulars inquire with Reference Services staff of Special Collections. See also the Collections File under the heading Folke Dahl Collection