Category : Pictorial Press by Mason Jackson

The Pictorial Press – Its Origin and Progress by Mason Jackson: Chapter 2 Part 3

Amongst the many publications relating to the victorious career of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, there was one entitled the Swedish Intelligencer, printed at London in 1632, for Nathaniel Butter and Nicholas Bourne, both of them names associated with the first establishment of newspapers in England. The Swedish Intelligencer gives very full accounts of the exploits of Gustavus, and it is illustrated with his portrait, a bird’s-eye view of the siege of Magdeburg, a plan showing how the King of Sweden and his army crossed the river Lech into Bavaria, and a plan or bird’s-eye view of the battle of Lutzen, where Gustavus was killed. The portrait, the siege of Magdeburg, and the battle of Lutzen, are engraved on copper, but the passage of the Lech is a woodcut. I have copied the latter, the others being too elaborate for reproduction on a reduced scale. The three last named are very curious as illustrations of war news. Gustavus had crossed the Danube, and his troops overspread the country between that river and the river Lech. Field Marshal Tilly was in front of him, waiting for reinforcements from the army of Wallenstein, in Bohemia, and the junction of fresh levies raised in Bavaria, with which he hoped to drive the invaders back across the Danube. The account in the Swedish Intelligencer of this celebrated passage of the River Lech is too long for quotation, but I give a condensed version of the circumstances from other sources.

The Lech takes its rise among the mountains of the Tyrol, and, after washing the walls of Landsberg and Augsburg, falls into the Danube at a short distance from the town of Rain. The banks are broken and irregular, and the channel uncertain. Nor are there many rivers of the same size in Germany which can be compared with it in the strength and rapidity of its current. The united forces of Bavaria and the League, with this efficient means of defence in front, extended their right wing towards the Danube and their left towards Rain, while the banks of the river, as far as the city of Augsburg, were observed by their patrols, supported by detached bodies of infantry. Tilly had taken the precaution of breaking down the bridges over the Lech, and had thrown up field works at points where he judged the passage might be considered attended with fewest difficulties. That the Swedes would attack him in his main position was a pitch of daring to which, well as he was acquainted with the enterprising spirit of the king, he could scarcely suspect him of having yet attained. Such, however, was the full determination of Gustavus. After he had reconnoitred the course of the Lech for some miles, at the imminent peril of his life, he fixed upon a point between Rain and Thierhauppen, where the river makes a sweep to the eastward, as the spot for carrying his venturous design into effect. The king’s first intention was to throw a floating bridge over the stream, but the attempt was no sooner made than it was found to be rendered hopeless by the rapidity of the current. It was then imagined that tressels might be sunk, and firmly secured by weights in the bed of the river, on which the flooring of the bridge might afterwards be securely laid. The king approved of this plan, and workmen were commanded to prepare the necessary materials at the small village of Oberendorf, situated about half a mile from the spot. During the night of the 4th of April the work was entirely finished, the supports fixed in the stream, and the planks for forming the bridge brought down to the water’s edge. The king had, in the meantime, ordered a trench to be dug along the bank of the river for the reception of bodies of musketeers, and several new batteries to be constructed close to the shore, the fire from which, as they were disposed along a convex line, necessarily crossed upon the opposite side; those upon the left hand of the Swedes playing upon the left of the enemy, and those on the right upon the wood held by the Bavarians. Another battery, slightly retired from the rest, directed its fire against the entrenchments occupied by Tilly’s centre. By daybreak on the 5th, all necessary preparations having been made, the bridge was begun to be laid, and completed under the king’s inspection. Three hundred Finland volunteers were the first who crossed, excited by the reward of ten crowns each to undertake the dangerous service of throwing up a slight work upon the other side for its protection. By four in the afternoon the Finlanders had finished their undertaking, having been protected from a close attack by the musketry of their own party and the batteries behind them, from which the king is said to have discharged more than sixty shots with his own hand, to encourage his gunners to charge their pieces more expeditiously. The work consisted merely of an embankment surrounded by a trench, but it was defended both by the direct and cross fire of the Swedes. As soon as it was completed, Gustavus, stationing himself with the King of Bohemia at the foot of the bridge, commanded Colonel Wrangle, with a chosen body of infantry and two or three field-pieces, to pass over, and after occupying the work, to station a number of musketeers in a bed of osiers upon the opposite side. The Swedes crossed the bridge with little loss, and after a short but desperate struggle the Imperialists were routed. The whole of the Swedish army was soon upon the eastern bank of the Lech, where the king, without troubling himself with the pursuit of the enemy, commanded his army to encamp, and ordered the customary thanksgivings to be offered for his victory.

The account in the Swedish Intelligencer is wound up in these words: ‘And this is the story of the King’s bridge over the Lech, description whereof we have thought worthy to be here in Figure imparted unto you.’ Then follows an ‘Explanation of the Letters in the Figure of the Bridge,’ given below the illustration. The engraving does not appear to have been entirely satisfactory to the author, for on its margin the following words are printed: ‘Our Cutter hath made the Ordnance too long, and to lye too farre into the River. The Hole also marked with R, should have been on the right hand of the Bridge.’



A The King of Sweeden, and the King of Bohemia by him.
B The Bridge.
C A Trench or Brestworke, in which the Kings Musketeers were lodged, betwixt the severall Batteryes of the great Ordnance, which Musketeers are represented by the small stroakes made right forwards.
D Divers little Field-pieces.
E Plat-formes or Batteryes for the Kings greater Cannon.
F The Halfe-moone, with its Pallisadoe or Stocket, beyond the Bridge, and for the guard of it. It was scarcely bigge enough to lodge a hundred men in.
G A little Underwood, or low Bushy place.
H A plaice voyd of wood; which was a Bache, sometimes overflowne.
I A Brestworke for Tillyes Musketeers.
K K Tilly and Altringer; or the place where they were shot.
L The high wood where the Duke of Bavaria stood.
M Tilleyes great Batteryes to shoot down the Bridge.
N A small riveret running thorow the wood.
O Tillyes great Brestworke; not yet finished. Begun at sixe in the morning; and left off when he was shot.
P Some Horse-guards of Tillyes: layd scatteringly here and there all along the river from Rain to Augsburg.
Q The kings Horse-guards, and Horse-sentryes.
R A hole in the earth, or casual advantageable place; wherein some of the Kings Foot were lodged.
S The Hill behind Tillyes great worke.
T The fashion of the Tressels or Arches for the Kings Bridge.’

In 1636 the Sallee Rovers had become very troublesome, and not only hindered British commerce on the high seas, but even infested the English coasts. They had captured and carried into slavery many Englishmen, for whose release a ‘Fleete of Shippes’ was sent out in January 1636. Assisted by the Emperor of Morocco, the nest of pirates was destroyed and the captives released. A full account of this expedition is given in a curious pamphlet, entitled, ‘A true Journal of the Sally Fleet with the proceedings of the Voyage, published by John Dunton, London, Mariner, Master of the Admirall called the Leopard. Whereunto is annexed a List of Sally Captives names and the places where they dwell, and a Description of the three Townes in a Card. London, printed by John Dawson for Thomas Nicholes, and are to be sold at the Signe of the Bible in Popes Head Alley, 1637.’ This tract is illustrated by a large plan of Sallee, engraved on copper, with representations of six English vessels of war on the sea. After minutely describing the proceedings of the voyage, and giving a long list of the captives’ names, the journalist winds up in these words: ‘All these good Shippes with the Captives are in safety in England, we give God thanks. And bless King Charles and all those that love him.’

At the end of the pamphlet is printed the authority for its publication: ‘Hampton Court, the 20. of October, 1637. This Journall and Mappe may be printed.’

There is an illustrated pamphlet of this period which I have not been able to see. It is entitled, ‘Newes, and Strange Newes from St. Christopher’s of a Tempestuous Spirit, which is called by the Indians a Hurrycano or Whirlwind; whereunto is added the True and Last Relation (in verse) of the Dreadful Accident which happened at Witticombe in Devonshire, 21. October, 1638.

The Weekly News, begun in 1622, had been in existence sixteen years when the idea of illustrating current events seems to have occurred to its conductors; for in the number for December 20, 1638, there is, besides the usual items of foreign news, an account of a ‘prodigious eruption of fire, which exhaled in the middest of the ocean sea, over against the Isle of Saint Michael, one of the Terceras, and the new island which it hath made.’ The text is illustrated by a full-page engraving showing ‘the island, its length and breadth, and the places where the fire burst out.’ I have not been able to find a copy of the Weekly News for December 20, 1638, either in the British Museum or elsewhere. My authority for the above statement is a letter in the Times of October 13, 1868. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no other illustrations were published in the Weekly News, so that we must conclude the engraving of the ‘prodigious eruption of fire’ was an experiment, which in its result was not encouraging to the proprietor or conductors of the journal.


When the Irish Rebellion of 1641 broke out, many news-books were published describing the transactions in that country, and several of them are illustrated. I may here remark that the illustrations of events in these pamphlets, as well as many of those contained in the numerous tracts published during the Civil War in England, appear to be works of pure imagination, and were, probably, invented by the artist just as a modern draughtsman would illustrate a work of fiction. Others, again, were evidently old woodcuts executed for some other purpose. A few instances occur, however, where drawings have been made from actual scenes, and sometimes maps and plans are given as illustrations of a battle or a siege. This rising of the Roman Catholics in Ireland began with a massacre of the Protestants, and, according to the tracts published at the time, the atrocities of recent wars in Bulgaria and elsewhere were equalled in every way by the Roman Catholics in Ireland in the seventeenth century. The illustrations in these tracts are very coarse woodcuts. One represents the arrest of a party of conspirators, and another is a view of a town besieged, while a third gives a group of prisoners supplicating for mercy. The best illustration that I have met with of this Irish news is contained in a pamphlet entitled, ‘Approved, good and happy Newes from Ireland; Relating how the Castle of Artaine was taken from the Rebels, two of their Captaines kild, and one taken prisoner by the Protestants, with the arrival of 2000 foot, and 300 horse from England. Also a great skirmish between the Protestants and the Rebels at a place near Feleston, wherein the English obtained great renowne and victory: Whereunto is added a true relation of the great overthrow which the English gave the Rebels before Drogheda, sent in a letter bearing date the 27 of February to Sir Robert King, Knight, at Cecill house in the Strand. Printed by order of Parliament. London, Printed for John Wright 1641.’ The woodcut on the title-page of this tract represents the taking of the castle of Artaine, but there is only the following very short paragraph relating to it:—‘The last news from Ireland 7 March 1641. The 10 of February our men went to Artaine against a castle so called, which had before done some mischiefe, to some of our men, the enemy being in it. But the enemy fled before our second coming, and left the Castle, and a garrison was left in it by us.’ The other news is related more at length, and one of the paragraphs runs thus:—‘On the 13 a man was brought to our City, being taken by some of our scattering men scouting about our City, who confest without constraint, that he had killed an Englishwoman at a place called Leslipson, 6 Miles West of our City, and washed his hands in her bloud, being set on by the popish Priests so to doe; he was presently hanged, but dyed with much repentance and a protestant, which few do.’ The concluding paragraph of this pamphlet shows the writer to have been a man of a commercial spirit:—‘Tis to be feared that a famine is like to be in our City, in that still men come to us and provision is short, and none of yours that come to us bring any vittailes, great taxes are upon us, more than can be borne. He that had Butter, and Cheese, and Cloath, at between 6 and 14 shillings a yard here sent by any out of London might make a good trade of it. Cheshire Cheese is sould here for sixpence a pound already. Some of your Londoners are come hither (acquaintance of mine) that will send for such things, for great profit may be made by them and quicke returne.’

Several other pamphlets relating to the Irish Rebellion are illustrated, but, with a few exceptions, the cuts bear very little relation to the subject, and were probably not executed for the purpose. One gives an account of a victory obtained by the English at Dundalk in 1642, and it has a woodcut of a man firing a cannon against a town, a copy of which is appended.


The description is in the following words:—‘Newes from Ireland. On Monday morning came three Gentlemen to our City of Dublin from Sir Henry Tichbourne, who brought a message to the state of a great and happy victory obtained by the aforesaid Sir Henry Tichbourne with 2000 horse and foot marched to Ardee, and there put 400 of the Rebels to the sword, yet lost not one man of our side; from thence upon the Saturday following, he mustered up his forces against a place called Dundalke some 14 miles northward from Tredath, where the enemy was 5000 strong, and well fortified. At his first approach there issued out of the Towne 3000 of the Rebels who all presented themselves in Battallia, our Forlorne hopes of horse and foot had no sooner fired upon them, but they routed the Rebels. Captaine Marroe’s Troope of horse setting on killed great store of the Rebels who thereupon retreated to the Towne, made fast the gates, and ran out at the other end to their boats beforehand provided: Our Army coming in fired the gates, entred, and killed those within. Captain Marroe followed the flying foe, and slew abundance of them upon the strand, and it is reported by them that if he had known the Fords and the River, he had cut them all off, if he had gained the other side of the River, but being a stranger, could not doe it (wanting a guide) without endangering the Troope. There was slaine of the Rebels in this sudden skirmish not less than 1100 besides what they took prisoners. Sir Philomy O’Neale fled with the rest of the Commanders; but 10 common soldiers were lost of our side. Sir Philomy O’Neale made speed away to a place called Newry, a chiefe garrison of the Rebels. Sir Henry Tichbourne hath sent 600 men more to Dublin, intending that place shall be the next he begins withall, which is granted, and tomorrow there goeth to him 500 men, if not 5000, for whose safety and prosperity in the meantime is the subject of our daily prayers that he may have as good success as in all his other designs from the first till this time; for no man was ever so beloved by his souldiers, that protest to follow him while they can stand. We are in great hope he will recover the Newry very shortly; it is credibly reported, that they got 20,000 pounds at least in pillage at Dundalke.’

In another pamphlet, dated 1642, there is an account of a battle at Kilrush, which is also illustrated with a woodcut. The circumstances are related in detail, but they are sufficiently set forth in the title, without further quotation:—‘Captaine Yarner’s Relation of the Battaile fought at Kilrush upon the 15th day of Aprill, by my Lord of Ormond, who with 2500 Foot and 500 Horse, overthrew the Lord Mountgarret’s Army, consisting of 8000 Foot and 400 Horse, all well armed, and the choyce of eight Counties. Together with a Relation of the proceedings of our Army, from the second to the later end of Aprill, 1642.


Many other illustrated pamphlets relating to current events were published at this time. It would appear that in 1641 there was a visitation of the plague in London, and a tract of that date has reference to it. It is entitled:—‘London’s Lamentation, or a fit admonishment for City and Country, wherein is described certain causes of this affliction and visitation of the Plague, yeare 1641, which the Lord hath been pleased to inflict upon us, and withall what means must be used to the Lord, to gain his mercy and favour, with an excellent spirituall medicine to be used for the preservative both of Body and Soule.’ The ‘spiritual medicine’ recommended is an earnest prayer to heaven at morning and evening and a daily service to the Lord. The writer endeavours to improve the occasion very much like a preacher in the pulpit and continues his exhortation thus:—‘Now seeing it is apparent that sin is the cause of sicknesse: It may appear as plainly that prayer must be the best means to procure health and safety, let not our security and slothfulnesse give death opportunity, what man or woman will not seem to start, at the signe of the red Crosse, as they passe by to and fro in the streets? And yet being gone they think no more on it. It may be, they will say, such a house is shut up, I saw the red crosse on the doore; but look on thine own guilty conscience, and thou shalt find thou hast a multitude of red crimson sinnes remaining in thee.’ I have copied the illustration to this tract, and it will be seen that it is divided into two parts—one representing a funeral procession advancing to where men are digging two graves—the other showing dead bodies dragged away on hurdles. The first is labelled ‘London’s Charity.’ The second ‘The Countrie’s Crueltie.’ This was perhaps intended to impress the reader in favour of the orderly burial of the dead in the city churchyards, a subject on which public opinion has very much changed since that time.


We have already noticed that the vicissitudes of the sea and the accidents of maritime life, which supply so much material to modern newspapers, were not less attractive to the early news-writers. There is a very circumstantial account of the voyage and wreck of a ship called the Merchant Royall in a pamphlet published in 1641. The engraving it contains is the same block used by Thomas Greepe in 1587. It is entitled, ‘Sad news from the seas, being a true relation of the losse of that good Ship called the Merchant Royall, which was cast away ten leagues from the Lands end, on Thursday night, being the 23 of September last 1641 having in her a world of Treasure, as this story following doth truly relate.’ Another illustrated pamphlet, dated 1642, contains a long and minute narrative of how a certain ship called the Coster was boarded by a native of Java, who, watching his opportunity, murdered the captain and several of the crew, but who was afterwards killed when assistance arrived from another ship. There is a woodcut representing the murders, and the title runs as follows:—‘A most Execrable and Barbarous murder done by an East Indian Devil, or a native of Java-Major, in the Road of Bantam, Aboard an English ship called the Coster, on the 22 of October last, 1641. Wherein is shewed how the wicked Villain came to the said ship and hid himself till it was very dark, and then he murdered all the men that were aboard, except the Cooke and three Boyes. And lastly, how the murderer himselfe was justly requited. Captain William Minor being an eye-witnesse of this bloudy Massacre. London: Printed for T. Banks, July the 18, 1642.’ The very full particulars given in this pamphlet show how minute and circumstantial the old news-writers were in their narratives. It will be seen by the following extracts that the story has an air of truth given to it by careful attention to various small matters of detail:—

‘On Friday the 22 of October last 1641 towards night there came aboard an English ship called the Coster, in a small Prow (or flat Boat with one paddle) a proper young man, (a Java, which is as much as to say as a man born or native of the Territory of Java.) This man, (or devill in mans shape) with a pretence to sell some Hews, (hatching mischiefe in his damned minde,) did delay and trifle time, because he would have the night more dark for him to do his deeds of darknesse. At last he sold 6 Hews for half a Royall of 8 which is not much above two shillings. There came also another Java aboard, (with the like small Prow or Boat) to whom he gave the half Royall, sent him away and bade him make haste; he being asked for what the other Java went for, the answer was that he had sent him for more Hews and Goates to sell.

‘Night being come, and very dark, (for it was the last night of the wane of the Moone) this inhumane dog staid lurking under the half deck having 2 Crests (or dangerous waving daggers) and a Buckler, of which he would have sold one and the Buckler with it, and as he was discoursing he took off one of the Crests hefts and put cloth about the tongue of the Blade, and made it sure fast: on the other Crest he rolled the handle with a fine linnen cloth to make it also sure from slipping in his hand; these things he did whilst the Master, Robert Start, Stephen Roberts, his mate, Hugh Rawlinson, Chirurgeon, William Perks, Steward, James Biggs, Gunner, and 3 Boys or Youths attending. At supper they were very merry, and this Caitiffe took notice of their carelessnesse of him to suffer him to sit on the quarter deck upon a Cot close by them.

‘Supper being ended about 6 at night the Master went to his Cabin to rest, the Gunner asked leave to go ashore, (the ship riding but half a mile from landing.) Afterwards Robert Rawlinson and Perks walked upon the quarter deck; and the devilish Java perceiving the Master to be absent, he asked the Boyes where he was, who answered he was gone to sleepe. This question he demanded 3 or 4 times of the Boyes, and finding it to be so, he arose from the place where he sate, which was on the starboard side and went about the Table next the Mizzen Mast (where Roberts, Rawlings and Perks were walking) with his Target about his Neck for defence against Pikes, or the like; and his 2 Crests in his hand, and upon a sudden cries a Muck, which in that language is I hazard or run my death. Then first he stabd Roberts, secondly he stabd Rawlinson, thirdly Perks, all three at an instant. After that he let drive at the Boyes, but they leapd down, and ran forward into the forecastle, where they found the Cooke, to whom the Boyes related what had happened.’

Further details are given at great length, showing how the savage continued his bloody work, and how he was finally overpowered. The narrative thus winds up:—


‘It is observable that of all these men that were thus butchered, the Hel-hound did never stab any man twice, so sure did he strike, nor did he pursue any man that kept clear of his stand under the quarter-deck. So there dyed in all (in this bloody action) Robert Start, Master, Stephen Roberts, his Mate, Hugh Rawlinson, Chirurgeon, William Perks, Steward, Walter Rogers, Gunner’s Mate, and Francis Drake, Trumpeter of the Mary. And after the Muck, Java, or Devill, had ended the first part of this bloody Tragedy, there was only left in the ship, the Cooke, 3 Boyes, and one John Taylor, that was almost dead with a shott he foolishly made. So that 7 men were unfortunately lost (as you have heard) and the Gunner escaped very narrowly through God’s merciful prevention, from the like of these related disasters and suddaine mischiefs, Good Lord deliver us.’

The engraving, like all those belonging to this period, is very rough; but it was evidently prepared specially for the occasion, and some care appears to have been taken to represent the ‘Java’ as he is described. It is a genuine attempt to illustrate the story, and on that account is more interesting than some of the woodcuts in the early newspapers.

The Earl of Strafford, who was executed on Tower Hill, May 12, 1641, forms the subject of more than one illustrated tract of this period. In 1642 was published a curious pamphlet, consisting of an engraved title and eight pages of illustrations, representing the principal events of 1641-2. There are sixteen illustrations, exclusive of the title, two on each page. They are all etched on copper, and are done with some freedom and artistic ability. I shall have occasion to refer to this pamphlet hereafter; but at present I have copied the engraving entitled, ‘The Earle of Strafford for treasonable practises beheaded on the Tower-hill.’


In this example of illustrated news the artist has faithfully represented the locality in his background, but there the truth of his pencil stops. Strafford himself, although his head is not yet severed from his body, lies at full length on the scaffold, and instead of the usual block used for decapitations the victim’s head rests on an ordinary plank or thick piece of wood. There is no one standing on the scaffold but the executioner, whereas history asserts that the Earl was attended in his last moments by his brother, Sir George Wentworth, the Earl of Cleveland, and Archbishop Usher. These omissions, if they were noticed at all, were no doubt looked upon as trivial faults in the infancy of illustrated journalism, and before a truth-loving public had learnt to be satisfied with nothing less than ‘sketches done on the spot.’ What appears to be a more correct view of the execution was, however, published at the time. In the British Museum are two etchings by Hollar (single sheets, 1641), representing the trial and execution of the Earl of Strafford. They both look as if they had been done from sketches on the spot, that of the execution giving a correct view of the Tower and the surrounding buildings, but they are too crowded to admit of reproduction on a reduced scale.

The taste of the time tolerated the publication of satires and petty lampoons even upon dead men. Soon after Strafford’s death a tract was published entitled ‘A Description of the Passage of Thomas, late Earle of Strafford, over the River of Styx, with the Conference betwixt him, Charon, and William Noy.’ There is a dialogue between Strafford and Charon, of which the following is a specimen:—

‘Charon.—In the name of Rhodomont what ayles me? I have tugged and tugged above these two hours, yet can hardly steere one foot forward; either my dried nerves deceive my arme, or my vexed Barke carries an unwonted burden. From whence comest thou, Passenger?

‘Strafford.—From England.

‘Charon.—From England! Ha! I was counsailed to prepare myselfe, and trim up my boat. I should have work enough they sayd ere be long from England, but trust me thy burden alone outweighs many transported armies, were all the expected numbers of thy weight poor Charon well might sweat.


‘Strafford.—I bear them all in one.

‘Charon.—How? Bear them all in one, and thou shalt pay for them all in one, by the just soul of Rhodomont; this was a fine plot indeed, sure this was some notable fellow being alive, that hath a trick to cosen the devil being dead. What is thy name?

‘(Strafford sighs.)

‘Charon.—Sigh not so deep. Take some of this Lethæan water into thine hand, and soope it up; it will make thee forget thy sorrows.

‘Strafford.—My name is Wentworth, Strafford’s late Earle.

‘Charon.—Wentworth! O ho! Thou art hee who hath been so long expected by William Noy. He hath been any time these two months on the other side of the banke, expecting thy coming daily.’

Strafford gives Charon but one halfpenny for his fare, whereat the ferryman grumbles. Then ensues a conversation between Strafford and William Noy, part of which is in blank verse. The tract is illustrated with a woodcut, representing Strafford in the ferryman’s boat with William Noy waiting his arrival on the opposite bank.


No man of his time appears to have excited the hostile notice of the press more than Archbishop Laud. The Archbishops of Canterbury had long been considered censors of the press by right of their dignity and office; and Laud exercised this power with unusual tyranny. The ferocious cruelty with which he carried out his prosecutions in the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission made his name odious, and his apparent preference for ceremonial religion contributed to render him still more unpopular. Men were put in the pillory, had their ears cut off, their noses slit, and were branded on the cheeks with S. S. (Sower of Sedition), and S. L. (Schismatical Libeller). They were heavily fined, were whipped through the streets, were thrown into prison; and all for printing and publishing opinions and sentiments unpleasing to Archbishop Laud, under whose rule this despotic cruelty became so prevalent that it was a common thing for men to speak of So-and-so as having been ‘Star-Chambered.’ No wonder, when the tide turned, that the long-pent-up indignation found a vent through the printing-press. Amongst the numerous tracts that were published after the suppression of the Star Chamber were many which held up Laud to public execration. He was reviled for his ambition, reproached for his cruelty, and caricatured for his Romish sympathies. During the four years between his fall and his execution, portraits of him and other illustrations relating to his career may be found in many pamphlets. I propose to introduce the reader to some of these, as examples of the kind of feeling that was excited by a man whose character and actions must have contributed not a little to bring about a convulsion which shook both the Church and the throne to their foundations. It must have been with a peculiar satisfaction that Prynne, one of the chief sufferers under Laud’s rule, found himself armed with the authority of the House of Commons to despoil his old enemy. Probably a similar feeling caused many others to chuckle and rub their hands when they read, ‘A New Play called Canterburie’s Change of Diet, printed in 1641.’ This is a small tract illustrated with woodcuts, and is written in the form of a play. The persons represented are the Archbishop of Canterbury, a doctor of physic, a lawyer, a divine, a Jesuit, a carpenter and his wife. The doctor of physic is intended for either Dr. Alexander Leighton, or Dr. John Bastwick, both of whom had their ears cut off; the lawyer is Prynne; and the divine is meant for the Rev. Henry Burton, a London clergyman, who also suffered under Laud’s administration. In the first act enter the Archbishop, the doctor, the lawyer, and the divine. Being seated, a variety of dishes are brought to the table, but Laud expresses himself dissatisfied with the fare placed before him and demands a more racy diet. He then calls in certain bishops, who enter armed with muskets, bandoleers, and swords. He cuts off the ears of the doctor, the lawyer, and the divine, and tells them he makes them an example that others may be more careful to please his palate. On the previous page is a copy of the cut which illustrates the first act.



In the second act the Archbishop of Canterbury enters a carpenter’s yard by the waterside, and seeing a grindstone he is about to sharpen his knife upon it, when he is interrupted by the carpenter who refuses to let him sharpen his knife upon his grindstone, lest he should treat him (the carpenter) as he had treated the others. The carpenter then holds the Archbishop’s nose to the grindstone, and orders his apprentice to turn with a will. The bishop cries out, ‘Hold! hold! such turning will soon deform my face. O, I bleed, I bleed, and am extremely sore.’ The carpenter, however, rejoins, ‘But who regarded “hold” before? Remember the cruelty you have used to others, whose bloud crieth out for vengeance. Were not their ears to them as pretious as your nostrils can be to you? If such dishes must be your fare, let me be your Cooke, I’ll invent you rare sippets.’ Then enters a Jesuit Confessor who washes the bishop’s wounded face and binds it up with a cloth. There is also an illustration to this act which is here copied.


In the third act the Archbishop and the Jesuit are represented in a great Cage (the Tower) while the carpenter and his wife, conversing together, agree that the two caged birds will sing very well together. The woodcut to this act represents a fool laughing at the prisoners.

There is a fourth act in which the King and his Jester hold a conversation about the Bishop and the confessor in the cage. There is no printer’s or publisher’s name to this play, only the date, 1641.

The pamphlet previously referred to as containing a picture of Strafford’s execution, has also an engraving showing how the tide of public feeling had set against Archbishop Laud. The powerful Churchman had been impeached for high treason; he was deprived of all the profits of his high office and was imprisoned in the Tower. All his goods in Lambeth Palace, including his books, were seized, and even his Diary and private papers were taken from him by Prynne, who acted under a warrant from the House of Commons. The engraving under notice is entitled ‘The rising of Prentices and Sea-men on Southwark side to assault the Archbishops of Canterburys House at Lambeth.’

In a tract entitled ‘A Prophecie of the Life, Reigne, and Death of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury,’ there is a caricature of Laud seated on a throne or chair of state. A pair of horns grow out of his forehead, and in front the devil offers him a Cardinal’s Hat. This business of the Cardinal’s Hat is alluded to by Laud himself, who says, ‘At Greenwich there came one to me seriously, and that avowed ability to perform it, and offered me to be a Cardinal. I went presently to the king, and acquainted him both with the thing and the person.’ This offer was afterwards renewed: ‘But,’ says he, ‘my answer again was, that something dwelt within me which would not suffer that till Rome were other than it is.’ It would thus appear that the Archbishop did not give a very decided refusal at first or the offer would not have been repeated; and that circumstance, if it were known at the time, must have strengthened the opinion that he was favourably inclined towards the Church of Rome. At all events, the offer must have been made public, as this caricature shows.

Though Laud behaved with dignity and courage when he came to bid farewell to the world, if we are to believe the publications of the time, he was not above petitioning for mercy, while any hope of life remained. In 1643 a pamphlet was published with the following title, ‘The Copy of the Petition presented to the Honourable Houses of Parliament by the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, wherein the said Archbishop desires that he may not be transported beyond the Seas into New England with Master Peters in regard to his extraordinary age and weaknesse.’ The petition is dated ‘From the Tower of London this 6th of May 1643,’ and in it the petitioner sets forth that out of a ‘fervent zeal to Christianity’ he endeavoured to reconcile the principles of the Protestant and Roman Catholic religions, hoping that if he could effect this he might more easily draw the Queen into an adherence to the Protestant faith. He deplores that his endeavours were not successful, and he begs the honourable Parliament to pardon his errors, and to ‘looke upon him in mercy, and not permit or suffer your Petitioner to be transported, to endure the hazard of the Seas, and the long tediousnesse of Voyage into those trans-marine parts, and cold Countries, which would soon bring your Petitioners life to a period; but rather that your Petitioner may abide in his native country, untill your Petitioner shall pay the debt which is due from him to Nature, and so your Petitioner doth submit himselfe to your Honourable and grave Wisdoms for your Petitioners request and desire therein. And your Petitioner shall humbly pray &c.’


If Archbishop Laud was really the author of this petition he appears to have expected that his long imprisonment would end in banishment rather than death. He was beheaded on Tower Hill, January 10, 1645. There is a woodcut portrait of the Archbishop printed on the title-page of the petition.


[from Allan: reading through the rest of this book, I’m seeing that the author is far more interested in reprinting odd and interesting woodcuts from these ancient publications, along with long extracts from the texts, and the actual HISTORY of the publications and art is getting very little coverage. I thought there was much more meat about publications and techniques than I’m now seeing. Therefore I’ve decided to cut the book off here, as it is not what I really wanted to showcase here. If you’d like to read more of this interesting book, you’ll find it available from]

The Pictorial Press – Its Origin and Progress by Mason Jackson: Chapter 2 Part 2

Remarkable murders were even more favourite subjects with the early news-writers than storms and floods, a partiality that has continued down to our own time. A tract of 1613 is devoted to the details of ‘Three Bloodie Murders,’ but it is mainly taken up with an account of the murder of the Rev. William Storre, of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. The full title runs thus:—‘Three Bloodie Murders. The first committed by Francis Cartwright upon William Storre, M. Arts Minister and Preacher at Market Rasen in the countie of Lincolne. The second committed by Elizabeth James on the body of her Mayde, in the Parish of Egham in Surrie: who was condemned for the same fact at Sainte Margaret hill in Southwark, the 2 of July 1613, and lieth in the White Lion till her deliverie; discovered by a dombe Mayde and her Dogge. The third committed upon a stranger very lately near Highgate foure mile from London, very strangely found out by a Dogge. Also the 2 of July 1613.

The circumstances relating to the murder of the Rev. William Storre are given at great length and with much minuteness:—‘Not long since, there happened some controversey between the Lords and the rest of the inhabitants of Market Raisin in the Countie of Lincolne concerning the Commons and Libertie in the Towne Fields; and the matter being mooted by one of them in the Church immediately after evening prayer on a Sabaoth day, divers hot intemperate speeches passed among them; whereupon their Minister, whose name was Mr. Storre, much disliking so indiscreete a course, wished them to have respect both to the time and place where they were: And further advised, seeing the cause in hand concerned a multitude, (amongst whom, some of the least government would always be the readiest to speake) that they would therefore make choice of two or three of the fittest and most substantial men, to answere and undertake for all the rest. This motion seemed to please them well, and therefore they intreated him, that he would first, as a man indifferent speake what he thought concerning the cause. But he not wishing to intermeddle in that matter, twice or thrice denied their request; and the rather, for that there was present one Francis Cartwright, a young man of an unbridled humour, the only Sonne and Heire to one of the same Lordes of the Towne, betwixt whom and himselfe, there was growne no small unkindnesse. Yet in the end being pressed thereunto by their importunities with the consent of both the parties he delivered his opinion, useing therein such discretion and reasons to confirme the same that they could not directly except against him. Notwithstanding, seeing him incline more to the right of the Freeholders and the rest of the Commons than to favour their intended purpose, they seemed to dislike his speaches, and to cavill at the same.

‘Young Cartwright standing by, not able any longer to contain himselfe tooke occassion hereupon to breake forthe abruptly into these wordes: The Priest deserveth a good Fee, he speaketh so like a Lawyer. Maister Storre having often aforetime had experience of his hotte stomacke and hastinesse as well towards others as himselfe, thought it best to reply little against him for that present.’ The Rev. Mr. Storre’s forbearance was of no avail, for next day young Cartwright took occasion to renew the quarrel, and in the public market-place ‘proclaymed that Storre was a scurvie, lowsie, paltrie Priest; that whoever sayd he was his friend or spake in his cause, was a Rogue and a Rascall, that he would (but for the Law) cut his Throat, tear out his Heart, and hang his Quarters on the May-pole.’ These sanguinary threats caused Mr. Storre to seek the protection of the Magistrates; and he afterwards preached a sermon containing words which young Cartwright thought were purposely directed against him, so that he ‘more and more thirsted for revenge.’

‘About a week after, he espied Mr. Storre walking about eight of the clocke in the morning alone, by the south side of the Towne in his cloake, went to a cutler’s shop, and tooke out of the same a short sword, formerly provided and made very sharpe for that purpose, and presently overtooke him.’ The young man attacked the clergyman, and the pamphlet gives a minute account of the dreadful wounds he inflicted upon him until ‘A Mayde coming that way by occassion of businesse, cried out, whereupon he fledde.’

The clergyman died of the frightful wounds he received, and the murderer was taken and carried before a justice, ‘where, either for lacke of their due information of the truth, or by the corrupt and favourable affection of the magistrate, or both, there was a very slender bayle taken, and the malefactor by this flight sent away.’ Cartwright’s friends ‘laboured by corrupt dealing and wrong information’ to procure his pardon; but so barbarous a murder could not be hushed up, and the culprit eventually ‘fled beyonde the seas.’


On the title-page of the pamphlet is a woodcut representing the murder of the Rev. Mr. Storre, which is copied above.

The two other murders are not related at such great length, and are not illustrated.

This is the earliest example I have met with of a kind of illustrated news that is very popular even in our own day. From the pains taken to describe all the circumstances of the crime and its consequences, the author evidently regarded it as a subject of the highest interest, and worthy of all the elaboration he was capable of bestowing upon it.


There is a very curious and rare tract of the date of 1618, which describes the circumstances of another remarkable murder. It is entitled ‘News from Perin (Penrhyn), in Cornwall, of a most Bloody and unexampled Murther very lately committed by a Father on his owne sonne (who was lately returned from the Indyes), at the instigation of a mercilesse Step Mother, together with their severall most wretched endes, being all performed in the Month of September last, Anno 1618.’ On the title-page is a woodcut representing the discovery of the murder, which is reprinted in the body of the pamphlet. Another woodcut illustrates a scene before the murder is committed, where the son hands his bag of treasure to his step-mother. The story is a very minute history of a scapegrace son, who, after various adventures, returns to his father’s house a penitent and reformed man. Many years having elapsed, the son is not recognised by his father, who has married a second wife and is in straitened circumstances. The son begs a night’s lodging and resolves not to make himself known till next morning. In the meantime, to show that he will be able to recompense his host and hostess for their hospitality, he gives the latter a bag of gold and jewels to take care of for him till the morrow. The woman, excited by the possession of the gold, thinks how easy it would be to relieve themselves from their embarrassments by murdering their guest and keeping possession of his treasure. She urges her husband to do the deed. After many refusals he consents, and the father murders his own son. In the morning it is made known to him who his victim is, and, in a fit of remorse and despair, he kills himself; upon which the guilty wife also commits suicide, and the tract thus winds up:—‘And to the end it may be a warning to all covetous step mothers, and a content for all easie Fathers to avoyde the like hereafter. At the entreaty of divers Gentlemen in the Countrey, It is as neere the life as Pen and Incke could draw it out, thus put in Print.’

William Lillo, the author of George Barnwell, is said to have founded his play of ‘Fatal Curiosity’ on this tract. Lillo was a prosperous London jeweller and a successful dramatic author. He depicted the harrowing details of this tragic story with great power; and the agonies of old Wilmot, the father, constitute one of the most appalling and affecting incidents of the drama.


A curious black-letter tract of 1616, which is illustrated with a fearful apparition of three skeletons, is entitled, ‘Miraculous Newes from the cittie of Holdt, in the Lordship of Munster (in Germany), the twentieth of September last past 1616, wherein there were plainly beheld three dead bodyes rise out of their Graves, admonishing the people of Judgements to come.’ The truth of this miraculous news is vouched for by ‘divers worthy Persons and Burgimasters of the same citty,’ whose names are given. This miraculous appearance was preceded by a fearful tempest of thunder and lightning. ‘When this great tempest of thunder and lightning was ceased, there was heard throughout all the parts and places of the citty a most hideous and dolefull clamour or outcry, striking terror into all the people, yet no man could perceive whence it came, or where this clamour should bee. The people came over all the citty after the noise, but could not finde it; for when they were at one corner of the citty they then heard it at another; and when they were come to that other corner there it seemed to them to be in the middle of the citty; and to them that were in the middest it seemed farther off. So that all heard it, but none could find where it was, or from whence it came.

‘At length the people assembling in the churchyard behelde there so strange and incredible judgements sent by the Lord, that for the most part the beholders fell flatt on their faces to the ground, crying loude unto the Lord for mercy. For there they beheld coming out of their graves three most ghostly and fearfull dead bodyes.

‘Whereof the first that was seen to arise out of the earth, seemed very white, cleane, and cleere, who opening his mouth and beating his handes together spake thus: “Blessed be God in the highest Heaven, that our releasement is come, for we have wayted many a hundred yeare for this time.” The people hearing this fell upon their knees and prayed unto the Lord with weeping and great lamentation, saying: O Lord beholde us with thy merciful eyes, and let us not be overwhelmed or smothered in our sinnes.

‘The second dead man that arose out of the earth caused farre greater feare and trembling then the former, for the beholders saw him altogether from the toppe to the toe, like unto a burning fire; he likewise opened his mouth, and wringing his handes, and tearing his haire, cryed with a loude voyce: Repent yee, Repent yee; Almighty God hath taken his chastising rodde in hand, to punish the people for their sinnes, for their great wealth, for their great talke or presumptious wordes, for their pompe, and for their pride: The which the Lord will no longer suffer nor endure, for the cry and complaint of these sinnes is asended up into his eares; Wherefore hee will destroy you with a suddaine sicknesse, and fiery Pestilence, so that you shall not have so much time as one houre, to utter one worde, to call upon God.

‘After this fiery apparition and threatening speech ended, there appeared likewise rising out of the grave a third dead man, grinding and gnashing his teeth together, striking his handes the one against the other, and crying with a most fearful and hideous voyce, insomuch that it seemed to all the multitude there present, that the earth would certainly have rent in sunder; and spake that all the people plainly heard and understood his wordes, which were these; Woe, woe, woe, to the wicked; this is the time that wee have long attended and looked for; wherefore (ye people) looke to it, and beware lest the great day of the Lord come upon you suddainly, and fall upon you unprovided; for the time of his comming is neerer than you thinke.

‘After the uttering of these wordes, the three dead Bodyes vanished and the Graves were shut againe, the heavens became cleere, the Tempest ceased, and all the people being released of their present horror and feare, rejoyced, and assembling themselves together, gave glory and laude, and praise unto the Lord for his Fatherly mercy and unspeakable goodnesse, in the mitigation of his furie, and withdrawing his heavy hand for the present. And thereupon appointed a sett day of supplications, prayers, and fasting, with true and unfained Repentance to be proclaimed, and observed.’

This account is supplemented by an ‘apology,’ setting forth that men must not be incredulous because they hear of miraculous occurrences—that God is able to bring back the age of miracles, etc. The writer evidently thought his readers might require to be strengthened by argument before they could place implicit faith in his narrative, and so he takes some pains in his ‘apology’ to convince them that however unnatural and uncommon may be the appearances he relates, the wickedness of the world was a sufficient justification for this and other extraordinary events.


In 1620 Nathaniel Butter printed an illustrated tract entitled ’Good Newes to Christendome, sent to a Venetian in Ligorne, from a Merchant in Alexandria, Discovering a Wonderfull and Strange Apparition, visibly seene for many dayes together in Arabia over the place where the supposed Tombe of Mahomet (the Turkish Prophet) is inclosed; By which the learned Arabians prognosticate the Reducing and Calling of the great Turke to Christianitie. With many other Notable Accidents: But the most remarkable is the miraculous rayning of Bloud about Rome.’ This tract, which is very long and discursive, relates, among other things, the apparition of a woman in the air, with a book in her hand, being the same apparition that is described at great length in a tract of 1642, which I shall quote hereafter. In the tract under notice there is a woodcut representing an army in the clouds—the clouds raining blood over a city; a woman with sword and book; and a crowd of men below watching the aerial phenomenon. The writer, in winding up his narrative, thus addresses his reader:—‘If you cannot beleeve it as truth, yet to make that use of it as if it were true; and then shall you know, there is but one way to happiness, and all the predictions, prophesies, visions, apparitions, comets, inundations, stormes, tempests, famine, warre, alteration, and subversion of kingdomes, with all the cabinet of mysteries, tend to this end that premium and pœna be the mastering curbs of the world; that is, that God hath a Magazine of judgements to inflict on the obstinate sinner with punishments: and a store-house of mercy to support the penitent soule with comfort.’

In 1627 we come upon a very curious and literal example of illustrated news. In that year Charles I., having declared war against France, fitted out an expedition of a hundred sail and an army of 7000 men for the support of the Protestant cause in that country. The King’s favourite, the self-confident and vainglorious Duke of Buckingham, took the command of the expedition, although he was totally unfit for that position. He was personally brave, but possessed no other quality of a commander. He had no knowledge or experience of the art of war, and was too proud and presumptuous to be guided by the advice of others. The expedition was destined for Rochelle, then in possession of the Huguenots; but Buckingham went to sea without any understanding with his allies; and, when he anchored off Rochelle, he was refused admission to the town. He then directed his course to the neighbouring Isle of Rhè, where he succeeded in landing his men under the fire of his ships, and defeated a small French force commanded by the governor of the island. Instead of immediately following up his success, Buckingham allowed the French commander to secure and strengthen the fortress of St. Martin; and when he did advance he foolishly left the enemy in possession of another fort in his rear. He besieged the Castle of St. Martin for many weeks, and then led his men to storm the place without having made a single breach in the walls. They were repulsed at all points with considerable loss, and attempted to retreat to their ships; but Marshal Schomberg with a French army had thrown himself between the Duke and the fleet, and had put a strong corps and artillery into the fort of La Prèe, which Buckingham had left in his rear. No precautions whatever had been taken, and they suffered great loss before they could re-embark. The expedition was a total failure, and Buckingham returned to England beaten and disgraced.

While the Duke of Buckingham was besieging the citadel of St. Martin, an attempt was made, or was said to have been made, upon his life by a French Papist or Jesuit, with a thick four-edged knife. An account of the Duke’s proceedings while in the Isle of Rhè appears to have been sent home, and was published probably with a view of influencing the people in his favour and showing to what dangers he was exposed in the national service. There is in the British Museum a tract entitled ‘A Continued Journal of all the Proceedings of the Duke of Buckingham his Grace, in the Isle of Ree since the last day of July. With the names of the Noblemen as were drowned and taken in going to releeve the Fort. As also the Portraiture of the knife with which his Excellence should have been murdered, which very knife was brought over by Captaine Buckestone and delivered unto the Duchess of Buckingham her Grace on Monday night last. Published by Authoritie. London, Printed for Thomas Walkley, and are to be sold at his shop at the Eagle and Childe in Britaines Bursse, 1627.’ The following account is given of the intended assassination of the Duke:—


‘Received the 27 of August.

‘Here I have sent you all the remarkable Newes that I have upon the last of July. There was taken by a Perdue of ours, in the night (a Frenchman), that was sent by Monsieur de Thorax, the Governour of the Citadell, with a full intent to kill my Lord Duke; and for the speedy effecting of the same he had prepared a strange and dangerous Poynado, which, although it was taken about him, he confidently denied that he came not with any intent to kill the Duke untill he came to the Tortures, which being presented before him he promised to discover all to my Lord if he would promise him life, the which he did, and doth so performe with him, like a noble and mercifull Generall.’ The tract contains a large woodcut of a knife and underneath the engraving is the following description:—‘This is the true Portraiture of the poysoned knife, both in length and breadth, having foure edges, with which a Jesuited Vilaine was sent out of the Fort by Monsieur de Thorax, the Governour of that Island, with an intent to have killed his Excellence, but by God’s providence was delivered. His Grace hath used the French so nobly in all respects that he rather deserved their love than any wayes to have his life thus treacherously sought after, under the pretence that it was a meritorious act. Which knife was brought over into England by Captaine Buckestone, and by him delivered unto the Dutches of Buckingham her Grace on Monday night last.’

Whether the attempt on Buckingham’s life was a reality or was got up for the purpose of endearing the court favourite to all good Protestants, it foreshadowed his ultimate fate. In the following year, while he was at Portsmouth, and about to embark on a second expedition to Rochelle, he was stabbed by Felton, who had served under him in the expedition to the Isle of Rhè.

Besides the subjects already noticed, the old news-writers delighted in signs and portents in the air, and failed not to improve the occasion whenever they met with a text so much to their liking. There was a fall of meteorites in 1628, which was chronicled at the time in an illustrated pamphlet, entitled, ‘Looke up and See Wonders: a miraculous Apparition in the Ayre, lately seen in Barke-shire, at Bawlkin Greene, neere Hatford, April 9th, 1628.’ The author, like his fellow chroniclers, already quoted, regards the occurrence as a sign of Heaven’s displeasure, and addresses his readers thus:—‘So Benummed wee are in our Sences, that albeit God himselfe Holla in our Eares, wee by our wills are loath to heare him. His dreadfull Pursiuants of Thunder and Lightning terrifie us so long as they have us in their fingers, but beeing off, wee dance and sing in the midst of our Follies.’ He then goes on to tell how ‘the foure great quarter-masters of the World (the foure Elements) … have bin in civill Warres one against another…. As for Fire, it hath denied of late to warme us, but at unreasonable rates, and extreame hard conditions. But what talke I of this earthy nourishment of fire? How have the Fires of Heaven (some few yeares past) gone beyond their bounds, and appeared in the shapes of Comets and Blazing Starres?… The Aire is the shop of Thunder and Lightning. In that, hath of late been held a Muster of terrible enemies and threatners of Vengeance, which the great Generall of the Field who Conducts and Commands all such Armies (God Almighty, I meane) avert from our Kingdome, and shoote the arrowes of his indignation some other way, upon the bosomes of those that would confound his Gospell…. Many windowes hath he set open in heaven, to shewe what Artillery hee has lying there, and many of our Kings have trembled, when they were shewne unto them. What blazing Starres (even at Noone-dayes) in those times hung hovering in the Aire? How many frightfull Ecclipses both of Sun and Moone?… It is not for man to dispute with God, why he has done this so often … but, with feare and trembling casting our eyes up to Heaven, let us now behold him, bending his Fist onely, as lately he did to the terrour and affrightment of all the Inhabitants dwelling within a Towne in the County of Barkshire…. The name of the Towne is Hatford, some eight miles from Oxford. Over this Towne, upon Wensday being the ninth of this instant Moneth of April, 1628, about five of the clocke in the afternoone this miraculous, prodigious and fearefull handy-worke of God was presented…. The weather was warme, and without any great shewe of distemperature, only the skye waxed by degrees a little gloomy, yet not so darkened but that the Sunne still and anon, by the power of the brightnesse, brake through the thicke clouds….

‘A gentle gale of wind then blowing from betweene the West and North-west, in an instant was heard, first a hideous rumbling in the Ayre, and presently after followed a strange and fearfull peale of Thunder, running up and downe these parts of the Countrey, but it strake with the loudest violence, and more furious tearing of the Ayre, about a place called The White Horse Hill, than in any other. The whole order of this thunder, carried a kind of Majesticall state with it, for it maintayned (to the affrighted Beholders’ seeming) the fashion of a fought Battaile.

‘It beganne thus: First, for an onset, went off one great Cannon as it were of thunder alone, like a warning peece to the rest that were to follow. Then a little while after was heard a second; and so by degrees a third, until the number of 20 were discharged (or thereabouts) in very good order, though in very great terror.

‘In some little distance of time after this was audibly heard the sound of a Drum beating a Retreate. Amongst all these angry peales shot off from Heaven, this begat a wonderful admiration, that at the end of the report of every cracke, or Cannon-thundering, a hizzing noyse made way through the Ayre, not unlike the flying of Bullets from the mouthes of great Ordnance; and by the judgement of all the terror-stricken witnesses they were Thunder-bolts. For one of them was seene by many people to fall at a place called Bawlkin Greene, being a mile and a half from Hatford: Which Thunder-bolt was by one Mistris Greene caused to be digged out of the ground, she being an eye-witnesse amongst many others, of the manner of the falling.

‘The forme of the Stone is three-square, and picked in the end: In colour outwardly blackish, some-what like Iron: Crusted over with that blacknesse about the thicknesse of a shilling. Within it is soft, of a grey colour, mixed with some kind of minerall, shining like small peeces of glasse.

‘This Stone brake in the fal: The whole peece is in weight nineteene pound and a halfe: The greater peece that fell off weigheth five pound, which with other small peeces being put together, make foure and twenty pound and better….

‘It is in the Countrey credibly reported that some other Thunder-stones have bin found in other places: but for certainty there was one taken up at Letcombe, and is now in the custody of the Shriefe.’

This curious account is illustrated with a quaint woodcut, in the foreground of which the thunder-bolt seen by Mistress Green is being ‘digged out of the ground.’


The Pictorial Press – Its Origin and Progress by Mason Jackson: Chapter 2 Part 1



Before and for a long time after, the general use of newspapers, illustrated broadsides were published relating to particular events, or satirising the vices and follies of the period. In a broadside adorned with a woodcut representing Death and Time, and entitled, The Doleful Dance, and Song of Death, allusion is made to the ‘Fatal Assizes’ of Oxford, when three hundred persons, including the High Sheriff, died of a distemper, which was supposed to have originated among the prisoners. A sheet of a later date refers to the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot; while a third, entitled, Tittle-Tattle, &c., satirises the gossiping habits of the fair sex, and contains many illustrations of manners, costume, and character. Such were the publications that did duty for newspapers in the days of Queen Elizabeth, whose subjects, however, were not left wholly without information as to passing events. In 1587 there was published an illustrated tract giving an account of the doings of Sir Francis Drake,who was employed by Queen Elizabeth to harass the Spaniards in their harbours, and hinder them in their preparations for invading England. These operations, which Drake himself described as ‘singeing the King of Spain’s beard,’ delayed the sailing of the Armada, and gave Elizabeth time to prepare for defence. The tract referred to is entitled, ‘The true and perfect Newes of the worthy and valiant exploytes performed and done by that valiant Knight Syr Frauncis Drake; Not only at Sancto Domingo, and Carthagena, but also nowe at Cales, and upon the Coast of Spayne, 1587. Printed at London, by J. Charlewood, for Thomas Hackett.’ There is an account, in verse, written by one Thomas Greepe, of the doings of Sir Francis Drake and other sea captains. The author tells his reader, ‘Here hast thou, gentle Reader, set forth unto thee the most worthy and valiant exploytes and enterpryses, lately atchieved and done by that valiant Knight Syr Frauncis Drake & others not pend in lofty verse, nor curiously handled, but playnly and truly, so that it may be well understood of the Reader.’ There is no attempt made to illustrate the events related in the tract, but on the title-page there is a woodcut of a ship in full sail, which was perhaps intended to represent the admiral’s own vessel. I have reproduced it on a reduced scale, as an early specimen of marine draughtsmanship.

Thomas Greepe commences his poem with the following rhapsody:—

‘Triumph, O England, and rejoice,
And prayse thy God incessantly
For this thy Queene, that pearle of choyce,
Which God doth blesse with victory!
In countryes strange, both farre and neere,
All raging foes her force doth feare.

Yee worthy wights that doo delighte
To heare of Novels strange and rare,
What valors, woone by a famous knight,
May please you marke I shall declare.
Such rare exploytes performde and done
As none the like hath ever woone.’

He gives a list of the ships under Drake’s command:—

Twenty-five ships were then preparde,
Fifteene Pinnaces, brave and fine,
Well furnished for his safe garde,
Preventing foes that would him tyne.
With Masters good and Marriners rare
As ever tooke charge, I dare compare.

The Bonaventure, a ship royall,
Cheefe Admirall then of the fleete,
Sir Frauncis Drake, cheefe Generall,
As by desertes he was most meete.
Most worthy Captaynes of hand and heart
In this boon voyage then tooke hys part.

The Primrose next, Vice-Admirall,
Appoynted by thyre best device,
Captayne Frobisher, Vice-Generall—
A valiant Captayne, ware and wyse.
Captayne Carelell they did ordayne
Lieftenant-Generall on the mayne.

The poem thus winds up:—

God save our Queene of merry England,
His sacred word long to maintaine;
Her Graces Navie and royall bande,
Through his good Grace, may long remaine.
Lord blesse her counsell, and keepe them aye
With all true subjects night and day.
Finis, quoth Thomas Greepe.

This curious poem is supplemented by a letter, written by Sir Francis Drake, ‘To the right reverende, godly, learned Father, my very good friend, M. John Fox, preacher of the word of God.’ This was John Fox, the Martyrologist, who died in 1587. The letter proceeds: ‘Mister Fox, whereas we have had of late such happy successe against the Spanyardes, I do assure myselfe that you have faithfully remembered us in your good prayers, and therefore I have not forgotten, breefly to make you partaker thereof. The 19. of Aprill we arrived within the road of Calles, where we found very many shipping, but amongst the rest 32 of exceeding burden, lade and to be laden with provision, and prepared to furnish the King’s Navie, intended with all speede against England, the which when we had boorded, and also furnished our severall ships with provision as we thought sufficient, wee burnt; and although by the space of two dayes and two nights that we continued there, we were still endangered, both with thundering shott from the towne, and assailed with the roaring Cannons of twelve galleys; yet we suncke two of them, and one great Argosey, and still avoyded them with very small hurt, and so at our departure we brought away foure ships of provision, to the great terror of our enemies, and honour to ourselves, as it may appeare by a most curteous Letter written unto me with a Flagge of truce by Duke Petro, Generall of the Galleys. But whereas it is most certayne that the king doth not onely make speedy preparation in Spayne, but likewise expected a very great Fleete from the Straytes, and divers other places, that should joyne with his forces to invade England; we purpose to sette apart all feare of danger, and by Gods furtherance to proceed by all the good means we can devise to prevent their coming; wherefore I shall desire you to continue faithfull in remembrance of us in your prayers that our purpose may take that good effect, as God may be glorified, his Church, our Queene and country, preserved, and these enemies of the trueth utterly vanquished, that we may have continuall peace in Israel. Fro aboord her Majesties good ship the Elizabeth Bonaventure.

Your loving freende, and faythfull Sonne in Christ Jesus,
Frauncis Drake.

In the reign of James I, papers of news began to be published, but they only appeared occasionally, and were chiefly devoted to foreign intelligence. In 1619 we have ‘Newes out of Holland,’ followed by others in 1620, 1621, and 1622. These occasional tracts were afterwards converted into a regular weekly publication, entitled the ‘Weekly News,’ printed by J. D. for Nichs. Bourne and T. Archer. This was the first periodical newspaper published in England. But long before this many illustrated tracts and pamphlets were published relating to events of recent occurrence. In one dated 1607 occurs the earliest instance I have met with of an attempt to illustrate the news of the day. It is entitled ‘Wofull Newes from Wales, or the lamentable loss of divers Villages and Parishes (by a strange and wonderful Floud) within the Countye of Monmouth in Wales: which happened in January last past, 1607, whereby a great number of his Majesties subjects inhabiting in these parts are utterly undone.’ The writer of this news-book describes the flood, and then, taking it for his text, preaches a sermon upon it. It is printed in Old English, and is plentifully interspersed with pious exhortations and scriptural references. It has on the title a woodcut:


This interesting little tract has a preface, in which the author explains the difficulty he felt in producing it in the short time that was allowed him for the purpose:—‘Reader, when these newes were brought, and an importunitie used to me that I would give the same forme, and bestow an exhortation on them, I was unwilling, both in regard of that short space (of lesse than one day which was limited to undertake the matter) and also in respect of the usual unfaithfulness of men ordinarily in reporting of such accidents as these bee; whereby it often falleth out that the relation of them reapeth much discredit. But when I could not have these just excuses taken, I began and finished this businesse, as the shorte space wold permit me.’

The old story of the child washed away in a cradle, so often related as having occurred in great floods, and which Mr. Millais has immortalised in one of his pictures, is here told probably for the first time:—‘Another little childe is affirmed to have bene cast upon land in a Cradle, in which was nothing but a Catte, the which was discerned, as it came floating to the shore, to leape still from one side of the Cradle unto the other, even as if she had been appointed steersman to preserve the small barke from the waves’ furie.’

Another tract of the same date is illustrated with a woodcut similar to the one here copied, but it has in addition several more figures, including a cradle with a child in it floating on the water. This tract is entitled ‘A true report of certaine wonderful overflowings of waters now lately in Summersetshire, Norfolk, and other places in England, destroying many thousands of men, women, and children, overthrowing and bearing downe whole townes and villages, and drowning infinite numbers of sheepe and other cattle.’ It is written in the same sermonising style, beginning by calling men to repent, and to take warning from these signs of God’s anger. Then follows the narrative. The inundation was caused by an irruption of the sea, and many incidents are related of the flood. Here the cradle story is again told:—‘An infant likewise was found swimming in a cradle, some mile or two fro’ ye place where it was known to be kept, and so was preserved; for the cradle was not of wicker, as ours are here, but of strong, thicke bordes, closely joynted together, and that saved the infant’s life.’ This narrative of the Somersetshire flood was reprinted in another tract with ‘An Addition of other and more strange Accidents happening by these Flouds, and brought to light since the first publishing of this Booke.’ This second edition is illustrated with the identical woodcut that is used in the tract relating the floods in Wales. The two tracts recounting the Somersetshire floods were ‘printed at London by W. I. for Edward White, and are to be sold at the signe of the Gunne, at the North doore of Paules.’ That describing the flood in Wales was ‘printed for W. W., and are to be sold in Paules Church-yarde at the sign of the Grey-hound.’ In those days printers frequently combined the functions of engraver and printer; and as regards the tracts under notice, we must conclude that the printer supplied each of his customers with the same woodcut, or that the booksellers of the time were in the habit of lending their woodcuts to each other.

Storms, floods, and burnings were favourite themes with the early newswriters, and several illustrated tracts exist describing such calamities. They are more or less interspersed with pious exhortations, but the narrative is rarely allowed to flag, and every incident is minutely described. There is ‘Woeful newes from the West parts of England of the burning of Tiverton,’ 1612; and a small quarto pamphlet of 1613, printed in old English, affords another good example of this kind of news. It is entitled—it will be observed how fond the old newswriters were of alliterative titles—‘The Wonders of this windie winter, by terrible stormes and tempests, to be losse of lives and goods of many thousands of men, women, and children. The like by Sea and Land hath not been seene nor heard of in this age of the world. London. Printed by G. Eld for John Wright, and are to be sold at his Shop neere Christ-Church dore. 1613.’ On the title-page is a woodcut:


The tract opens very much in the manner of a sermon, and declares the dreadful occurrences related are intended to ‘move sinful mankind to repentance and newnesse of life.’ It then goes on to describe ‘that within these three fore-passed months of October, November, and December, the devouring gulfes of the Sea hath swallowed up above two hundred saile of ships, as well of our own Country as of neighbouring Nations, with great store of passengers, seafaring men, and owners of the same, adventuring their dear lives in the managing of the aforesaid ships, with all their goods, and merchandizes, making for our country all lost; yea, all, I say, in these three fore-passed months, hath been lost and drenched in the deep vaults of this watery world, a thing both lamentable and fearfull, that in so short a time, nay, in a small part of the yeare, even in an instant, so many heavy mischances should happen, and so many worthy vessels of adventure miscarrie, which had bin sufficient (if goodspeed had prevailed) to have inricht a whole Citie and bettered a kingdome; but such is the will of God, and such is His just indignation against us.

‘By certification from men of good accompt and calling, it is reported and knowne for truth, that in the month of October last, a fleete of fourteene sayle of ships making from Newcastle towards London, laden with sea-coale and other commodities of those parts, had their passage, by the tyranny of the windes, most untimely stopt, and violently caste into the ocean’s wombe, in which ships were perished to the number of a hundred and forty seafaring men, besides other passengers, both of men and women, which at that time made their watery graves in the deepe sea. This first strooke feare into the hearts of people, which hath been since seconded with many calamities, which lieth heavy upon the heart of the reporter.’

The writer then goes on to relate that between ‘Dover and Calice there hath been found floating upon the waters in one weeke of fowle weather above seven hundred drowned persons of divers nations, as of English, Dutch, French, and Spanish, with parts and parcels of many splitted ships.’ Further details are given at great length, and in rather a wordy manner. For instance, the writer describes the great number of women who are made widows by the disasters at sea, ‘besides fatherlesse children and children fatherlesse.’ Several examples are related of the force of the wind. ‘A man and his wife riding over Maidenhead Bridge upon one horse, by the fierceness of the wind, were blowne beside, and there drowned both horse and all. God be merciful unto us and preserve us from all such like mischances. The like mishap befell in November last unto two Yorkshire men, as it is verified by some gentlemen of the Inns of Court and Chancery, which knew the parties, the one of them a tanner, named Francis Browne, the other a clothier, called Richard Smith, both dwelling in a towne neere Wakefield side called Thorby; which two countriemen falling out upon small occassions wilfully purposed to come up to London, and their put their causes of themselves to the Lawes tryall; yet notwithstanding came they up together, where in riding over a bridge about Bedfordshire, and conferring of their inward grudges, they were blowne both beside into the river, where, by the fierceness of the windes, they were most lamentably drowned, both horse and men; and thus by sodaine death ended their malice, to the fear and amazement of all such as well could witness their envious proceedings. These and such like accidents may be fearful examples for the world to behold, especially for rich men, shewing to them the certaintie of life and goods subject to the chances of death and fortune, according to the saying of a worthy philosopher,

“Full little thinks the man at morning sun
What hap to him befalls ere day be done.”’

A great many other instances are related of the fury of the tempests, all of which the writer feels certain ‘have been laid upon us for our sinnes;’ and winds up with a pious exhortation to take warning.


Another tract of the same character and date, also printed in black letter, has a larger and more elaborate woodcut on the title-page, representing sinking ships, the shore strewed with dead bodies, and on the outside of a church tower the devil is seen throwing down the broken steeple. The following is the address to the reader:—‘Reader, I do here present unto thee and to thy understanding (if thou hast any) some part of the lamentable losses and unrecoverable mischances that have happened by occassion of these late blustering stormes of winde, and an innumerable deal of rayne, the which a great many thousands have too true cause to beleeve, because they are sharers in the misfortunes that this outragious weather hath caused. Now, if thou hast sustained no loss thyselfe, perhaps thou wilt not beleeve these things to be true that I have written; but if thou wilt or doest beleeve, then pray to God that it will please Him to give them patience that are loosers, and humilitie that are winners, and give God thanks that he hath so blessed thee that thou hast no share in these mishaps. But if thou wilt not beleeve, goe and looke, or else remaine still in thy unbeliefe.’ A copy of the woodcut is above.

Another pamphlet, of 1613, has the annexed woodcut, and is entitled ‘Lamentable Newes, shewing the Wonderful Deliverance of Maister Edmond Pet, Sayler, and Maister of a Ship, dwelling in Seething-lane, in London, neere Barking Church; with other strange things lately hapned concerning those great windes and tempestuous weather, both at Sea and Lande. Imprinted at London by T. C., for William Barley, dwelling over against Cree Church, neere Algate.1613.’ It describes the wreck of a Newcastle ship on the east coast, and how ‘Maister Pet,’ after being exposed to the winds and waves for forty-eight hours, was rescued by a Dutch man-of-war, he being the only survivor from his ship. It will be seen the woodcut represents two seamen lowering what appears to be an arm-chair into the sea. This was probably the artist’s notion of the safest and most comfortable way to rescue shipwrecked persons. The same tract relates other occurrences during the stormy weather, such as ‘A man neere Bedford, being thaching a house, was blowne off and kild; trees blown up by the rootes, houses and chimnies quite blown downe,’ &c. ‘All which is for our sinnes.’


The Pictorial Press – Its Origin and Progress by Mason Jackson: Chapter 1

[Although this book comes pretty far afield from Stripper’s Guide’s subject of newspaper comics, I have found it a very interesting read for its explanation of the evolution of the ‘illustrated newspaper’. Of course the evolutionary tree of that invention will eventually, in the 1890s, finally offer the particular fruit of which we like to partake, the comic strip. Thus, it serves as the backstory to our own particular source of fascination, and as such, is of interest to those of us with a desire to know its primordial origins.

The author is enamored of very loooong quotes from his source material. I considered clipping a lot of it out, since we are interested more in the press itself than the subjects it was printing. However, doing so would have resulted in a rather choppy narrative, and besides, some of it is quite interesting. If the long quotes aren’t interesting to you, be assured that you won’t miss out on anything if you skim through looking for the bits about the press itself.

Please note that since this book is British and written in the 19th century (published 1885), I felt it not unreasonable to take the liberty of updating occasional quaint spellings and archaic terms. British spelling has been left alone. 

Thanks to Project Gutenberg, whose digitization of this book is the source material for my own version presented here, in which occasional annotation links have been added. — Allan]

The inherent love of pictorial representation in all races of men and in every age is manifest by the frequent attempts made to depict natural objects, under the most unfavourable circumstances and with the slenderest means. The rude drawing scratched on the smooth bone of an animal by the cave-dweller of prehistoric times, the painted rocks of the Mexican forests, and the cave-paintings of the bushmen, are all evidences of this deeply-rooted passion. The child of civilised life looks with delight on his picture-book long before he can make out the letters of the alphabet, and the untutored Eskimo treasures the stray number of an illustrated newspaper left in his hut by the crew of some whaling ship, though he cannot understand one word of the printed page. But the pictures speak a universal language, which requires no teaching to comprehend.

When the printing press came into use this love of pictures had a wide field for development. Some of the first books printed in England were illustrated with woodcuts, and many of the tracts, or ‘news-books,’ which preceded regular newspapers, were adorned with rude engravings. It mattered not how graphic was the pen, its work was deemed incomplete without the aid of the pencil. It often happened that the pen was none the better for the fellowship, but the public taste was not fastidious, and the work sufficed for the occasion. In tracing the origin and progress of pictorial journalism we shall find in ‘the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time’ many curious illustrations of contemporary history. The subject is not without interest now that the illustrated newspaper has become a prominent feature in the journalism of every country.

The development of the newspaper press and its unrestricted use as the exponent of public opinion is one of the most interesting signs of modern progress. When we consider the liberty of thought and action that prevails in our own day, it is difficult to believe that our forefathers were liable to the pillory and other degrading punishments when they ventured to publish their opinions without first obtaining the sanction of the ruling powers. We are accustomed to the daily exercise of the right which cost Prynne his ears and brought fines and imprisonment on Defoe. Newspapers have become almost as necessary to our daily life as bread itself. The mind demands its breakfast as well as the body; and to many a busy man the loss of his morning paper would be as great a deprivation as the want of his usual mornng meal.

In London, and in all our great centres of population, the newspaper has become the unfailing accompaniment of the city man’s journey to business. At the railway stations journals of every kind tempt the loitering passenger, while the illustrated papers appeal to him in a language of their own. Whether in the railway carriage, the omnibus, or the steam-boat, the newspaper is eagerly conned, and its contents form the food of conversation. Most of these newspapers are cast aside at the end of the twenty minutes’ or half hour’s journey; and then, at second hand, they amuse the leisure moments of the railway porter, or, better still, they are collected together, and perhaps serve to solace the sick poor during many lingering hours in hospitals and refuges. Day by day the demand is made, and the supply is ready. The printing-machine never sleeps and is never tired. Its voice is one of the voices of the night—most unmusical, yet with a mysterious meaning. The daily newspaper, so potent in diffusing the light of knowledge, is itself the offspring of darkness. The busy brains and active fingers which create it turn night into day in the execution of their quickly recurring tasks, and with unflagging energy they labour on, that the slumbering world may be properly amused and instructed when it wakes.

The intelligent foreigner who happens to reach our southern coast on a Monday morning in summer or autumn, and travels to London by one of the early trains, is astonished, when the train stops, to see most of the gentlemen rush from the carriages and surround a small boy, whom they appear to hustle and threaten with violent gesticulations. The boy appears to buy off the hostility of his assailants by dealing out to each a paper, which he takes from a large bundle under his arm, and with which the appeased passenger returns to his carriage. Cries of ‘Times! Daily News! Telegraph! Standard!—Here, give us one—anything!’ reach the ears of the wondering stranger, who beholds the boy at length take refuge in an empty railway carriage on the opposite side of the platform, and from that place of vantage he continues to deal out the mysterious papers.

After a time the intelligent foreigner learns that these are the London papers of that morning, which are sent out to meet the trains, and are eagerly bought by the gentlemen who have been spending from Saturday to Monday at the seaside, and, having fasted from all newspapers during that time, they are now of course famishing for news. Such is their eagerness that politics are thrown to the winds. The Conservative will put up with a Liberal newspaper rather than have none at all; and he whose ill luck or inertness has left him without the coveted sheet is glad to borrow of his neighbour, that he may not be walking in the darkness of ignorance when he arrives at his place of business. As the train moves off, the intelligent foreigner, if he thrusts his head out of the carriage window, may behold in the distance the newsboy pensively counting his gains and endeavouring to make his receipts tally with the number of papers that have vanished.

 One of the most remarkable phases of newspaper history has been the establishment of illustrated journals. Though this idea, in an immature form, is as old as the newspaper itself, yet it was never fully developed till the late Mr. Herbert Ingram brought out the Illustrated London News in 1842. Since that time the removal of the newspaper stamp and the repeal of the paper duty have imparted a freedom and a vigour to newspaper enterprise previously unknown. Journals of all kinds have sprung into existence, and cheapness has become the rule. Penny and even halfpenny papers compete with the leading journals in activity and enterprise. No expense is spared in obtaining the earliest and most authentic intelligence. Correspondents are sent to every part of the world where any information is to be gleaned, and the presence of the newspaper ‘Special’ is now expected at every great event. Each class has its organ, and ‘he who runs may read.’

When we consider the immense amount of printed matter that is published every day by the newspapers, we cannot but wonder at the public appetite. And this appetite is fed from one year to another upon a diet that is only varied when there occurs a war, a revolution, an unusually disastrous shipwreck, or a murder of uncommon atrocity. Then the monotony of ordinary life gives place to the temporary excitement. There is a run upon the newspapers, which are as susceptible as barometers, and rise or fall according to the state of public feeling. The calamities of nations and the misfortunes of individuals are sources of profit and prosperity to the newspaper.

It was a happy idea to gather together the principal events of the week, to illustrate them with authentic pictures, and place them before the public in the form of a pictorial newspaper. Considering the great cost of production, and the restrictions under which newspapers lay at that time, to say nothing of the difficulty of bringing out news with appropriate illustrations, so that both should be fresh, the Illustrated London News was a bold undertaking. Like most things that are successful, it soon had many imitators, and there are now few large cities in the civilised world that have not their illustrated newspapers.

But the full development of illustrated journalism was immediately preceded by many significant symptoms. Several of the then existing newspapers, on the occurrence of any unusual or interesting event, introduced into their pages rough woodcut illustrations. A great fire—a remarkable murder—a fatal balloon ascent—these were the subjects seized upon at the moment to satisfy the public craving for illustrated news. All this seems to have been the working of an impulse or instinct which existed even before the days of newspapers; for, as I shall presently show, attempts were made to illustrate the news of the hour in tracts or ‘news-books’ before the beginning of regular newspapers in England. The idea of illustrated journalism may be traced from the earliest years of the seventeenth century to 1842, the date of the first number of the Illustrated London News. The art of wood-engraving had fallen very low in the seventeenth century, and the illustrations to be found in early newspapers are mostly of a very rude description; but they show the existence of a germ which eventually grew into full and flourishing life.

The English newspaper, like many other great inventions, was a thing of gradual growth. The news that was sung or recited by wandering ballad-singers at the village cross, or in the courtyard of the squire’s mansion, and the written newsletter furnished to the wealthy aristocracy, were the precursors of the early news-books and the periodical sheets of news. As the art of printing extended, many of the productions of the press assumed the character of news to attract readers. Sermons, satires, and travels, were all put forward under the name of news, and sometimes a single grain of truth was deemed sufficient to leaven a whole bushel of fiction. Most of these publications were small tracts, and published at irregular intervals. Some of them were adorned with engravings on the title-pages, which show that even at this early period the authors or printers of these papers were imbued with the pictorial spirit. The idea of illustrating current events had already taken root, and we find examples of it long before the establishment of regular newspapers.

The earliest form of the newspaper is known to have come into existence during times of war and tumult, and it was for a long time believed that the first English newspaper was brought forth under similar circumstances. But when the English Mercurie of 1588 was proved to be a forgery, the enthusiast in newspaper history received a heavy blow and sad discouragement. It seemed so highly probable, when this country was threatened with the descent of the Spanish Armada, that something like a newspaper might have sprung into existence, that people were only too ready to adopt the imposture. When the whole nation was greatly excited and anxious to learn something about the reality of their danger, nothing was more natural than for the sagacious minister of Queen Elizabeth to appeal to the people through the printing press, and by its means endeavour to calm the public mind by circulating printed sheets of intelligence, ‘for the contradiction of false reports.’ But we were compelled to admit that Lord Burleigh had missed his opportunity, and neglected to use the most powerful means for exciting the patriotism or allaying the fears of his countrymen. The author of this remarkable imposition showed great skill and acuteness in constructing his false newspaper, and fixing the date of its supposed publication. The forgery has been attributed to Lord Hardwick; but what were his motives it is difficult to understand. Unlike Chatterton and Ireland, he never brought his imposture before the world, and if he intended it merely for an antiquarian jeu-d’esprit he had the enjoyment of the joke entirely to himself.

The abolition of the Star Chamber, in 1641, was an important event for the press of this country. The so-called newspapers then began to print English news and discuss home affairs, no longer dreading the fines, imprisonments, and mutilations, that had been so liberally dispensed by that obnoxious tribunal. There was not, however, any considerable increase in the number of newspapers until the Civil War reached its height. During that remarkable contest many hundreds of tracts and newspapers were published, some of them numbered consecutively and published at regular intervals; but the great majority bore no continuous title, and treated of one subject only. During the reigns of Charles II and James II, the press was more or less under a censorship, from which it was not emancipated till the seventh year of William III. Lord Macaulay dates the commencement of English newspapers from this period, when a great many new journals made their appearance. They included political news amongst their contents; and they more nearly resembled in character, but not in appearance, what we now understand by a newspaper than anything that had preceded them. This press revival was not accompanied by any corresponding activity in the direction of pictorial illustration. Art of every kind was in a low condition in England at this time. Even if the art of popular illustration had been better understood, the means of production were exceedingly limited. Newspapers multiplied greatly, but illustrated journalism had to struggle with difficulties, and its existence was only made known by the occasional appearance of a rough woodcut or an indifferent copper-plate.