Making news after 300 years

THE first edition of a 300-year-old Edinburgh newspaper has appeared for sale on an internet auction site.

The Edinburgh Courant, which was published in February 1705, was one of the first newspapers in Britain and the Capital's main source of local information.

The paper was a forerunner of the Evening News, and it is believed Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe was its editor in the early 18th century. The rare first copy is being sold by an Australian collector on eBay, and experts say it could fetch more than 400.

Bob Metselaar, who runs an antiques business in Melbourne, bought the paper at auction nine years ago and said he now wants it to take pride of place in an Edinburgh pub or coffee house.

The 60-year-old said: "This newspaper was purchased simply because I found it an appealing and most interesting item.

"However, consequent research made this early newspaper even more interesting, because not only is it among Britain's earliest newspapers, it is a first edition and this newspaper was in many ways ahead of its time.

"I hope that this unique newspaper finds it way back to an appreciative owner in Edinburgh, hopefully to be hung on display in a tavern, or dare I say coffee house, where it once would have hung to bring the news to its patrons."

The first edition of the Courant now for sale concentrates mainly on foreign news, such as sea battles between Britain and France.

But editor James Watson, who sold the paper at the Exchange Coffee House, did break the mould by writing some local news - the forthcoming trial of a teller who absconded with bank funds, the arrival of a shipload of wine and brandy and the trial of a ship's captain and crew for piracy.

Newspapers first came into being in Britain in the late 17th century, and the Edinburgh Courant was the country's second regional paper - after the Norwich Post in 1701. The Courant, which was written twice weekly, ran for five years then continued as the Scots Courant until April 1720. That same year, the Edinburgh Evening Courant began publication, and it survived until the Evening News came into existence in 1873.

Book expert John Sibbald, from Edinburgh's Lyon & Turnbull auction house, said the newspaper is extremely rare. "This is one of the first newspapers ever published in Britain, and it will be of great interest to collectors."

The eBay auction, which had starting bids of 99, lasts until 7am on Saturday.


IN the 17th century, the first British papers had a hard time reporting any news as they were frowned upon by politicians.

In 1640, the first reports from Parliament were recorded, and the London Gazette was founded in 1656 - the world's oldest surviving periodical.

When rules were relaxed, more papers began to appear, including the Edinburgh Gazette in 1699. However, it did not report on the Capital's news. In 1737, the Belfast Newsletter was founded and it is the world's oldest surviving general daily newspaper.

Ten years later, the Aberdeen Journal - now the Press and Journal - was first published and is the oldest surviving Scottish newspaper.

Towards the end of the 18th century, a host of new papers appeared, including what is now the Yorkshire Post, and the Observer - the oldest surviving Sunday paper.

In 1817, the Edinburgh Evening News' sister paper The Scotsman was launched, and the News itself came into being in 1873.

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