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Formatting the News

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Formatting the News

Newspapers from the seventeenth century may look very different from those of today, but there are more similarities than might be imagined. Journalists of today owe much to the innovations in formatting made by their predecessors. A number of modern press features can be traced back to early experiments in journalism: standard features of our own newspapers, such as layout, content, arrangement, and regularity were introduced over three hundred years ago.

Bruno Ryves. Mercurius rusticus. Oxford, 1646

News reports were regularly recycled during the Civil Wars and nowhere more dramatically than in Mercurius Rusticus (above). Compiled from stories in royalist newspapers, Rusticus was written by the royal chaplain, Dr. Bruno Ryves. Ryves specialized in recounting the brutality of parliamentarian soldiers towards royalists.


Titles like Post, Mercury and Courier quickly became standard, many of them printed in gothic typefaces, like today’s Washington Post.. One of the earliest titles to bear the name “Post,” was the London Post , produced by a leading publisher of civil war journalism, George Bishop. It was written by Parliament’s recently-appointed licenser of newspapers, John Rushworth, with the assistance of his deputy, Gilbert Mabbott. This journal was innovative not merely because of its title, but also because it provided headlines on its front page.


Despite his reputation as a side-changing hack, Marchamont Nedham was one of the most important republican writers of the seventeenth century. His most important innovation was the newspaper editorial. He pioneered journalistic comment before 1650, but perfected the art in Mercurius Politicus.


Newspaper formats changed dramatically after 1660, shifting away from the smaller quarto size towards the larger folio size with columns that we recognize today.


The London Post. London, 1644

Mercurius Politicus, 19. (October 10-17, 1650)

Mercurius Politicus, 442. (November 11-18, 1658).

Exhibition Highlights

Serving the Republican Regime

Towards a Modern Newspaper

Experiments in Printed News

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