“The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media”: The Birth of the Modern – Paul S. Maxwell

By TREotM Archives
Cover image for  article: “The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media”: The Birth of the Modern – Paul S. Maxwell

With apologies to Paul Johnson, who wrote a superb and long book of that title chronicling the startling breakthroughs at the dawn of the Industrial Age, the 18th Century brought significant changes to the media everywhere. Nothing much happened in media during the 1600s in a technological sense. As before, singers sang from song sheets. Plays were performed from printed scripts. Pamphlets and bulletins were printed and distributed as before. Newsletters proliferated. But in other, equally important aspects of media, two key organizational structures sprouted within the growing publishing business. The first involved the growing importance of postal systems as national and regional systems cooperated more. The second was regular periodical publishing.

This is a book in progress. Go here to read the previous chapters.

Chapter 8, Part 1

With apologies to Paul Johnson, who wrote a superb and long book of that title chronicling the startling breakthroughs at the dawn of the Industrial Age, the 18th Century brought significant changes to the media everywhere. Nothing much happened in media during the 1600s in a technological sense. As before, singers sang from song sheets. Plays were performed from printed scripts. Pamphlets and bulletins were printed and distributed as before. Newsletters proliferated. But in other, equally important aspects of media, two key organizational structures sprouted within the growing publishing business. The first involved the growing importance of postal systems as national and regional systems cooperated more. The second was regular periodical publishing.

Of the postal systems backbone of roads, many dated from Roman times and were augmented by those used by Maximilian a hundred years before. It wasn’t a simple process that spurred the development of better postal service, it was war and more wars that needed better roads for both troop and support movement that led to more investment in postal services by the governments in order to keep information flowing from the front to the rear and vice versa. All of which led to governments taking almost full control of postal movements. Of note, though, for differing reasons, the English and French lagged a bit.

Meanwhile, Johann Carolus of Strasbourg started the first regular weekly newspaper – titled Relation – in 1605. It was quickly copied and reprinted throughout Germany.

Next was in Amsterdam with the Courante uyt Italien en Duytsland in 1618. Another version of the Dutch Coranto appeared in 1620 in England … an English language version of the former. The Dutch canals allowed for excellent distribution and, in sort of another first, a newspaper was launched in Delft that, at least for 90%+ of it, was directly lifted from the Amsterdam version. Quite pre-copyright.

One smart guy in Antwerp, an engraver named Abraham Verhoeven applied to city officials to be the sole provider of news of “all the victories, sieges, captures and castles accomplished by his Imperial Majesty in Germany, Bohemia and other provinces of the Empire.” He got his wishes officially on January 28, 1620.

In 1621, the English government decided it should, via a license, monopolize the news so it conferred upon Nathaniel Button and Nicolas Bourne the right to publish a weekly news “book” if – a big IF – they submitted it for prior inspection. They were also barred from publishing any domestic news or “comment on English affairs.” Smartly, they hired a former military man of many travels to re-write the Continental news. Unfortunately for Button and Bourne, they neglected to provide their “book” for regular inspections. Under the reign of Charles II and the exploits of the Duke of Buckingham in 1627, they lost their monopoly. Buckingham hired one Thomas Walkeley as his official chronicler to exclusively report from the French war … and the English had their first sponsored propaganda news organ called the Journal. The Journal charted all of the victories, successes and prospects for success until Buckingham badly lost at La Rochelle and was assassinated. Button and Bourne got back their monopoly and did pretty good for another few years.

Meanwhile in France, Cardinal Richelieu took government control and censorship to the next level. On Nov. 11, 1631, by Crown decree, the Cardinal’s royal physician accepted the exclusive right to print, sell and distribute newspapers within France. The Gazette was published every Saturday written from foreign dispatches and with ever more laudatory coverage of the King.

The first press in the English Colonies appeared at Harvard College in 1638. (Of note, the first press in the Americas was in Spanish South America in 1534!)

Harking back to Buckingham’s failures, in1644, John Milton wrote a book called Areopagitica denouncing state control and censorship including the state licensing of any publication.

And in China, business cards were invented. And still with us. Not a big, but certainly a lasting print medium.

The first independent English newspaper was published in 1665: the Oxford Gazette.

The first American colonial newspaper appeared in 1690 … in one and only one edition of the Publick Occurrences. Fourteen years later, The Boston News-Letterdid better.

Next week: Chapter 8 Part 2 – How the Steam Engine Contributed to Media

In an almost 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill.

Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to him at cablemax@mac.com. He has a new Web site coming soon!

 

Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.com
Follow our Twitter updates at @MediaBizBlogger

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.

Copyright ©2021 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.