Pre-modern blogs  MAR 18 2010

From the New York Review of Books blog (on Tumblr no less!), a consideration of some pre-blog and pre-Twitter writing that is bloggy in nature, including documents written of the events in London coffee houses and French cafes.

To appreciate the importance of a pre-modern blog, consult a database such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online and download a newspaper from eighteenth-century London. It will have no headlines, no bylines, no clear distinction between news and ads, and no spatial articulation in the dense columns of type, aside from one crucial ingredient: the paragraph. Paragraphs were self-sufficient units of news. They had no connection with one another, because writers and readers had no concept of a news "story" as a narrative that would run for more than a few dozen words. News came in bite-sized bits, often "advices" of a sober nature -- the arrival of a ship, the birth of an heir to a noble title -- until the 1770s, when they became juicy. Pre-modern scandal sheets appeared, exploiting the recent discovery about the magnetic pull of news toward names. As editors of the Morning Post and the Morning Herald, two men of the cloth, the Reverend Henry Bate (known as "the Reverend Bruiser") and the Reverend William Jackson (known as "Dr. Viper") packed their paragraphs with gossip about the great, and this new kind of news sold like hotcakes.

"No headlines, no bylines, no clear distinction between news and ads, and no spatial articulation in the dense columns of type"...that sounds damned familiar. (via @bobulate)

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