As newspapers keep dying, do people care who invented them in the first place? I do. Or do people just want to get their so-called news from Facebook, Twitter, and Fox News? I don’t. But those are questions for another day. Even though I’ve never practiced journalism — with the one very minor exception of being co-editor of our summer camp’s newspaper when I was 13 — I have long been pro-journalist and a devotee of dead-tree news. (NPR and PBS also, but it’s not the same thing.) Long before we had radio, television, and the Internet, we had newspapers in print. But how long ago were they invented? And by whom? And what qualifies as a newspaper as opposed to other means of communication?
A great article by John Boardley in “I Love Typography” explores these questions. It opens with these observations:
News existed long before we invented writing. A hundred thousand years ago, it echoed off cave walls when we first began to speak. In that preliterate prehistory, and for a long time thereafter, news traveled by word of mouth: Local gossip shared around the campfire after a hard day’s hunting and gathering; news from farther afield might reach us via a rare traveler or exile.
Go read the article! Savor the typography and the beautiful illustrations — the site is called “I love Typography” after all — and think about what you’ve learned. I learned a lot, at any rate.
We close with a 1796 illustration of a British newspaper vendor, as reprinted at the top of Boardley’s article: