Welcome to this sample collection which gathers together articles from historically notable documents that appear in this archive, and provides you with links to view the articles on the Gale Primary Sources platform.
For this collection, we have curated sample articles from five historically important and influential publications, with four articles from each. These cover a range of subject areas to illustrate the diversity of the archive, for researchers working on both focused projects and broader multidisciplinary research. Please remember that this guide is a curation of sample content: there is a lot more available in the full archive, far beyond the examples we have selected here. If you would like to explore the content of the archive and see the functionality of the Gale Primary Sources platform, there is a link to start a free trial at the end of this guide, along with links to find your local representative if you have any questions.
The Athenian Mercury was a twice-weekly periodical published by The Athenian Society, believed to have introduced the advice column format. John Dunton (1659-1733) served as the Editor-in-Chief, with the content written alongside other members of The Athenian Society. The periodical provided a space where reader’s queries were answered, with questions accepted from both men and women. Aimed at both male and female readers, it covered a range of topics from science to sex. Dunton claimed the content was plagiarised by The Lacedemonian Mercury (also in this archive), prompting Dunton to use advertising to encourage readers to resubmit their questions for amended answers. According to Dunton, notable figures submitted questions to the periodical, including Jonathan Swift (1677-1745). The ‘question and answer’ format was later adopted by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) in some of his projects, and is still common to this day as the root of ‘agony aunt’ columns in many contemporary publications.
The authorship of The Female Tatler is a mystery, as like The Tatler it was published under a pseudonym. Writing under the name ‘Mrs. Crackenthorpe’, the identity of the writer (or writers) has yet to be definitively established. It was highly innovative in its discussion of women and women’s issues, and it was ahead of its time in its attitudes. It covered issues such as women’s education, appearance and social etiquette, and was open in its critique of women being denied the benefits of progress by their male counterparts. The Female Tatler began in July 1709, but in August (from issue 19) the publication split into two rival papers following a dispute between the author and printer. For two months, two papers claiming to be “By Mrs. Crackenthorpe, a Lady that knows every thing” competed for female readership under the same title, The Female Tatler. In October 1709, the paper printed by the original printer (Benjamin Bragge) ceased publication, while the splinter paper (printed by Abigail Baldwin) continued publishing until March 1710. Both are present in the collection.
John Nichols’ collection included many publications relating news from outside of the United Kingdom. As the merchant classes grew, news from abroad became an important element of news publications, and they began to broaden their horizons beyond reprinting London news, and local stories. Some of the publications in this archive relating international news include:
The Ladies Mercury was the first periodical designed for a female audience, and ran for four weeks during 1693. It provided an important moment in publishing history, opening the door to future publications aimed at entirely female audiences. The Ladies Mercury inspired many subsequent publications for female-only audiences, including The Female Tatler, also contained in this archive. A single sheet publication, The Ladies Mercury was a response to the success of female-oriented topics in The Athenian Mercury, which were so popular that the first Tuesday edition of each month had been dedicated to responses to women’s questions. Published by John Dunton, it introduced a female-specific version of the ‘problem page’ into Britain, a format that has remained a staple part of many magazines to the current day.
The Tatler was founded by Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) and Joseph Addison (1672-1719), and ran for two years between 1709 and 1711. A tri-weekly publication, it introduced a new approach to journalism, stepping away from traditional reportage and focusing on essays dedicated to news and gossip circulating in the growing coffeehouses of London. The majority of the content is believed to have been written by Steele, who adopted the persona of Isaac Bickerstaff, believed to be the first known usage of an authorial persona. Although all articles are credited to Bickerstaff, they were in fact written by Steele or Addison, with some contributions from Jonathan Swift. Both Whig politicians, Steele and Addison placed Whiggish views and opinions throughout their writings. When The Tatler came under Tory attack, it was shut down. Steele and Addison subsequently founded The Spectator in 1711 and The Guardian in 1713. The Tatler was a highly influential publication, creating an approach that would be continued by many notable titles in subsequent years, including Samuel Johnson’s Rambler.
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