Little did “the Reverend Dr Walter Blandford Warden of Wadham Colledge” of Oxford University realise that one day his name would have such significance in the world of newspapers.
A simple statement at the top of the front
page of the Oxford Gazette Number 1 printed on
November 7, 1665, announced that he had been "Elected Lord Bishop
of this See".
In doing so, it became the first ever
British newspaper report, contained in what is now accepted as the
world's first recognised newspaper.
Only two or three examples are known to
survive in private hands, and Mullock's (17% buyer's premium) are offering
one in their November 5 sale in Ludlow, estimated at
It was consigned from a UK private collector
and the Shropshire saleroom's specialist Richard Westwood-Brookes
expects strong interest from US bidders, "because in this country
newspapers are not regarded in any way shape or form as importantly
as the Americans regard them".
Indeed, the last time he could track down a
copy of Oxford Gazette Number 1 being sold was a few
years ago in the US, for $37,000, at an unknown saleroom, and his
estimate on November 5 is partly based on this.
The Gazette came to be in Oxford in
1665 because Charles II had moved the court to avoid the
Few people could read at that time, printing
costs were high and, as Mr Westwood-Brookes said: "People were very
wary of receiving something which would have been distributed in
the streets at the time of plague, so the Gazettes were
posted to named recipients. The numbers sent would have been very
small, I would think no more than about a hundred."
Despite two small holes and some spotting,
the browned paper is fully legible.
Along with the Rev Blandford's starring
role, the Gazette ran to two pages and included news
ranging from appointment of sheriffs to the county and naval
debates in the House of Commons to the question of impeachment for
treason for seven MPs.
The plague is dealt with in a single
chilling statistic at the end of the reports saying in that
particular week 1050 people in London had died from it.
When the court eventually moved back to the
capital the Gazette became the London Gazette and
still functions today as the official organ of government in which
official notices are published.
The following lot at Mullock's on November
5, consigned by the same collector, is another very notable copy of
the Gazette - this time in the guise of the London
Gazette Number 84, covering August 30-September 3, 1666,
estimated at £5000-7000.
The date is all-important: this 2pp
copy contains the first contemporaneous report of the Great Fire of
At the bottom of page 2 comes the ominous
information: "London Sept 2 About two a clock this morning a sudden
and lamentable fire broke out in the City beginning not far from
Thames-Street near London Bridge…"