Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien (partially found editions of German newspaper; 1605-1667)
Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien is widely considered as the first ever newspaper. Produced in Strasbourg starting from 1605, it was a German-language newspaper that ran editions to at least 1659, with some accounts claiming its final issue was in 1667.
Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien originated from Johann Carolus, a businessman who lived in Strasbourg during its Deutsches Reich occupation. Privately educated, Carolus received an apprenticeship in bookbinding. Following his marriage to Anna Fröhlich, who was also his business partner, Carolus would soon transition into a Buchführer role. By 1604, he and Fröhlich made a living selling hand-written newsletters to wealthy clients. Still, the pair accumulated heavy debts, and Carolus was dissatisfied with the slow progress of manually copying each newsletter by hand. Thus, following the death of Thobias John, Carolus acquired John's printing workshop from his widow in July 1604. The expensive investment paid off, as Carolus took advantage of the workshop's three printing presses, in addition to a boatload of letters, paper, and unbound books. This allowed him to develop his company further, employing seven people.
Despite the business enhancements, Carolus still needed a new concept to sustain his organisation. In 1605, Carolus explored the possibility of selling to a wider audience, who he hoped would be interested in receiving weekly printed news. The concept was risky since a profit depended on whether he could consistently attract a large paying audience. Therefore, his business model focused on widely circulating the newspaper in Strasbourg and sell each copy for a more affordable price than what he was originally charging for his newsletters. Titling his publication as Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, the weekly paper proved a major success, publishing new editions every week and containing around 4-6 pages worth of news. Carolus therefore reaped the benefits, becoming Relation's editor. Additionally, books would be created containing the issues of a given year, distinguished by differing title pages produced annually.
Carolus encountered two legal matters relevant to modern newspaper publishers. In October 1605, Carolus faced the threat of other printers replicating his work. Therefore, he wrote to Strasbourg's city council, requesting that he receive protection from the practice of reprints, essentially creating a monopoly for himself. This showed that even during the early age of newspapers, copyright was a major concern. His request also confirmed that Relation did begin in 1605, as Carolus noted he had already published 12 issues of it. Three years on from Relation's formation, Carolus caused controversy when he reported on the financial difficulties faced by the current government. Carolus was allowed to continue publishing, albeit under the condition that critical articles must first be assessed by the government. Despite his concerns that such censorship could weaken his company's outlook, he reluctantly catered to the government's whims to ensure his organisation's survival.
Following his death in 1634, Carolus' shop was taken over by his brother Moritz. It was then transferred to the "Carolus heirs" in 1647, before again changing ownership in 1688. Relation itself carried on for a few decades, with accounts indicating that the final edition was published in either 1659 or 1667. General consensus, including from the World Association of Newspapers, determines that Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien was the first ever newspaper. It certainly met the four generally accepted newspaper criteria; this included public accessibility or being available to a general audience; periodicity, being published at a regular consistent interval; currency, providing timely news; and universality, covering various types of news. However, not all accounts agree on this. For example, English historian of printing Stanley Morison argued that as Relation was of quarto size and had text fitting a single wide column, it was actually a newsbook rather than a newspaper. Ultimately, Morison's verdict is considered a minority viewpoint.
Ultimately, very few issues of Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien are known to have survived. Most editions likely became lost as the first readers would not foresee the historical importance of the papers, and therefore generally discarded them overtime. In fact, no copies of the paper's first four years still exist, with the oldest surviving issue originating in January 1609. Heidelberg University found a copy of the 1609 issues incorporated into a book, which can now be freely downloaded online.
- SciHi Blog detailing the life and career of Carolus, and his creation of the first ever newspaper. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- Archived World Association of Newspapers declaring Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien as the first ever newspaper. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- 1001 Inventions That Changed the World summarising the creation of the first newspaper. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- The Online Books Page summarising the newspaper and noting most issues are now lost. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- News in Times of Conflict summarising Carolus' business model for the newspaper. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- The Invention of News detailing Carolus' request to the city council for protection against reprints. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- From Ghent to Aix detailing the transferring of shop ownership following Carolus' death in 1634. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- History of Information detailing general consensus that Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien was the first ever newspaper. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- News in Times of Conflict detailing the four criteria generally required to become a newspaper. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- The Invention of News noting most of the newspapers' earliest issues are lost. Retrieved 7th Mar '23
- The Belfast Newsletter summarising why most newspaper publications' earliest issues could become lost. Retrieved 7th Mar '23