The news world has changed. News is everywhere: fast, short-lived, real or fake, there is something for everyone. 300 years ago in the United Kingdom, everyone was after a copy of the ‘paper’, but the problem was it wasn’t daily, and didn’t say much, if anything, about what was happening outside the country. But change was coming.

Mallet, Elizabeth (fl 1672–1706), printer and bookseller, was the wife of David Mallet (d 1683), printer, of St Martin Ludgate, London. Upon her husband’s death, intestate, on 3 April 1683, she administered his estate and took their son, also David, as her apprentice. In 1685, Elizabeth operated two printing presses at her premises in Black Horse Alley, near Fleet Bridge. She published several items for her son, including the proceedings of the commissioners of the peace held in the Old Bailey, as well as various items on her own behalf.1

Illustration of  a small, metal, freestanding printing press

Printing press. Photo by Mark Strizic. This work is in copyright; H2008.11/618

Elizabeth also produced serial publications, including The New State of Europe, which was first published on 20 September 1701, but her main achievement was the publication of Britain’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, on 11 March 1702. The newspaper was similar in format to the London Gazette. It was devoid of home news; its content being taken from foreign gazettes.2

Elizabeth published the newspaper from her premises next door to the King’s Arms tavern at Fleet Bridge.

Picture of news article with Daily Courant masthead
‘News,’ Daily Courant, 11 March 1702. Article from Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection

 It will be found from the Foreign Prints […] the Author has taken care to be duly furnished with all that comes from Abroad in any Language.

(‘News,’ Daily Courant, 11 March 1702)3

Elizabeth Mallet is intriguing considering the times. She must have been more of an autodidact – she was able to translate from various languages for her newspaper. She also brought something very fresh into the profession: factual accuracy and an absence of commentary on the news. She wanted her readers to be able to think for themselves, especially in a time when it was hard to distinguish between news and comments on the news (a bit too familiar):

Nor will [the Author] take it upon himself to give any Comments or Conjectures of his own but will relate only Matter of Fact; supposing other People to have Sense enough to make Reflections for themselves.

(‘News,’ Daily Courant, 11 March 1702)4

We can also find information about the visionary Elizabeth in the Australian press (some years later):

Copy of text from newspaper article which reads 'It may not be generally known that the first printed newspaper in the world was established and edited by a woman - Elizabeth Mallet'
The Herald, 30 October 1883, p 3

Elizabeth has her place in the ‘hall of fame’ of women who tried something new and changed the world; women who had a vision and went for it!

‘So it was the imagination of a woman who first conceived the idea that man would want to have news every morning with his breakfast.’

(Fitzroy City Press, 13 June 1914, p 3)

Photo of plaque in London that reads 'In a house near this site was published in 1702 The Daily Courant first London daily newspaper'
This plaque in London marks the publication in 1702 of The Daily Courant as London’s first daily newspaper, 2008. Photo by Man Vyi

After ten issues the Daily Courant was taken over by Samuel Buckley. There are further imprints recorded for Elizabeth Mallet in 1703 but it is thought likely that she died soon afterwards.5

Postscript

If you are a registered State Library Victoria member, you can read Elizabeth Mallet’s Daily Courant online in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection.

Not a member yet? Join online and reward your curiosity.

References

  1. Maxted, I, 2004, ‘Mallet, Elizabeth (fl 1672–1706), printer and bookseller,’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September, viewed 6 June 2022
  2. Maxted, I, 2004, ‘Mallet, Elizabeth (fl 1672–1706), printer and bookseller,’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September, viewed 6 June 2022
  3. Sourced from Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection, viewed 9 April 2022
  4. As above
  5. Maxted, I, 2004, ‘Mallet, Elizabeth (fl 1672–1706), printer and bookseller,’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September, viewed 6 June 2022

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