First Issue of The Times
The 1st of January 1788 AD
The Times, rather oddly, began life on two different January 1sts: originally entitled The Daily Universal Register when the first issue hit the streets on January 1 1785, it was given the snappier name The Times by its energetic and innovative founder, John Walter, for the 940th, though it did retain its alternative old name in the masthead for a while.
Walter was an entrepreneur. He made a fortune as a coal merchant, lost it as a failed Lloyd’s underwriter, and made another in printing including his own newspaper. He was willing to take chances with his publication as in his business career, cheekily adopting the Hanoverian coat of arms in the paper’s masthead (after all, half its rivals did the same), and getting into serious trouble with libel – suffering both damages and imprisonment - before handing the editor’s chair to his son.
The Times early on established a reputation for reporting of foreign news, events at court and in Parliament, making it a paper of record; but the Tuesday January 1 1788 edition (price 3d) is notable for articles on music and the theatre on its front page. Set out in four columns, in spite of Walter’s relatively advanced printing technology (setting the paper in logotype i.e. blocks of letters rather than individual ones) it had a rather messy look, but even then had an air of gravitas partly thanks to the prominent coat of arms. And for American readers, it is neither The London Times, nor the Times of London; it's The Times.
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