The Daily Courant has the reputation of being the world's first English language newspaper; its first edition appeared on the 11th March 1702, published by Edward Mallet from his premises "against the Ditch at Fleet Bridge". It comprised a single printed page of two columns, promised to "give news daily and impartially" and focused on reporting foreign news. 'Courant' here means the same as it does in the phrase 'au courant', to be up to-date and well informed; the choice being no doubt influenced by the name of the first titled (but not daily) newspaper, the 'Courant' which had appeared in London in 1621.
The newspaper did not remain in the ownership of Edward Mallet very long as he soon sold it to one Samuel Buckley, based "at the sign of the Dolphin in Little Britain". Although Buckley was regarded as a serious printer/publisher (he later became the printer of the Spectator) of some literary achievements he later got into a spot of trouble with the law.
The problem arose with the edition dated the 7th April 1712 which was cited in Parliament for containing a "pretended Memorial" that was regarded as "a false, scandalous, and malicious Libel, reflecting upon the Resolutions of this House, and the Address of this House to her Majesty thereupon, in breach of the Privilege of this House." The point being that Samuel had got hold of "a printed Paper, in the Dutch Language" which contained an account of the debates in the British Parliament and had printed a translation of these in the Daily Courant. At the time Parliament regarded any reporting of its debates as a breach of privilege and zealously punished any publisher who dared to inform the public what its representatives had been discussing. Buckley was arrested and brought before the House and fined, but appears to have been forgiven for his transgression as by 1724 he was officially referred to as a "worthy printer" and considered as "well-affected". The latter being more to the point as it meant that he was generally in favour of the Hanoverian Succession.
The Daily Courant eventually ceased publication in 1735 and was taken over by The Daily Gazetteer. According to no less an authority than Prince Charles the Daily Courant was "the victim of the swing of a ministerial axe" which was "possibly, but not necessarily, wielded on the orders of one of my ancestors, King George II".
Note that the Daily Courant's claim to be the first daily newspaper
is challenged by the the Norwich Post which first appeared in 1701.
- Chambers' Book of Days March 11th
- The History of the Newspaper
- The text of Prince Charles's speech before the London Press Club as they celeberated the three hundredth anniversary of the Daily Courant's first edition on the 11th March 2002
- The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons : volume 4: 1706-1713 (1742), pp. 294-334.
- The Portugese Instituto Multimedia has a rather blurry image of the very first edition at