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Original or Reprint? A Guide to Noteworthy Newspaper Issues

New-England Courant (Boston)

February 11, 1723

The New-England Courant, No. 80, February 11, 1723, was the first publication issued under Benjamin Franklin's imprint. The date line reads "From Monday February Monday February 11.1723." The Courant was established by James Franklin on August 7, 1721, as the third regularly-issued newspaper in Boston. In its columns, James Franklin gave offense to the Massachusetts General Court, which ordered his imprisonment and the suppression of the paper. To avoid this censorship, Benjamin Franklin, who had been his older brother's apprentice, was released from his indenture and the paper was printed thereafter under his name. Only four copies of the original issue of February 11, 1723, are known to exist. They are held by the following: the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, Massachusetts), the British Museum (London), the Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston), and Rutgers University Library (New Brunswick, New Jersey).

This issue has been reprinted nine or more times. Several of the reprints carry the notice "Fac-Simile of the first Paper ever issued by Franklin..." Such reprints were printed in 1856, 1876, 1888, and 1896, and still others have no date and no notice. The Library of Congress does not have an original of this issue. A comparison of the several reprints in the Library of Congress with a photostat copy from the original belonging to the Massachusetts Historical Society shows that they differ in various details.

The text of the original reads as follows:

  • Page 1, column 1, line 1: "The late Publisher of this Paper, finding so many"
  • Page 1, column 1, last line: "his Face, which splits it from his Forehead in a"
  • Page 1, column 2, last line: "Body of Forces in readiness to embark on the first No" and below this, at the right lower corner, is the catchword "tice" to show the beginning of the first line at the top of page 2

Copies that do not agree in these details are reprints and have little monetary value.

Source: Information Circular 9 (Revised 1955).

Library Holdings

The Library of Congress has several reprints (online catalog record) but does not have an original.