91 ISSUES OF THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER, FROM ITS FIRST TWO YEARS OF PUBLICATION.Sydney : G. Howe, 1803-05. Two full calf clamshell cases, silk-lined with gilt-lettering, custom made to the highest standard, housing the first two years of issue. Vol. I (No. 1, March 5, 1803 – No. 52, February 26, 1804) : a bound run of 50 weekly issues [out of 52, lacking Nos. 1 and 8, supplied in separately bound facsimile], in a colonial Sydney binding (c. 1820), quarter calf over marbled paper boards, expertly conserved. The missing issues supplied in facsimile, presented in a separate binding styled to match.Vol. II (No. 53, March 4, 1804 – No. 104, February 24, 1805], 41 weekly issues (lacking nos. 53, 54, 68, 69, 77, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 87, 90, 95), and additionally lacking the first leaves of nos. 79 and 91. Each issue comprises a single sheet folded into 4 pp foolscap with 3 printed columns of text on each page, the early and late issues with some water staining, but entirely legible, the majority of issues remarkably well preserved, with original folds (a minimal amount of tearing) and some toning and staining, a few issues inscribed with the original subscribers' names of either Mr. [William?] Hibbard or Mr. William Blake.The first issue of Australia's first newspaper, The Sydney Gazette, and New South Wales Advertiser, was published on Saturday March 5 1803 by George Howe, a convict who had been appointed Government Printer due to his experience working on the London Times. In a despatch to Lord Hobart dated May 9 1803, Governor King refers to George Howe as an 'ingenious man' (Ferguson, 383). The newspaper was printed on a small wooden printing press which had been brought to the colony by Arthur Phillip in the First Fleet. David Collins (Account of the English Colony in New South Wales) noted in November 1795 that a young printer, George Hughes, had used the press to print numerous government notices and orders. Copies of some of these ephemeral printed items are held in the Record Office, London (Ferguson, Foster & Green. The Howes and their press, p.15). This almost certainly makes Hughes responsible for the very earliest Australian imprints (Ferguson, ibid.). George Howe had used the same press to print the colony's first book, The New South Wales General Standing Orders, in 1802, probably confirming him as the colony's second printer.Howe was also the editor of the Sydney Gazette, although the content of the newspaper was under strict government censorship. The establishment of a weekly newspaper in the colony had been an initiative of Governor King, and the publication originally acted as a medium for broadcasting official information about such matters as government proclamations, new civil regulations and court news. The newspaper also recorded on a weekly basis all the recent maritime activity at Port Jackson, including shipping arrivals and departures and cargo information. Auctions of goods, sales of land, personal and business notices, and lists of newly pardoned or emancipated convicts were also features of each issue. In its first year of publication, the Sydney Gazette was sold at sixpence per copy to 300 subscribers. The newspaper was ultimately to have a considerable lifespan, being in circulation up until 1842. It was printed by Howe until his death in 1821, then by his son Robert. In its final phase it was published thrice weekly by Robert Howe's apprentice.The newspaper's first masthead, used in these issues of 1803-05, bore the imprimatur Published by Authority, accompanied by the legend Thus We Hope to Prosper, and was a woodcut image of Port Jackson. Although John Lewin had produced some of his beautiful intaglio copper plate prints of natural history subjects as early as 1801, the primitive masthead of the first issue has been acknowledged as the first printed woodcut in the colony: 'The few buildings that made up Sydney Town in 1803 are silhouetted against the skyline; beside the cove a man ploughs a field; picks and spades in the foreground signify the transforming of the native earth; and a female figure is given a prominent position seated on some bales of produce. Together these elements were emblematic of the newspaper's motto….' (Roger Butler. Printed images in colonial Australia 1801-1901, p.91). The designer and cutter of the woodblock used for the masthead was possibly another convict, an Irish forger by the name of John Austin (Butler, ibid.).One of the original owners of these present newspapers appears to have been William Hibbard, a pardoned convict who had arrived in Sydney on the Royal Admiral in November 1800. Hibbard and Charlotte Williams are recorded as the parents of Mary Hibbard, born in Parramatta in 1804. Hibbard later married Williams in 1807 and they had five more children, all born in Parramatta. The other subscriber is one William Blake, probably the same William Blake (c.1775-1817) who had arrived at Port Jackson as a free man in April 1800 on board the Speedy, listed as a servant to Governor King. Blake later married Harriet Edwards at St. John's Church, Parramatta, on June 22 1807, and records show his occupation as shopkeeper in Sydney, at least between 1810 and his death in 1817.
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