Historical Background

George Faulkner, “the Prince of Dublin Printers” was one of the most successful and prolific printers in the capital city at the time.  Descriptions of Faulkner paint a colourful picture of a “leading Dublin bookseller and a bon vivant […] a useful cultural entrepreneur” (McDowell, ‘Irish Newspapers in the Eighteenth Century’). His nephew continued to publish The Dublin Journal after his death, securing for it a print run of almost a century (see Kennedy, ‘Politicks, Coffee and News’). Perhaps most well remembered as being Swift’s publisher, Faulkner published The Dublin Journal twice a week until his death in 1775. This frequency of publishing was the norm at the time; printers published issues “to coincide with the post to the country” (see Kennedy, ‘Dublin’s Coffee Houses’ and McDowell). Aside from the frequency of publication, The Dublin Journal conformed to many other standard practices – for example, it was four pages long, divided into three columns, with a heavy emphasis on advertisements as was common practice at the time.

The eighteenth century was a significant period in terms of the development of print advertising. According to Máire Kennedy, the eighteenth century was the “Golden Age of printing” (Kennedy, ‘Politicks, Coffee and News’). The first newspapers were published in Ireland the 1600s; a massive boom ensued in the following century, with at least 160 newspapers published in Dublin between 1700-1760 (see McDowell). This flourish in activity was confined to the capital, and content was not particularly “Irish”: “This remained, up to about 1760, a Dublin phenomenon; compared to their English equivalent, Irish provincial towns produced little in the way of periodicals. Nor did they carry a great deal of Irish news, tending to refer to ‘Ireland’ as if they were not being written and printed there” (Foster, ‘Modern Ireland 1600-1972’).

The advertisements in The Dublin Journal provide at least half of the content in each issue of The Dublin Journal. Revenue from advertisements was crucial to the survival of newspapers: “The main reason, it has to be pointed out, for the rapid growth of the Irish newspaper press was potential advertisement revenue. Advertisements indeed were doubly valuable. They were paid for and they attracted readers. The great problem was to secure sufficient advertisements to make the paper viable. An established paper carried a high proportion of advertisements, amounting to half or even on occasion, two-thirds of its space” (McDowell). This interpretation is echoed by Foster, who describes how “much of the great newspaper expansion of the age was, in fact, based on advertising rather than on a public appetite for ‘news’; it was the pamphlet literature that provided the real record of the day, and which linked oligarchic politics with a popular audience”(Foster). And according to Fleetwood: “Newspaper advertisements in the sense that we know them date from about the end of the 17th century” (Fleetwood, ‘Some Old Dublin Medical Advertisements’). The importance of advertisement revenue is alluded to in a particularly interesting notice placed in one of the issues of the Journal by Faulkner himself.

Naturally the content of advertisements in newspapers such as The Dublin Journal would have been driven by the audience: “The newspapers were of course for the middle and upper classes […] there are relatively few references to [C]atholics and [C]atholic affairs and almost none to the Irish language. The general picture conveyed is a protestant, English speaking community” (McDowell)(see also Foster).

 

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