More from Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, on how old media is often – for a while – enhanced by the new, rather than being replaced.
In England in the 1600s, newsletters were distributed about parliamentary and Royal news by mansucript subscription “news letters”. They literally began as letters, which were copied by teams of scribes and sent out – often to be shared in groups, read aloud or copied and passed on again.
Printed newsletters (called “Corantos“) were largely, at first, about foreign news – partly as a consequence of strict censorship laws. However, some bright sparks in the manuscript trade started included the printed foregin news – the first newspaper supplements, apparently:
But rather than competing, the two forms proved complementary. Corantos could be enclosed within manuscript news letters as they circulated, providing printed foreign news alongside the handwritten domestic sort. Letters from this period contain abundant references to printed material [...] entire transcribed copies of them and, on several occasions, the printed corantos themselves. Coratnos were printed versions of what were originally manuscript documents, and the information they contained was in turn recycled into manuscript news networks.
There have always been news networks – and there have always been social networks bound up in them.
Image credit: (cc) Wikipedia