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The Rogue Compositor at The Times in 1882

By Craig Pett
Craig Pett is based in Melbourne as Gale’s Research Collections Specialist in Australia. Craig promotes Gale’s Primary Source Collections to University and State Libraries in New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, and sells other Gale databases to public libraries and schools. Craig is also an independent researcher in his own right, with a specialty on Jonathan Swift and eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish affairs.

This is the true story of a compositor working at The Times in 1882 who deliberately and maliciously inserted a ribald comment when setting the type for the newspaper. Who would have thought such a scandal could happen at such a newspaper? The Times of London, which began in 1785 and the archive of which was the first digitised primary source collection produced by Gale, has always been an establishment newspaper and is still known today as Britain’s ‘newspaper of record’. Scholars and researchers use the digital archive for purposes of studying contemporaneous reports of historical events, being reports that are written from the newspaper’s traditionally conservative perspective ─ which is something that would only add to the shock when these scholars stumble across this incident from 1882.

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