The Twitter of 1860

London, Reading & Writing

As if I don’t have enough to read, with reviews and award-hopeful books to plough through by the caseful, the British Library (which is right on my doorstep) is making available more than 4 million pages, drawn mainly from 19th-century regional newspapers, which were previously kept in decent obscurity at the library’s newspaper archive in Colindale.

Now they’ll be available for anyone to browse for free, just by visiting the library in King’s Cross.

What’s striking is how much the vitriolic, mean-tempered spirit of much early press writing sounds like tweets. While Facebook has turned into an infinite scrapbook of relentless niceness, all LOL and WOWs, Twitter retains the sharp spirit of precision insults, probably because the 140 character limit imposes concision and discipline.

We still have two local newspapers, both well-written and packed with information, but they’re really for those people who don’t go online. Virtually every apartment building has its own news site, and my area, King’s Cross, has a large site linked to local law enforcement and planning officers which allows for fast interactive response. If a crime is committed, you can speak to someone in an instant – local papers can’t compete.

So perhaps the British Library’s collection is now finite.

One comment on “The Twitter of 1860”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Did we need another reason to visit the British Library? It’s such a marvellous place.

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