The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Volume 1 Number 1′.

Folio, four issues neatly bound together includes Numbers 2, 5 & 7. With related a.l.s. from Michael Massey Robinson.

SKU SF000720 Category


The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. First newspaper printed in Australia and one of the earliest pieces of printing in the colony; an extraordinary survival outside of the few institutional holdings of the early issues of the first newspaper. It seems that issues from the first year of publication are held only in the State Library of New South Wales in Australia, and otherwise in the British Library and the Public Record Office, London. The two sets in the National library begin in 1804. The present set contains the first two and two later numbers, altogether four of the first seven issues of this ephemeral publication.

Their survival may be explained by the letter bound in with them. Written by Michael Massey Robinson, well known as Macquarie’s poet laureate and the composer of the ‘Odes’ which were to appear first in various issues of the Gazette, it is dated from Sydney 1st May 1803. It is a good letter in general, with much on conditions in the colony. Although he is none too happy with Governor King, living conditions are improving all the time: “We are good Livers here, usually keeping the Bottle in brisk circulation to a late Hour and almost to any hour We have Plenty and promising Prospects of its Continuance…”. Most importantly, Robinson has chosen to send his correspondent these four issues of the first newspaper with the note that, “I enclose you herewith a Specimen of our Colonial Literature and will barely suggest that I have no kind of concern in the Conduct of it otherwise than occasionally sending the man who prints it my advice on certain occasions it is literally a Government Paper, for not a Line is suffered to be printed, till the Gov. has given his sanction to it and a man may be a good Governor, but wholly incapable of the Province of an Editor”.

George Howe, Australia’s first printer, sometimes referred to as Sydney’s Caxton, had been appointed Government printer at the beginning of 1802; publication of the ‘Sydney Gazette’ was authorised by Governor King, but although officially sanctioned, it was published by Howe at his own risk and expense. The first number appeared on the 5th March 1803; publication was weekly, and contributions were received in two boxes, in Sydney and Parramatta. The expenses of the Gazette were met by the receipts from advertisements and by the sale at 6d. per copy.

Howe was editor, under the censorship of the secretary to the governor, who examined all proofs. He met with many difficulties in the production. He had to make his own ink and was frequently troubled with the shortage of paper (Historical Records of Australia, IV, pp. 662-3). Some sixteen years later, in his Christmas issue of 1819, Howe reminisced about the early history of his newspaper “he bought the paper at a very dear price, he distributed his type, he invented and obtained new matter, without any auxiliary assistance; he worked the paper off at press; and he afterwards carried it out, that is to say, delivered it to Sydney subscribers. His subscribers at one period were under 350…”. The importance of the Sydney Gazette as a source of Australian history cannot be overstated.

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Michael Massey Robinson


Ink, Paper