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Two million online digitised pages of 19th century newspaper, take researchers back to the future

WG Grace, The Graphic, May 25, 1895

This is one of many JISC-funded projects which will open up valuable slices of history to new audiences using online channels. The British Library site means genealogists, academics and the public alike now have easy access to a realm of fascinating information - which is core to our ethos of backing innovative uses of technology.

Available for the first time at, The British Library, in partnership with JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and Gale, part of Cengage Learning, has today launched the public version of its 19th century British Library Newspaper website.

Bathing machines, children as young as nine smoking and drinking, Vesta Tilley - London's very own Pop Idol, the banking collapse of 1878 and zero percent income tax are just a few of the fascinating items researchers can now look at online.

For the first time ever, users regardless of their location will be able to explore over two million pages of newspaper from 49 national and regional UK titles at the click of a button. With enhanced search capabilities and new imaging techniques, serious and amateur researchers now have access to vivid newspaper reports previously only available via hard copy in Reading Rooms.

Chosen by leading experts and academics to present a cross section of 19th century society, the website offers its users highly illustrated materials on topics as diverse as business and sport, politics and entertainment. The collection focuses on national newspapers such as the Daily News, English regional papers, for example the Manchester Times, home country newspapers from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, weekly titles such as Penny Illustrated Paper and Graphic and specialist titles such that covered Victorian radicalism and Chartism such as Charter.

Users are now able to read first-hand factual reporting of the Battle of Trafalgar in the Examiner and the gory details of the Whitechapel murders in the melodramatic Illustrated Police News. Alternatively, researchers can access reports directly at their desktops on the first FA Cup final between Wanderers and Royal Engineers at the Kenington Oval in 1872 or the first England-Australia Test match in 1877. Some of the most famous authors of the 19th century are also represented, including Dickens and Thackeray.

Searches of the site are free and downloads of full-text articles are available by purchasing either a 24-hour or seven-day pass. Users can buy a 24-hour pass (up to 100 downloads) for £6.99 or a seven-day pass (up to 200 downloads) for £9.99. Access to The Graphic and The Penny Illustrated Paper is free.

Simon Bell, the British Library's Head of Product Development, said: "There's a huge appetite for wider online access to this kind of resource, which is already well-used by Readers at the British Library and by people in Higher and Further Education. The new pay-as-you-go service will enable users across the UK who don't wish to travel to our Reading Rooms in London or Yorkshire to delve into this unrivalled online resource."

Simon Fowler, Editor, Ancestors Magazine, said: "This new service really does open up a major new resource for family historians. Realistically for the first time it is possible to use newspapers to complement other records to build up a rounder portrait of our ancestors, with information that would not be possible to obtain elsewhere."

Alastair Dunning, Digitisation Programme Manager at JISC added: "This is one of many JISC-funded projects which will open up valuable slices of history to new audiences using online channels. The British Library site means genealogists, academics and the public alike now have easy access to a realm of fascinating information - which is core to our ethos of backing innovative uses of technology."    

Jim Draper, Vice President and Publisher at Gale said, "This service fulfills a vision of making these fascinating historical records available to the widest possible audience. Now researchers the world over - historians, genealogists, and the merely curious - can discover the nineteenth century in exciting new ways."

For further information, images, feature ideas, VNR or review access to the website please contact:

British Library Press Office:
Miki Lentin:
T: +44 (0)20 7412 7112

Jacob Lant:
T: +44 (0)20 7412 7105

Flagship Consulting (JISC):
Kiren Pooni:
T: +44 (0)20 7886 8442

Notes for Editors:
1.    The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The British Library's collections include 150 million items from every era of written human history beginning with Chinese oracle bones dating from 300 BC, right up to the latest e-journals. Further information and a full list of the newspapers titles and publications can be found at

2.    JISC - the Joint Information Systems Committee - is responsible for supporting the innovative use of information and communication technology (ICT) to support learning, teaching, and research. It is best known for providing the JANET network, a range of support, content and advisory services, and a portfolio of high-quality resources. Information about JISC, its services and programmes can be found at

3.    Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is a world leader in e-reference and educational publishing for libraries, schools and businesses. Gale's Digital Collections, which include Eighteenth Century Collections Online, The Times Digital Archive and The Making of the Modern World, have set the standards for large-scale, fully text-searchable archival databases. Gale provides a technical solution enabling colleges, universities, reference centres, government agencies, corporations and professionals to access this wealth of popular and professional reading materials online.

4.    Gale's digital archives now include almost 85 million pages of primary source material in over 10 languages, dating from 1450 to 2003. Gale's products are sold and supported worldwide.


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Miki Lentin
British Library
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British Library
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