[From Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]
The first printer in the Isle of Man of whom there is any published record was W. Sheperd, and his printing office was in Ramsey. This was in the year 1767. Many books and pamphlets relating to the Island were issued before that date, but they were all printed in London, Liverpool, Dublin, Edinburgh, and elsewhere. Sheperd appears to have been a Whitehaven man, and was engaged to print the first edition of the "Epistles and Revelation" in the Manx language, for the S.P.C.K. This, in fact, was the only portion of the Manx Scriptures printed in the Island, the first volume of the same edition of the New Testament having been printed in London. In 1769 Sheperd also printed a small edition of the Book of Common Prayer, and one or two other books of less importance.
Sheperd was followed in or about the year 1783 by Joseph Briscoe, who printed, in Douglas, a collection of 18 Acts of Tynwald passed between the years 1776 and 1777. This is stated to have been the first attempt to print these Acts, and rules were given to find the meaning of them! The need of a key to the Manx acts of those days was evidently felt. Would that some of those enacted in England today were similarly provided for! Joseph Briscoe had also the credit of printing the first known Manx novel, entitled " Literary Lovers." This book is mentioned by Feltham in his "Tour of the Isle of Man," 1798, in a list of Manx books given by him, but the writer has never met with a copy.
After Joseph came Christopher Briscoe, who styled his premises "The Printing Office in Douglas," from which it may be inferred that his was the only one in existence there at that time. He was the publisher of the first Manx newspaper, viz., " The Manks Mercury and Briscoe's Douglas Advertiser." No. 1 was published on the 27th November, 1792 its price, 2d, British. In those days the value of the Manx penny was different from that of the English; there were 14 to the shilling. Hence the " Copper Riots," as they were called, which took place when the copper coinage of the Island was assimilated to that of England in the year 1840. "The Manks Mercury " lasted 15 years, and was followed by " The Manks Advertiser."
C. Briscoe also printed, in 1792, the second earliest Manx novel, entitled " The Manks Monastery, or Loves of Belville and Julia." The author of this scarce little book was Capt. Thomas Ashe, who is referred to again in the present sketch. It is an extraordinary production, in which illicit love is pourtrayed in undisguised realism. The same printer produced a book of hymns in Manx, dated 1795, as well as the Manx translation (by the Rev T. Christian, Vicar of Marown) of a portion of Milton's " Paradise Lost " in the year following. Both of these books were badly printed and full of errors, so much so that the orthography of the latter had to be entirely altered in the reprint of the work by the Manx Society in 1872. C. Briscoe also printed one of John Stowell's political skits, viz., " The Literary Quixote," a satire on Townley's "Journal kept in the Isle of Man," which had then recently appeared (1791). J. Stowell was a schoolmaster of Peel, and the author of several other clever poems of a satirical nature.
C. Briscoe was followed by Thos. Whittam, the printer of another edition of the Manx Hymn Book, dated 1799, and of the first " Manks Almanack, that is, for the year 1802.
After Whittam came George Jefferson, who started "The Manks Advertiser" on August 8th, 1801. This, the second of the Manx newspapers, lasted until 1845. For some years Jefferson seems to have done nearly all the printing in the Island. His chief book was
" Lex Scripta of 1819." George Woods, the author of the "Account of the Isle of Man,"
1811, probably alluded to Jefferson when he wrote: "There is only one person there (Douglas) or, I believe, in any part of the country who sells books, and he is by trade a bookbinder, and only two who sell stationery. I tried in vain to buy a sheet of blotting paper." Bullock, writing a little later, states
"There is only one printing press in the Island, from whence a newspaper issues weekly, but. it is the vehicle mainly for advertisements." She adds, however: " Since writing this another has been established."
In 1812 the names of John Beatson and Co. appeared as the printers of a Report of the Transactions of the Douglas Library, by Kermode Stowell. This was an exposé of the treatment by the committee of a Dr Ward, of Dublin, who, in return for the gift of a number of valuable books to the library, was enrolled an honorary member. During a short sojourn in Douglas a year or two afterwards the Doctor attempted to exercise the privilege of membership, whereupon the committee passed a resolution "that no honorary member" there were only two " could have access to the rooms without paying the annual subscription." The Doctor's name was removed from the register! What a contrast this to the methods of the present day! About this time, John Beatson, who was brother-in-law to James Harrop, of the " Manchester Mercury," took a partner named Copeland. They published, in 1813, " The tale of Man Weekly Gazette and General Advertiser," which was followed, in 1815, by a new series issued by M. A. Mills. Beatson and Copeland were also the printers, in 1814, of " Crossman s Catechism," translated into Manx by the Rev J. Clague, Vicar of Rushen. They also compiled a "New Manx Diary and Almanack" for the same year, in continuation of Whittam's, previously mentioned. This almanack passed successively into the hands of M. A. Mills, T. Davies, both of the Phoenix Press (Parade); John Sumner, "True Manxman" Office (Parade) ; J. Penrice, "Rising Sun" Office (North-quay); becoming Jefferson's (Duke-street) in 1825, by which name it is still known. "The True Manxman," just named, was started by Sumner in 1823. It only lasted one year, as did another of his ventures, viz., " The Manks Patriot," begun in 1824.
In or about 1833, J. Quiggin (North-quay) commenced publishing a rival " Isle of Man Almanack and Tide Table " on similar lines to Jefferson's, and about the same time there appeared another rival, "The Mona Diary or Manx Almanack," published by Walls and Fargher, of " Mona's Herald" Office, top of Post Office-lane. A Manx Almanack was published in 1844 by W. Cannell, of Duke-street, and another in 1848 by G. J. Cudd, of 8, Thomas-street. In 1851 "Jefferson's Almanack" became the property of Robt. Fargher, whose son, Mr J. C. Fargher, afterwards acquired Quiggin's, and ran them concurrently. "Jefferson's," this year (1903) is 101 years old, and now belongs to the grandson. To return to the year 1821. In that year a fortnightly journal in 8vo., known as "The Douglas Reflector," was started by G. Jefferson. No. 1 appeared on the 10th February, its price, 5d, British. The same year another newspaper, " The Rising Sun or Mona's Herald," was published and edited by Capt. Colquitt. Three years later the price was reduced from 3d to 2d and its title altered to "The Manx Sun." It afterwards passed into the hands of Grellier and Johnson (North-quay), and later became the property of P. Curphey. It is, of course, still shining in the Manx firmament. Both titles were, however, destined to survive, although not in combination. P. Curphey and his widow after him were the printers "by authority" of the Acts of Tynwald of those days.
Pigott's first Isle of Man Directory (for 1824) gives the names of three newspapers current in Douglas in that year, viz., " The Manks Advertiser" (Jefferson), "Manks Patriot" (R. Curwin), and " The Manks Rising Sun " (North-quay). The printer of the last named was J. Penrice. He was also the publisher of " The Manx Sketch Book," which was the first collection of views of the Island scenery. The views were lithographed from original drawings for the most part executed by Lady Sarah Murray. This book is an oblong 8vo. and contains 12 views with descriptive letterpress. It is now very scarce. The same printer was responsible for " The Pier and Bay of Douglas," a small book of poems. Both of these books were from the pen of Capt. Thomas Ashe, already mentioned, who has been described as a sort of literary " Jack of all trades He died in poverty about 1820. Penrice, in March, 1825, issued No. 1 of " The Isle of Man Literary Journal," price 4d. It consisted of 16 pages 8vo., and was published weekly. Its life seems to have been of short duration. Penrice was afterwards joined in partnership by J. R. Wallace, and in 1836 they started the " Manx Liberal," which was printed at their office on the North-quay, which premises were until lately used as the Douglas Bethel. Wallace was an antiquary as well as a printer, and formed a collection of Manx curiosities at his house in Great Nelson-street, opposite the Bank in Douglas. These he afterwards removed to Distington, in Cumberland, whither he went to reside. He died at a ripe old age, possessed of an extensive museum, which was disposed of about seven years ago by auction. The Manx relics, which included two portions of runic stones, were secured by the Manx Government for the Island. Penrice is reported to have died in poverty in the same county as that in which his quondam partner had made his adopted home. From the year 1836 onwards a large number of non-local journals were printed in Douglas to escape the heavy duties on paper, newspapers, and advertisements which were current in England. Amongst them were "The National Reformer," "The Vegetarian Advocate," " Oddfellows' Chronicle," and " The Truth Seeker." The duties were 3d per lb. on paper, 4d on each newspaper, and 3s 6d on each advertisement ! In the Isle of Man these duties did not exist, and the Island enjoyed the further unique privilege that insular printed newspapers were postage free to all parts of the United Kingdom.
In June, 1833, William Walls, printer and publisher, of New Bond-street lane (opposite the Coach and Horses), issued a notice of publication of a constitutional free paper to be called "Mona's Herald," price 3d, British. The prospectus states that "with regard to politics, the proprietor plainly declares that he is liberal and that he will not confine himself to any party."
The first number appeared on August 3rd, and was published by Walls and Fargher (who for a few years were in partnership), at their office in Wellington Buildings, at the back of the Theatre Royal. " Mona's Herald " is therefore 70 years old, being the second oldest of the existing Manx newspapers. In 1836 R. Fargher published the "Temperance Guardian," which, after five years, was merged in the "Temperance Advocate," a journal edited by the popular Dr F. R. Lees. R. Fargher was the most striking figure who had up to that time appeared in connection with the Manx Press. He was associated with all the various movements of the day which had for their object the amelioration of the lives of his fellow countrymen, whether in the domain of politics, reform, nonconformity, or temperance. A full account of him is given in "Reminiscences of Douglas Notables," by J. Cowin, recently published.
In 1837, according to Pigott's Directory of that year, there were four printing offices in Douglas corresponding with the same number of newspapers, viz., Jefferson ("Advertiser"), Penrice and Wallace ("Liberal"), Quiggin (" Sun "), and Walls and Fargher (" Herald "). In 1846 the number of printers, according to Slater's Directory for that year, had increased to seven, the newcomers being R. H. Johnson, of 2, Great Nelson street; J. Mylrea, 21, Duke-street; and W. Robinson, 66, Athol-street. Besides these there were two publishers, viz., G. J. Cudd, of the "Manx Guardian," and W. Shirreff, of the "Oddfellows' Chronicle." The principal books issued at this time appear to have been printed by J. Quiggin. He printed Cregeen's Manx Dictionary in 1838 (although it bears date 1835). This is the best Manx dictionary extant, and is still in demand. Quiggin's widow was the printer of another well-known work, viz., Train's "History of the Isle of Man," in 1845, and of a Manx Hymn Book the year following. This was one of the last books printed in the Manx language for the use of the Manx-speaking public. The other was " Family Prayers,- by Bishop Wilson.
Between 1840 and 1850 there were nearly a dozen printing offices in the Island, including one in Ramsey and one in Ballasalla. The Ramsey printer (R. Busteed) started a small penny paper called the " Manx Press," in 1846, at his office in Dale-street. It was printed thrice monthly. The Ballasalla press was known as the " Millenial Office, Isle of Man, otherwise Woman," whence numerous pamphlets and broadsides made their appearance in furtherance of the peculiar doctrines of an enthusiast named Mary Turnbull, a shaker. In this decade (1842) W. Walls started "The Manxman," but like many of its predecessors and its recent namesake its life was of short duration, lasting only 11 months.
Another newspaper, called "The Manx Cat," appeared in August, 1847. It was edited by A. Ormond, and printed by M. A. Quiggin at 52, North-quay. The first number gives an amusing skit on Queen Victoria's visit to the Island, which took place on Monday, August 16th, 1847, just 55 years prior to that of his present Majesty. It will be remembered that Queen Victoria did not land, but was content to anchor in Ramsey Bay. The skit was at the expense of the Manx authorities, who were "caught napping" on the occasion. Even the Governor arrived too late to see the Royal visitors "
Demetrius Murray succeeded Ormond as editor of " The Manx Cat," the life of which was only about three years. In the same year (1847) appeared " The Ramsey Times," which was printed by F. Leech at his office in Church-street. It also gave an account in its first number (25th September) of the Royal visit, but in more serious vein.
The next newspaper was one that came to stay, viz., " The Isle of Man Times." It was started in 1846 by Shirreff and Russell. In 1861 Mr James Brown, who was conducting " Brown's Advertising Circular," merged the same in "The Isle of Man Times," the early numbers of which consisted only of four pages of six columns each. This newspaper, with " Mona's Herald," in 1864, took up a strong position against the then, self-elected House of Keys on account of its attitude towards the popularly-elected Town Commissioners of Douglas. Both editors were ordered to attend before the House. Mr Fargher apologised, but Mr Brown refused to do so, and was incarcerated. On his release a few weeks afterwards he was awarded substantial damages. The paper is too well known to require any further description, as also is its offshoot the "Daily Times," which commenced its career in 1897.
The foregoing account is not intended to include any printer or newspaper of later date than the year 1850. The Isle of Man has since then had its " Standard," " Telegraph," " Star," and even its " Punch," but they have all disappeared. Ramsey, however, still boasts its " Weekly News " and " Courier," and Peel its " City Guardian."
But any list would be unpardonably deficient if mention special mention were not made of " The Isle of Man Examiner." Although established so recently as the year 1880, it has become a real power in the Island, and now claims the "largest circulation." Its recent efforts to revive the Manx language have marked a new departure in the journalism of the Island and have, made it famous far beyond its original limits.
G. W. W.