7 December 2015
ZENGER, John Peter (1697-1746). The New-York Weekly Journal, 21 April 1735. 4 pages, 4to (11 1/8 x 7in.). Printed in two-column format.
A fine issue of Zenger’s historic newspaper printed while he languished in prison on the charge of seditious libel. After the Journal was found guilty of seditious libel, several of its issues from December 1733 and September 1734 were all too ceremoniously burnt by the city magistrates, and an arrest warrant sworn out against Zenger. He could not make bail and spent more than eight months in prison, but bravely continued to publish. Here Zenger gives his front-page over to a denunciation of gambling, but page three bears a letter from “Israel Whimsey” that is prefaced with: “As some people who read your papers turn everything that is there said to reflections upon the Governor and his Friends, I hope they won’t do so with the following…” A clear invitation to do exactly that! The piece is evidently by Zenger himself, offering a lightly veiled satire upon his imprisonment: “My garrets, or rather Cocklofts are indeed very indifferently furnished…however I make shift to rub on in my little Way, and when rent day comes I must see and discharge as well as I can. Whensoever I am turned out …depends upon a low spirited creeping Family, remarkable for nothing but being instrumental in advancing the reputation of the great Moor in Abchurch Lane…” When his cause finally came to trial Zenger won acquittal and struck a blow for freedom of the press.
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