Huntington Library Quarterly, 67 (1), (2004)
THAT THE 1640S SAWTHE EMERGENCE of mass popular print culture is now widely acknowledged. The explosion in the market for printed opinion and news- reflecting both an unprecedented interest in politics and disarray in the control over the print industry-ensured that cheap print was profitable. With money to be made and little effective authority to police the presses, however, the situation was also ripe for fakes and forgeries. If the period saw the emergence of something resembling a “public sphere,” then the free market in pamphleteering and propaganda was bedeviled by those interested in literary hijacking. And although Civil War newsbooks have long fascinated scholars,’ the phenomenon of counterfeit journals is more often recognized by bibliographers than studied by historians. One of the most important of these newsbooks was the royalist paper Mercurius Pragmaticus (1647-50), as may be measured by the energetic opposition it inspired: one contemporary decried it as “the court jester, the cavalier’s fool, the chief squib-crack, arch pamphlet puppy,” and it even spawned a short-lived title on the Parliamentary side.