When the research team began to look at the resource to create what we called ‘snapshots’ of each of the six titles, we quickly discovered the extent to which multiple editions had been bound in with the regular issues of the Northern Star and the Leader. Although certainly not complete (the inclusion of multiple editions varied over the run), we had on average 2.8 issues per week of the Northern Star and 1.8 issues per week of the Leader. This represented a large increase in the content of the edition, and it had consequences for the amount of detailed work we would be able to do. Items of variations among editions may include, for example, closing (financial) prices; breaking news; locally adjusted news; locally-based advertisements; and a Stop Press column, which updates the contents that was set first. Although most of the multiple editions contained limited material that was unique to that particular edition, we felt that the marginal condition of multiple editions – they were not only excluded from the bound volumes of serials that survive, but they are often excluded from digital editions created today – meant that we should attempt to preserve them. Multiple editions provide more than ‘extra’ content, crowded or left out of the edition that has been bound; they provide glimpses of how the news is disseminated across space and time. As such – and in line with our editorial policy (to read more about this, click here) – we wanted to preserve these multiple editions for what they revealed about the role of serials in nineteenth-century print culture. In other nineteenth-century titles that publish multiple editions , the amount of variation may be far greater than in the examples in ncse. However, to exclude the multiple editions from our runs of the Leader and Northern Star would be to misrepresent the way in which they were produced.

Multiple editions force us to confront several circumstances of serial publication. The first is that the date and number information printed on the front of an issue does not necessarily mark that issue as the only version of it. The presence of more than one published version of a particular issue prevents us doing as the information in the masthead suggests and treating it as one manifestation of a longer linear sequence. Rather, we have to allow some serial texts to produce a range of issues, produced at different moments (and often for particular readers), that are all associated with the date and issue number printed on them. For instance, although the Northern Star is a Saturday weekly, the actual issue might have been published on a Thursday evening, Friday morning or Saturday morning or afternoon depending on which edition it was. Equally although issues of the Leader are dated as being published on Saturdays, as the town edition was, the country editions were published the day before, on Fridays. Although the period of both journals is the week, this only applies if you consistently read the same edition, as some of the copy is common to both editions and relates to the week immediately past, while the copy that varies relates to the previous seven days (the town edition) or the week before that, beginning 14 days ago (the country edition).

The reason multiple editions existed was to accommodate the time it took to distribute printed matter to readers around the country. The practice of issuing town and country editions was fairly common in the daily and weekly press. Usually the first edition was intended for the widest distribution, with subsequent editions providing more up-to-date news for local consumption. The notion of timeliness thus depends on where a paper is bought and where it was issued from. The Northern Star’s third edition was more up-to-date than its first, but was only available in and around Leeds; however, the readers of the Leader’s ‘town’ edition – intended for London – had access to more current information than those who received its ‘country’ edition. Although different editions contained items with differing levels of relevancy, they were designed to be consumed more or less simultaneously: readers of the Northern Star in Scotland read Wednesday and Thursday’s news on Saturday, whereas readers in Leeds read Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s news. This is complicated further by the widespread practice of reprinting the news from other printed sources. This introduced a further variable into the temporalities that governed production. Whereas London papers such as the Leader were well-positioned to include the latest news from Parliament or the markets, regional papers had to wait for London news to reach them. For the editors of the Northern Star, this meant waiting for the first editions of the Saturday papers to reach Leeds on Friday, and then rushing them into print to make the final edition late on Saturday.

Multiple editions – like other forms of paratextual content – resist the neat ordering to which we often subject serials. Rather than, for instance, there being one issue per week there might actually be two or, in the case of the Northern Star, five. This means that, even if a periodical is paginated continuously throughout a volume, there might actually be a number of versions of the same page. This creates editorial problems: if one is to exclude the multiple editions, which is to represent the issue? If they are to be included, in what order should they be displayed? However, many of these editorial problems arise because of the attempt to fit serials into the linear model of the codex. This is why, for instance, multiple editions are often excluded from the bound volumes of periodicals that survive. In a digital edition there is no need to replicate such a practice: the non-linear nature of digital resources makes them ideal for representing the complex publication patterns of nineteenth-century serials.

Multiple editions in ncse

The decision to include multiple editions meant an edition of 67,000pp became an edition of almost 100,000 pp. This increase in pagination affected most other stages in the production of the edition: for instance, you can read about one of the plans we considered to manage this here.

Once we had made the decision to include multiples we had to consider carefully how we would represent them. The editions clearly interpose themselves at issue level in our structural hierarchy:

Edition > title > volume > issue > department > item

One option that we considered was to have a folder for multiple editions in the volume folder of the folder tree:

Volume 4

  • edition 1
  • edition 2
  • edition 3

However, we felt that this would restrict comparison between editions and would unnecessarily separate editions from the issue to which they were associated. Also, because there is often not a complete run of a single edition, we could not present an unbroken run of issues to users.

A better solution was to provide access to the multiples from within an issue itself. By nominating one edition as the ‘main’ edition while also marking all editions (including the ‘main’ edition) with metadata labelling it as a multiple edition, we could gesture towards the linearity posited by the issue numbers while also allowing users to access the other editions. The main difficulty in doing this lay in identifying which issue was which and then deciding which edition should act as the main edition. Further information on these decisions is below. However, this strategy was further complicated by the way the Olive system discriminates between content by date. The Olive system understands the content as a series of single issues with the same title but different dates. This caused us problems elsewhere in our delineation of content (click here to read more about this): for the multiples, which are in effect two separate issues with the same title and same date, it was extremely problematic. Our solution was to make each edition of a particular title a separate publication as far as the system was concerned. So our Northern Star actually consists of nine separate publications, each containing a single edition of the title.

It is these separate publications that populate the ‘search title(s)’ box of the advanced search. The options that appear within the box are drawn from the folders that structure ncse from ‘behind the scenes’. Although perhaps not very elegant, this does allow users the option to search a particular edition, or any combination of editions, from across the edition. This functionality is in addition to the standard metadata search of the multiple editions available on the right-hand side of the advanced search. As much of the content for a particular issue is repeated between editions, searches within the Northern Star and the Leader are likely to return items that appear to be identical. By labelling all items with metadata that identifies the edition that they are from, it was possible to provide an option in the advanced search that allows users to select which edition they want to search from.

Northern Star multiple editions

We have up to nine editions for some issues of the Northern Star. However, it is very difficult to know whether these are actual multiple editions, or simply copies of an edition that have been bound into the volume. Sometimes the editor of the Northern Star would indicate items inserted into a later edition with a header such as ‘Second Edition’, but we have no way other than by comparison to establish whether this practice was consistent and exhaustive. Knowing the pressures under which the title was produced all week, as well as the existence of items labelled ‘Second Edition’ and ‘Third Edition’ in the same number (see for instance the issue for 12 September 1840 here), we did not feel that we could use these items to either establish which edition it was that we were dealing with, nor the number of editions that were issued in a particular week. We also could not rely on the archival practices of the British Library at the point of collecting and binding, in the nineteenth century. Although some of the issues in the BL run are hand-marked ‘first’, ‘second’ or ‘third edition’, we lack textual evidence to support this allocation. Also, we know that many issues are missing: we only have a single issue for much of 1840, yet this consists of issues that contain items headed with ‘Second’ or ‘Third Edition.’

The uncertainty as to which edition is which in the Northern Star limited the extent to which we could label them. As such, we made an editorial decision to keep them in the order in which they appeared within the BL run unless we had textual evidence to support moving them. The Northern Star editions are consequently labelled 1-9, but these labels might not correspond to the actual order in which they were published.

The actual publication history of the editions of the Northern Star is also difficult to establish. In 1840 the editor, William Hill, published some ‘Brief Rules for the Government of all who Write in for the Paper’ that stated that half of the paper was printed on Wednesday, the other half on Thursday for the publication of the first edition. Items for inclusion that arrive in the Friday morning post will make the second edition published on Saturday. Spreading publication over almost four days allowed the Northern Star to respond to events in a much more timely fashion than if it had only one edition. For instance, often the paper went to press as events were breaking so the editor promised to give further details in a subsequent edition. This implies that readers in one geographic area might buy (or endeavour to borrow) more up-to-date editions of the Northern Star as the week progressed. Also, in 1840 the third editions of the paper, intended for delivery late on Saturday in Leeds and the surrounding region, contained news from London. In the Northern Star for 8 October 1842 the paper reports on the sensational arrest of its editor and proprietor (here). This had occurred the previous week but the first and most of the second edition had already gone to press. Joshua Hobson, who was standing in for Hill, writes that the ‘press was stepped several times during the course of Friday’, and new matter inserted as it was obtained. However, as this ‘can only have been seen by a few, comparatively, of the readers’ he opts to print all the reports again. The editions the previous week, then, give news as it breaks, distributing the story in different forms of completeness to the Northern Star’s distributed readers. However, to ensure that everyone gets the same version of the news from the Northern Star, it is printed once again the following week, bringing all readers up-to-date.

In 1844 the Northern Star moved to London, reconfiguring the way it was distributed. In the issue for 30 November 1844 – the same issue that announces a soirée to welcome the paper to the metropolis – there is a note that states the first edition arrives in the country on Saturday morning, with a later edition that will arrive on Sunday. They also publish a late third edition for London on Sunday. Considering the Northern Star’s origins as a Northern paper for the working classes, with different editions for specific geographical areas, this prioritization of London time is significant. Rather than seek to represent the combined interests of workers in the manufacturing districts, this new distribution system privileges both London news and London readers. Although readers outside London could ask to receive later editions in order to get the most complete edition of the paper, this would mean receiving news from outside London – perhaps even their own news – later than those who opted to receive the early editions. This means that London readers would be reading the second edition while country readers were reading the first edition produced the day before. They would also have privileged access to the most recent third edition on the Sunday, possibly containing news for which country readers of the Northern Star would have to wait until the following week.

By 1851 the circulation of the Northern Star was flagging. In an effort to gain readers its editor, George Fleming, proposed altering its distribution in order ‘to place the Star on an equality with the other metropolitan journals published on the same day, as regards the lateness and variety of its news’. Specifically, this meant abolishing the Scottish edition and delaying the first edition until Friday evening. The extension of the railways would make it possible for Scottish readers to get this edition with other readers from outside of London, bringing them within a day of London news. This edition would be complemented by a Saturday edition for London and the Home Counties. Unlike the change in publishing patterns in 1844 there is no list of deadlines by which regional correspondents must send in copy; instead Fleming proposes keeping correspondence short during the Parliamentary session in order to concentrate on its proceedings. By 1851 then, the Northern Star explicitly associates itself with the London weekly press: in fact, from this point on, it publishes a ‘town’ and ‘country’ edition the same as the Leader.

Leader multiple editions

The first issue of the Leader in the British Library run that we know had more than one edition is the fourth, dated 20 April 1850. There is a note in this edition above the ‘Postscript’ – a department between ‘News of the Week’ and the leading article in which the latest news was inserted – that states that it first appeared in the second edition of the previous week. The Leader published two editions: the first was for the country, and contained the ‘Postscript’ from the previous week; and the second was for the town, and contained a new ‘Postscript’ with the latest news. There is no note in the second (town) editions, only the country: as there is no note in the first three issues of the Leader in our run, they are either town editions, or the only edition published. From the eighth issue, dated 18 May 1850, the edition is marked on the bottom of the first page.

In publishing two editions a week the Leader was following a well-established trend among London weeklies. The railways made it possible to publish an edition on a Friday and distribute it around the country for reading on Saturday. This edition was then complemented by an edition published on Saturday with a smaller locus of distribution: usually London and the surrounding area. This pattern posits two types of readership: the metropolitan, who has news that is current up to the day before, and the country reader, who is a day behind in news, and a week in Postscript and prices. The designation ‘country’ does not discriminate between the rural areas and the other cities in Britain; instead, they are all simply not London.

The Leader published its country edition from two o’clock on Friday afternoon and its town edition from half past one on the following Saturday. This extra day allowed the insertion of the previous afternoon’s news, usually in the ‘Postscript’ department. This late news was of limited use to those readers who took the country edition and so received it with the following week’s news. By 6 December 1851 a note‘To Readers and Correspondents’ appears in which subscribers are asked ‘which edition they wish to receive’, given the later publication date of the town edition; country readers have to choose whether they receive the Leader late, on Mondays, with its up to date news and prices, or read it ‘on time’ on Saturdays, with last week’s updates and prices. On 29 January 1853 the editors recognize that some country readers have objected to the lateness of this news, and announce that they will only publish one edition from then on. However, a comparison between the two editions in ncse reveals that the ‘Postscripts’ still vary between editions, sometimes appearing in both, but sometimes only appearing in one. Rather than distribute identical copy to readers in London and readers elsewhere, the editors of the Leader are often prompted to insert a ‘Postscript’ but do not reproduce this content for the country readers in the following edition. Readers receiving the country edition, therefore, would never know if they were getting all of the news.

This practice continues intermittently until issue number 247, dated 16 December 1854. From this point on the ‘Postscript’ appears in both editions that we have, suggesting that identical copy was being distributed across the country. However, as these issues are not marked with an edition, we have no way of determining if they are two editions, or simply copies.