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Renaissance News “The World is Governed by Opinion”

January 24, 2009


1 of 8

The Earliest Editions

Edward Rothstein writes:  

The good lady Opinion sits perched in a tree, wearing the weighty towers of the town as her hat, which blinds her eyes. On one of her hands a chameleon sits, changing its spots, doubtless, to accommodate the surroundings. Held in her other hand is a wand used to shake the tree’s branches, from which leaves fall: leaves of books and papers, which offer not knowledge but libel and foolishness. 

Such was the cynical vision of the news business put forward by Henry Peacham in 1641 London. More than 360 years later, Lady Opinion is on display, along with more reverential examples of news and opinion, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, in the exhibition “Breaking News: Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper,” through Jan. 31.


5 of 8

The Earliest Editions

A 1644 printing of John Milton’s “Areopagitica,” a protest of censorship.The debates of this era were so intense and so much a part of public consciousness that news publications became instruments in the political battles between the monarchists and parliamentarians. Newspapers were counterfeited, imitated, mocked and attacked.

Photo: Andrew Councill for The New York Times

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