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The Dutch Mail, 1792
Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) founded the Leicester Herald in 1792. One day, while preparing the paper for print, he is said to have perpetrated a hoax that became legendary among journalists. The story, told in Phillips' own words, was first reported almost one hundred years after the fact in the journal Notes and Queries:
One evening, before one of our publications, my men and a boy overturned two or three columns of the paper in type. We had to get ready in some way for the coaches, which, at four o'clock in the morning, required four or five hundred papers. After every exertion we were short nearly a column; but there stood on the galleys a tempting column of pie. It suddenly stuck me that this might be thought Dutch. I made up the column, overcame the scruples of the foreman, and so away the country edition went with its philological puzzle, to worry the honest agricultural reader's head. There was plenty of time to set up a column of plain English for the local edition.

A postscript adds that Sir Richard claimed he later met a man from Nottingham who had kept the "Dutch Mail" edition of the Leicester Herald for thirty-four years, hoping to one day get it translated.


An eighteenth-century print shop

The tale is probably an urban legend. There is no surviving copy of the "Dutch Mail" edition of the Leicester Herald. The Notes and Queries article also observes that similar tales were told of other newspapers.

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.