First Czech newspaper recalled on 300th anniversary of launch

Pražské poštovské noviny, photo: Czech Television

Monday marks exactly 300 years since the publication of the first ever Czech-language newspaper, Pražské poštovské noviny, or The Prague Postal Newspaper. Its publisher, a Czech patriot, regarded the paper as a way to promote the use of the language under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Pražské poštovské noviny,  photo: Czech Television
Karel František Rosenmüller was granted the privilege to publish the first ever Czech-written newspaper by the Czech Court Office in Vienna. Its first issue came out on 4 February, 1719 in a run of around 500 to 1,000 copies.

It also contained a 12-page supplement providing a basic grounding in Czech and foreign politics.

The paper adopted most of its content from German-language papers. It brought news about the ongoing wars and events at the imperial court in Vienna, as well as sensational news, says Jan Kramář from Prague’s Postal Museum.

“The preparation and printing of the paper was in private hands. It was published by private book printers, who had a time-restricted privilege granted by the ruler.

“Theoretically, the content of the paper was in their hands. However, the publishers were subject to censorship and state supervision, so they definitely couldn’t print whatever they wanted. On the contrary.”

The Prague Postal Newspaper was first issued just once a week, and later twice a week, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays, depending on the days postal coaches arrived in Prague with a fresh shipment of news. Mr Kramář again:

“Before the arrival of postal coaches, people would gather in front of postal stations, awaiting the news, both spoken and printed. The monopoly for the distribution of the newspapers was owned by the postal services.”

Václav Matěj Kramerius
After the death of first publisher Rosenmüller, the Prague Postal Newspaper continued to come out under different names. However, its quality had steadily declined and in 1772, with only four subscribers remaining, it came out for the last time.

The newspaper was renewed 10 years later under the title Schönfeld’s Imperial and Royal Prague Post newspapers, with the post of the editor given to journalist and writer Václav Matěj Kramerius, one of the most important figures of the Czech National Revival.

Kramerius broadened the paper’s scope, covering all sorts of political topics, such as the Russo-Turkish war, as well as the latest industrial and agricultural advancements. Under his editorship, the newspaper gained enormous popularity and by the time Kramerius left in 1789 to establish his own paper, it had around 900 subscribers.

As a result of his commercial success, Kramerius was later able to establish his own printing shop and a publishing house that issued most of the Czech books of his time. Several copies of the original Prague Postal Newspaper can be seen today in the permanent display of Prague’s Postal Museum, located on the embankment of the Vltava River in the centre of the city.