The Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette Newspaper Collection

The Mercury Gazette was printed in Bridgetown, Barbados, between 1762 - 1848 (or possibly up to 1864). It continued as the Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazette from c 1805. Its first editor was George Edmand (sic). Subsequent editors were William Walker; the Orderson family (father John; sons Robson and Isaac Williamson); T.A. Walker; Henry King; and D. J. Benskin. It was printed initially once per week on Saturdays (until c 1784), then twice per week on Tuesdays and Saturdays (until c 1840), and then on Tuesdays and Fridays (occasionally on Thursdays or Saturdays).

In the masthead, it bears a woodcut of the British Royal Coat of Arms, which changes through the run of the Mercury’s publication to reflect territorial changes that took place during the reign of different monarchs.The Mercury consists of 1 folio (four pages in total). The size and quality of the paper used varies throughout the run of its publication. The typeface used is also inconsistent. Some issues have supplements and can have additional pages. Issues were bound in volumes. Most volumes contain one year’s worth of issues, while others contain two, and rarely three. Many issues have deteriorated considerably. Some are brittle, beyond repair, and others have worm holes and tears. Some are quite dark due to the acidic nature of the paper. While most of the issues are legible, some of the above reasons impact legibility for parts of the newspaper. As a result, many issues miss pages or parts of them, some issues are missing, and at times whole months are missing all together (please see relevant extent information for each volume).

The Mercury is an important primary source, crucial for understanding Barbados’ 18th and 19th century history, particularly because these were formative years for the island. The newspaper sheds light on the everyday life of a slave-holding society and provides a wealth of information on networks of people, commerce, governance, socioeconomic conditions, race, religion, politics, entertainment, education, etc. Of particular interest are the ads offering rewards for enslaved people who had “absconded,” as they are filled with detailed accounts of who these people were, including their names, what they looked like, their clothes, accents, distinguishing features, friends, families and skills.

The extant volumes at the Department of Archives span nearly seventy years and cover the period of the transition from slavery to Emancipation, including the 1816 Bussa Rebellion (slave revolt). It gives an intimate window into the island's colonial pastThe Department of Archives acquired the volumes of the Mercury from the Barbados Public Library and the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS) in 1965. From the BMHS it acquired volumes 1783-1784, 1787-1789, 1819, 1821, 1823, 1824-1825, 1835, 1839. From the Public Library, it acquired volumes 1807-1818, 1829, 1822, 1848.

The Gazette reflected a colonial Caribbean society. As such it contains considerable information related to the Atlantic slave trade; the treatment and punishment of slaves; and various political and religious beliefs prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries.

20 bound volumes containing 28 years, some partially. This collection contains copies of 2,333 newspaper editions. See the description information in each series (volume) for extant and missing issues.