The Observer Archive: Back Issue Newspapers

The Observer Archive: Back Issue Newspapers

What’s the Benefit of Reading a Back-Issue Newspaper?

While not without bias, newspapers give you a unique level of acuity into what the world was like on any given day. With papers ranging in size from small town newsletters to nationwide juggernauts, you’ll never be short on information to digest and disseminate.  As one of the oldest newspapers in the world, The Observer offers plenty of reading material.

The History of the Observer

W.S. Bourne published the first issue of The Observer on December 4th of 1791. However, instead of receiving a financial windfall, the man found himself facing a mountain of quickly growing debts. Any plans for the paper’s editorial independence faded as the government stepped in to save the drowning paper. By 1814, perhaps disillusioned with the ventures, the Bourne family sold The Observer to William Innell Clement.  Despite its government subsidies, the paper began to take a firmer stance against governmental decisions; in fact, against an 1820 court order, they even went on to publish details surrounding the Cato Street Conspirators trial.  The paper took a turn to the liberal in 1857 when its ownership transferred to Joseph Snowe. The Observer's support of universal manhood and Northerner victory in the Civil War resulted in declined circulation. The paper was pulled out of crisis when it was taken over by the Beer family in 1870.

The dawning of the 20th century did not spell an end to the rapidly changing ownership of The Observer. After Frederick Beer’s death in 1901, and his wife’s failure as editor, the paper was bought by Lord Northcliffe. His first named editor, James Louis Garvin, quickly grew the paper into an organ of large political influence. However, growing disagreements between Garvin and his boss resulted in the paper being sold to the Astor family in 1911. The new owners left the editorial team in place and the paper's circulation reached 200,000 between WWI and WWII. Garvin departed the paper afterthe paper began to take a more liberal stance.

David Waldorf, the son responsible for running off Garvin, served as head editor of the paper for 27 years. He was also the one responsible for placing The Observer, and The Guardian, into the trust that governs them to this day. His paper’s opposition to the 1956 invasion of the Suez resulted in freefalling profits. The ailing papers exchanged hands several times before it ended up the property of the Guardian Media Group in 1993.

In 2005, The Observer truly joined the 21st century when it released its own blog and podcasts. Nine years later, the world's oldest Sunday paper still boasts a circulation rate of roughly 200,000.

Interesting Facts About the Observer

  • The Observer was banned in Egypt in February 2008 after it reprinted cartoons insulting the Mohammed.
  • In 2006, British Press Awards named The Observer the National Newspaper of the Year.
  • First published in 1791, The Observer is the world’s oldest surviving Sunday paper.
  • The Observer was the first paper to purposely documents its own internal decisions and the first worldwide to release podcasts.

The Observer's Archives

To find back issues of The Observer or to check availability of the newspaper, follow these steps:

  • Visit The Observer archive page
  • Choose your preferred date.
  • Choose your desired newspaper and edition.
  • Select the pack you wish to purchase.
  • Make sure to add a name to the certificate of authenticity along with your chosen date and message if the purchase is a gift.