Commentary on:
Licence to Establish an Office of Advertisements in the City of Bergen (1764)

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Royal newspaper privilege for Ole Brose, Bergen, Norway

Aina Nøding

National Library of Norway, Oslo

 

Please cite as:
Nøding, A. (2023) ‘
Royal newspaper privilege for Ole Brose, Bergen, Norway’, in Primary Sources on Copyright (14501900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

 

1.     Full title

Royal privilege for Ole Brose for an office of advertisements and newspaper in Bergen, Norway (7 December 1764)

 

2.     Abstract

Police prosecutor Ole Brose (1725–87) received a royal privilege to start an office and a printed paper of advertisements in Bergen, Norway’s largest city at the time. This document is an official copy of the royal privilege granted him for the city and county of Bergen on 7 December 1764. Brose’s privilege is significant because it is the first successfully obtained privilege for a Norwegian newspaper. It is also the first Dano-Norwegian privilege for a paper of advertisements (adresseavis) outside of Copenhagen, although the unprivileged paper Norske Intelligenssedler appeared in Christiania (today’s Oslo) from 1763. Locally, Brose’s privilege secured its line of owners a century-long near-monopoly of the newspaper press in Bergen.

 

3.     Ole Brose and the Dano-Norwegian press

Ole Brose was born on 14 December 1725 in Kinsarvik, Hardanger in Norway and died in Bergen on 1 September 1787. A clergyman’s son, he graduated from grammar school in Bergen at the age of 20 and established himself as a sea captain there in 1750. In 1756 he took a secretarial post at the office of trade. By 1762 he had been appointed a lawyer and police prosecutor in addition to his post, while the following year he also took on the temporary position of Notarius Publicus.[1] In 1764, he applied to Dano-Norwegian King Frederick V in Copenhagen for a privilege to start an office of advertisements (adressekontor) with an accompanying paper of advertisements (adresseavis). This was a newspaper without news, so to speak, a growing media format in Europe.

In eighteenth-century Denmark–Norway, there were two separate categories of printed newspapers in terms of law and privileges: political newspapers and papers of advertisements. Political newspapers first appeared in Copenhagen in 1634, subject to a privilege from the Consistorium, which was the ruling body of Copenhagen University. For decades, these papers were in German, mainly produced weekly by one family for generations, with a couple of more short-lived exceptions. The first newspaper in Danish, Den danske Mercurius (from 1666), was a monthly versified paper in the French fashion, summarizing the news of the previous month, commissioned and paid for directly by the king. From the mid-eighteenth century, more political newspapers were given privilege in Copenhagen, including the Berling brothers’ newspapers, one of which continues to this day.[2]

Publishing political newspapers was only allowed in Copenhagen. These papers carried mainly foreign news, which the authorities wanted to keep a particular close eye on, and the privilege holders guarded their monopoly in the twin kingdom with rigor. Previous plans for newspapers in Norway had been for reprints from the Copenhagen papers along with local advertisements. The printer Peter Nørvig (d. 1741) had attempted one in Bergen in 1721 (Den Ridende Mercurius), which was shut down the following year following protests from the Copenhagen publisher and privilege holder Joachim Wielandt (1690–1730). When Nørvig asked for a privilege to secure his paper, the supplication was denied.[3] In Christiania, postmaster Lars Raabech (ca. 1693–1774) argued in his supplication to the king on 2 March 1733 that Norway needed its own newspaper. Publishing advertisements and local news via Copenhagen meant that the items were outdated once they arrived back in Norway weeks later. However, his arguments did not outweigh the rights of the Copenhagen privilege holders and his supplication was rejected.[4] It took another 30 years for Norwegian advertisements to be published locally.

In Europe, a second form of newspaper had existed from the 1630s, that is a paper of advertisements linked to an office for receiving and communicating people’s items in supply and demand. The phenomenon of the bureau d’adresse started in France and was soon found in several countries. Lists of advertisements supplied to the office were compiled and printed as feuilles du bureau d’adresse (in German often called Intelligenz-Blatt or Anzeiger) and distributed most often within a city or region, in some cases (like the Danish one) even nationally. From the 1720s, some papers in the German states began adding literary, moral or practical texts to draw in more readers, a strategy that was soon adopted elsewhere. The format became part newspaper, part periodical. A bureau d’adresse – an Adresse-Contoir was opened in Copenhagen in 1706, following a privilege gifted to the king’s butler, Jacob Frants von der Osten. However, it took several attempts before it was successfully run with a newspaper from 1759.[5] Brose’s privilege explicitly names the Copenhagen office then owned by Hans Holck (1726–83) as its model.

 

4.     Brose’s office and newspaper

King Frederick V granted Brose’s privilege on 7 December 1764. It is co-signed by Otto Thott, Minister of Finance and secretary to the Danish Chancellor.[6] On 24 December, Brose advertises his privilege and plans for an office in the Copenhagen adresseavis, saying he will open around the following New Year.[7] Indeed, at 9 a.m. on Thursday 26 January 1765, Brose opened the doors to his office, located in his own house. He named his weekly paper Efterretninger fra Addresse-Contoiret i Bergen i Norge (News from the office of advertisements in Bergen in Norway) and the first issue appeared the next week, on 4 February.[8] The weekly edition came out every Monday.

At New Year, Brose had issued an invitation plan detailing prices for advertisements and opening hours.[9] He states that his intention for his new enterprise is to help further business and productivity in Bergen by publishing advertisements, official announcements, ships lists, auctions, notices of deaths and births, prices of goods, and rulings of the city’s courts.

 

In short, I will from now on strive to supply the public with all the information which could be either useful or enjoyable or even both. Whatever room such notices might leave will be filled with some small article, original or in translation, particularly regarding economics.[10]

 

This content is completely in line with adresseaviser in Denmark–Norway and abroad, particularly the one in Copenhagen. Brose often filled the remaining space of his four quarto pages with fables, stories and poems, letters to the editor or practical advice. He owned a nice library with books in several languages and probably provided several of the translations himself. Until freedom of print was introduced in Denmark–Norway in 1770, the paper was subject to pre-censorship by the bishop of Bergen, as were all texts intended for print. Brose’s paper seems to have been relatively successful in terms of income and subscribers.[11]

 

5.     The legacy of Brose’s privilege

In Norway, privileges for offices (including papers) of advertisements were granted in the following years to Christiania and Trondheim (both 1767) and Kristiansand (1768), meaning all four regional capitals received one during the 1760s. Similar privileges were also granted to publishers in Danish provincial towns such as Flensburg (1766), Elsinore (1768) and Odense (1771). The privilege in Christiania was never put into effect. Its holder, Andreas Holt, was probably not able to print a paper with the only local printer, Samuel Conrad Schwach (c. 173181), as the latter was the publisher of Norske Intelligenssedler. This was an unprivileged adresseavis, started by Schwach in May 1763 and supported by local authorities and leading business families in Christiania, and thus Norway’s first newspaper. The number of book printer privileges in a city thus effectively determined the number of newspapers.

Political newspapers continued to be printed exclusively in Copenhagen until 1807, when Norway was cut off from Copenhagen news due to the British blockade of the city. This development strengthens the impression that the privilege on (and control of) political newspapers was important to the Crown and privilege-holder alike, while privileges for printed advertisements mainly served to protect the commercial interests of the holder from reprints.[12] With the increased speed and volume of periodical publications, channeling all advertisements of the twin kingdom through Copenhagen became untenable and a hindrance to the growth in trade that the Crown promoted. Local jurisdictions of adresseavis privileges, linked to an office of advertisements in a specific city, became a tenable middle road, in the footsteps of a successful international model.

Brose passed his privilege on to Knud Geelmuyden (1752–92) with royal permission in 1777. Brose had by then become the chief of police (from 1770) and mayor (from 1776) of Bergen. Brose’s privilege had been a so-called ‘personal’ privilege, granted him by the king and not to be given or sold on without the monarch’s permission. In 1792, just before his death, Geelmuyden paid a substantial amount towards a mountain road across Filefjell in exchange for the privilege being changed to a ‘real’ (reelt) privilege. Consequently, it could be inherited or sold as a piece of property without the consent of the authorities. The privilege remained in Geelmuyden’s family until it was suspended by the city of Bergen in 1863 following new national legislation. By then it had become an ancient and local exception to the norm, seen to hinder the development of a free press in Bergen. New legislation had abolished privileges in crafts and trade in Norway in 1839 and 1848 respectively, but the privatization of the privilege in 1792 meant it was still in effect until further new legislation was passed in 1863.[13] In order to compensate the privilege-holders, the Norwegian parliament granted a large sum for its annulment.[14] In 1889, the paper merged with Bergens Aftenblad, which lasted until 1942.

 

6.     References

Manuscripts

National Archives, Oslo (Riksarkivet)

Danske kanselli, Norske register

·     RA/EA-3023/F/Fc/Fca/Fcaa/L0042: Ole Brose, Bergen, 7 December 1764

Skanna materiale: Danske Kanselli 1572-1799, RA/EA-3023/F/Fc/Fca/Fcaa/L0042: Norske registre, 1763-1766, s. 487a - Skanna arkiver - Arkivverket (digitalarkivet.no)

 

Books and Articles

Brose, O., “Invitations Plan” (Bergen: Kothert [1764]).

Ehrencron-Müller, H., Forfatterlexikon for Danmark, Norge og Island indtil 1814, vol. 2 (Copenhagen: Aschehoug, 1925)

Eide, M. (ed.), Norsk presses historie 16602010, vol. 1. (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 2010)

Davidsen, Ø., Pressen fra Griffenfeldt til Struensee i dens forhold til Norges næringsliv (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1943) (Digital copy at nb.no: < http://urn.nb.no/URN:NBN:no-nb_digibok_2007020201044>)

Jensen (ed.), K.B., Dansk mediehistorie, vol. 1 (Copenhagen: Samleren, 1996)

Kirchoff-Larsen, Chr., Den danske presses historie, vol. 1, 1634–1749 (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1942)

Kongelige Rescripter, Resolutioner og Collegial-Breve for Norge i Tidsrummet 16601813, vol. 2 17461780, udg. Fr. Aug. Wessel Berg (Christiania: Cappelen, 1842)

Nøding, A., Vittige kameleoner. Litterære tekster i norske adresseaviser, 17631769 (Oslo: University of Oslo, 2007)

Stolpe, P. M., Dagspressen i Danmark, Dens Vilkaar og Personger indtil Midten af det attende Aarhundrede, vol. 2 (Copenhagen: Samfundet til den danske Literaturs Fremme, 1881)

Strand, O., Bergens presse i tre århundrer (Bergen: Bergens presseforening, 1999)

Tønnevold, C. “Bergens Adressecontoirs Efterretninger”, in M. Eide (ed.), Norsk presses historie 1660-2010, vol. 4 (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 2010): 47

von Westen, P. Adresse-Contoirers Natur, Oprindelse og Rettigheder (Odense, 1780) (digital copy at kb.dk: <https://soeg.kb.dk/permalink/45KBDK_KGL/1pioq0f/alma99122379853805763>)

 

Periodicals

Efterretninger Fra Addresse-Contoiret i Bergen i Norge (Bergen) (Facsimile edition at www.nb.no).

Kiøbenhavns Adresse-Contoirs Efterretninger (Copenhagen). (Facsimile edition at www2.statsbiblioteket.dk/mediestream).

Stortingsforhandlinger (Christiania) (Facsimile edition at www.nb.no)



[1] „Brose, Ole“ in H. Ehrencron-Müller, Forfatterlexikon for Danmark, Norge og Island indtil 1814, vol. 2 (Copenhagen: Aschehoug, 1925), 103. (See further references to literature on Brose’s biography here.)

[2] For the history of the early Danish press, see P. M. Stolpe, Dagspressen i Danmark, Dens Vilkaar og Personger indtil Midten af det attende Aarhundrede, vol. 2 (Copenhagen: Samfundet til den danske Literaturs Fremme, 1881); Chr. Kirchoff-Larsen, Den danske presses historie, vol. 1, 1634–1749 (Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1942); K.B. Jensen (ed.), Dansk mediehistorie, vol. 1 (Copenhagen: Samleren, 1996).

[3] For documents regarding Nørvig’s case, see Ø. Davidsen, Pressen fra Griffenfeldt til Struensee i dens forhold til Norges næringsliv (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1943), 39–68. See also Kirchoff-Larsen’s chapter on Wielandt (Den danske presses historie, 1942, 127–54), P.M. Stolpe, Dagspressen i Danmark, 1881, 201–2 and O. Strand, Bergens presse i tre århundrer (Bergen: Bergens presseforening, 1999), 2–3.

[4] Copy in the archive of Danske kanselli (EA-3023), Supplikkprotokoll, the National Archive (Oslo) [Currently not scanned by digitalarkivet.no; ref. from Ø. Davidsen Pressen fra Griffenfeldt til Struensee, 1943]. For a transcription, see ibid., 6970.

[5] P. von Westen, Adresse-Contoirers Natur, Oprindelse og Rettigheder (Odense, 1780), 7–29.

[6] Copy in the archive of Danske kanselli (EA-3023), Norske register, the National Archive (Oslo). For a transcription, see Ø. Davidsen, Pressen fra Griffenfeldt til Struensee, 1943, 296. Summary in Kongelige Rescripter, 379–80.

[7] Kiøbenhavns Adresse-Contoirs Efterretninger, 24 December 1764, 3.

[8]A. Nøding, Vittige kameleoner (Oslo: University of Oslo, 2007), 31.

[9] “Invitations Plan”, dated 31 December 1764 and signed O. Brose (owned by Bergen Public Library; bound with the 1765 volume of Efterretninger).

[10] “Kort sagt, jeg vil herved stræbe at forsyne det Almindelige med alle de Efterretninger, som kan være enten til Nytte eller Fornøyelse eller begge Deele tillige. Det Rum, som saadanne Efterretninger levne, skal fyldes med een eller anden liden Afhandling, enten Original eller Oversættelse, sær i Oeconomiske Materier.” (O. Brose, “Invitations Plan”, 31 December 1764).

[11] Nøding, Vittige kameleoner, 31–33, 51–52.

[12] cf. P. von Westen, Adresse-Contoirers Natur, Oprindelse og Rettigheder, 1780, 34 and Frederick Vs rescript of 14 October 1756 regarding censorship of newspapers.

[13] O. Strand, Bergens presse i tre århundrer, 1999, 6, 25, 29, 33–34; C. Tønnevold, “Bergens Adressecontoirs Efterretninger”, in M. Eide (ed.), Norsk presses historie 1660-2010, vol. 4 (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 2010), 47.

[14] Stortingsforhandlingene, “Indst. S. No. 133”, 1866. The differentiation between a ‘personal’ and ‘real’ privilege occurs in this recommendation from the Justice Committee of the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget); cf. also the terms in Store Danske Lexicon (https://denstoredanske.lex.dk).


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