The previously lost first year of ‘The Course of the Exchange’, the genesis of ‘The Stock Exchange Daily Official List’ (SEDOL), still published in London today over 320 years later. It is the longest running financial periodical continuously printed in the world. The 17th century seed of financial reporting at the heart of the financial world today has been discovered.
Scholars have sought the existence of this book for hundreds of years. They utilised seventeenth century advertisements, periodicals, and early wills. In the early nineteenth century, researchers from the Royal Mint and the Bank of England could only find copies of Castaing for 1718 through 1736. With the utmost attention and effort, McCusker & Gravesteijn in their 1991 book searched for this and other gaps in the economic historical record all over Europe and the United States, hoping to add to the historical record. Other historians have had similar difficulties but more recently, largely at the instigation of the historian Jacob Myron Price, a complete series has been assembled for the years through 1810 and microfilmed. “We are still looking for issues from the year 1697 and earlier” (McCusker & Gravesteijn). The most significant runs of this reside at the British Library, London, the Guildhall Library, London, and at Harvard University.
John Castaing’s ‘The Course of the Exchange, and other things’ was first published 26 March 1697 and continues today as the record of the London Stock Exchange. It was at the time considered the most accurate and consistent publication, publishing on Tuesday and Friday, often referenced in lawsuits and called ‘official’. No examples from the first year 1697 have ever been located.
The London Stock Exchange
Preceding the London Stock Exchange was the Royal Exchange founded by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566. It worked as an exchange for brokers until it became more heavily regulated and restrictive. That encouraged the brokers to find a new home. Coffee Houses were opening all over London from the mid-1600s and over time many became meeting places for people interested in a particular trade or region of the world. Jonathan’s Coffee House in Exchange Alley just behind the Royal Exchange became the meeting place of choice for these brokers.
The Bank of England
War broke out again between England and France in 1689, the year in which William of Orange became William III. Desperately needing to rebuild the English Navy and without the funds to do so, the Bank of England was established in 1694 to handle the governments finances. This central bank system in one on which most modern central banks are based.
John Castaing was a French Huguenot who fled France after the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 by Louis XIV. French Protestants flocked to London along with Dutch financiers who came in the train of the new English King William III, the Prince of Orange. Issues of the war with France, the founding of the Bank of England, the currency reforms and eventually the elimination of the license for publishing in 1695 lead to an explosion of commerce and publishing. Castaing was comfortably ensconced in the Huguenot community around Soho by the mid-1680s. He was a broker and successful publisher before this effort. He offered something very new, combining stocks and shares, exchange rate currents, money exchange, etc. in one convenient place. An interested party could have the financial information more conveniently, twice as frequently and at half the cost of other newspapers.
The first issue was published on 26 March 1697 “London, Fryday (sic) 26 March, 1697” and they were published twice a week, offering official commodity prices, exchange rates and money rates. The first issue quotes Money and Bank for Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg, Paris, Lyon, Cadiz, Madrid, Leghorn (Livorno), Genoa, Venice, Lisbon, Porto, Dublin, India Stock, African, Hudson Bay. There follows Blank Tickets, the Discompt (discount?), Wednesday, Thursday, Fryday, Old Money, Gold, Ditto Ducats, Silver Sta., Bars, Pieces of Eight, Sevil, Mexico, etc. There follows Money Adv. And Paid in the Exchequer; 1st 4 Shill. Aid; 3 d 4 Shill. Aid; Old Custom; New Custom: Excise/ Joynt Stocks (sic); Poll-Tax; Paper, Add. Impost; Annuities, Salt Act; Low Wines; Coal Act; Births and Marr.; Tobacco; Duty on Houses; Coyned (sic) in the Tower last Week.
In the last issue, no. 81 (of which there are two copies in this book, one trimmed, the other with a fold and untrimmed), issued 31st December 1697, The Discompt is removed. Additions include Orphans Chamb.; 4th 4 Shill. Aid; ¾ Custom; Leather is added to Coal; 3 Shill. Aid; Malt Act; Exchequer Notes, sunk; Wrou. Plate brought in all Mints. “Coyned” is now at all Mints from Febr. 1695. India Stock and Hudson are moved on the sheet.
Castaing’s reputation as a publisher was one of respect for the great accuracy of his Currents. The publication was directly controlled by the family for over 80 years. Remarkably, for at least 35 of those years, it was controlled by a woman, Arabella Castaing Jackson Wharton (Sharpe?). It is extraordinary that a woman was involved with financial publishing at this early juncture. Although her name “never appeared in imprint of the newspaper,”* her presence “lent continuity and stability to a notable institution in the London financial and commercial firmament.”* She was referred to as “sister of J. Castaing” and the like.
McCusker and Gravesteijn go to great lengths to identify the publishers between 1697 to 1786 and after. Beginning with John Castaing (1697-1707); to his son John Castaing Jr. (1707-1725); thence to John Castaing Jr. and Edward Jackson (1725-1729); on Castaing Jrs. death, to Edward Jackson and [Arabella Wharton?] (1730-1735); thence Richard Shergold and Arabella Wharton (1735-1749); thence to Richard’s son George and Arabella Wharton (1750-1763); Peter Smithson and Arabella Wharton (1764-1779); unknown (1779-1786); Edward Wetenhall (1786 and after).
Here there is a period ownership signature ‘James Wetenhall’ on the front free endpaper. Most likely a relation of Edward Wetenhall. Harvard holds an 1822 copy published by a James Wetenhall and Pigot’s ‘Commercial Directory’ for 1839 records him as publisher of this work.
Further evidence located by Ms. Glaiyser, specifically reading from the reading of family wills, has revealed that Arabella Wharton may have been Edward Jackson’s wife’s aunt, and that she died Arabella Sharpe. There is some evidence of this in a copy of the Interest Rate Book in the Royal College of Physicians, signed A. Sharpe. She died in about 1778. Importantly, Ms. Glaisyer also found additional evidence to support McCusker and Gravesteijn’s proposition that the Course of the Exchange was produced in March 1697. According to the will of Edward Jackson, one of the publishers, he wished to ‘give and bequeath to the said Mr. Adams and Mr. Stead the Course of the Exchange Books bound up from the year 1697 to the time of my decease provided I continue binding them annually as I have hitherto done…’ In a May 1719 deposition, John Castaing jr. deposes that he cannot give the price of East India Company stocks for any date earlier than 26 March 1697.
This copy is bound in period seventeenth century binding identical to those found in the British Library and Guildhall Library – full maroon leather with gold tooling on the covers and the spine and gilt-edged pages. It is sized to fit in a broker’s pocket, just 75 mm. wide by 215 mm. tall. The Kress Library of Business and Economics in the Baker Library, Harvard University, also has some holdings in this binding. The issues are numbered consecutively, starting with number ‘1’, issued twice a week, ending with number ’81’, dated 31st Dec 1697. The numbering begins again each year in January.
Provenance: ‘James Wetenhall’ inscription; acquired at a house sale at a Leonard Joel auction in Melbourne Australia over 10 years ago by a private collector in Australia. Cope, S. R. (1978) ‘The Stock Exchange Revisited: A New Look at the Market in Securities in London in the Eighteenth Century’, in ‘Economica’, New Series, Vol. 45, No. 177, pp. 1-21; Crane & Kaye, 1169a; ESTC refer P2157; Kress Lib., 3096; McCusker, John J. and Cora, Gravesteijn. (1991). ‘The Beginnings of Commercial and Financial Journalism’; Glaisyer, Natasha. (2007). ‘Calculating Credibility: Print Culture, Trust and Economic Figures in Early Eighteenth-Century England.’, in ‘The Economic History Review’, vol. 60, no. 4, 2007, pp. 685-711.
The Course of the Exchange, and other things.