September 29th, 1650 – The Original Search Engine?


Henry Robinson was an English merchant and writer best known for a work on religious toleration, Liberty of Conscience from 1644. On September 29th, 1650, Robinson opened the Office of Addresses and Encounters . . . essentially a Google search, or Craigslist, for 17th century Londoners.

Ye Olde Google

The short-lived Office of Addresses and Encounters was in Threadneedle Street in London, and charged 6d. for answers to certain types of queries, concerning real estate and employment amongst other matters. There was a free service for the poor. The creation of such an Office had been pushed for three years by Samuel Hartlib, who had lobbied for public funds for it.

Robinson was an associate of Hartlib, and provided a limited implementation of a grand reformist scheme, which drew also on the French model of Théophraste Renaudot that had operated by then for 20 years. Through the simple provision of a central Register of Addresses, Robinson argued, employers could find employees.

Robinson advocated the “free trading of truth”, and wrote that “no man can have a natural monopoly of truth”. He was one of a group of authors slightly ahead of John Milton in the arguments of Areopagitica against censorship. It has been said that there was essentially nothing in Milton’s work that had not been anticipated by Robinson and his associates.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


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