The Gentleman's Magazine
I'm sure many of you have heard this periodical mentioned in a novel or two. Heroes are sometimes shown reading it during a visit to White's or while lounging in their library. Intrigued, I hunted down a copy of my own (it happens to be the August 1788 volume, and I like to imagine that the heroine of my first novel, George, would have had this magazine at her home for her male admirers to peruse). To the right you can see the first page/cover of the May 1749 edition (the "cover" is of the same paper as the pages of the magazine).
On the first page inside the magazine is a report of the weather for the month (I've no idea how they supposedly knew that the 11th would be "fair" and the 24th "showery"). At the bottom of the page is a bit of fascinating detail called simply Observations. In my copy they read as follows:
1 Partridges in great numbers.--2 Some beeches begin to be tinged.--3 Very few quails to be seen.--4 Ladies-traces (ophrys spiralis) is bloom. Stone-curlews (charadrius oedicnemus) pass over, followed by their young, who make a piping, wailing nois.e--5 Fly-catchers have withdrawn themselves some days. Thistle-down floats.--6 Immense flocks of martins hovering over the brooks.--7 Dotterel (charadvius morinellus) on the downs. These birds appear there every spring and autumn.--8 Lapwings (tringa vanellus) leave the low grounds, and come in flocks to the uplands.--9 Harvest finished.--10 Redstart (moticil phoenicurus) still appears. Linnets (fringilla linaria) flock.--11 Hazel-nuts in great plenty. No walnuts or plums.--12 First grapes gathered: they were eatable, but not ripe; berries small, and thin on the clusters--13 Young martins still in their nests.--14 Many swallows, some bank-martins, and a few house-martins, about the ponds. They probably roost in the willows. The swallows washed much; a sure sign that rain is at hand.
These notes might seem insignificant at first, but they are invaluable to a writer of historical fiction. These are the kinds of small details that we rely upon to enrich our world building.
The bulk of the magazine is comprised of letters to its editor "Sylvanus Urban." These letters to the editor cover a wide variety of topics, everything from religion to history to the law (and are all addressed to "Mr. Urban"). There are also reports on proceeding session of Parliament (including detailed accounts of who proposed what, who spoke in favor or against, and how some people voted), reports on foreign affairs, births, deaths, and marriages (no announcements of engagements however, as far as I've ever been able to find these are a product of Romancelandia).
On the very back inside page are reports of the average prices of "corn" (grains) as well as the Theatrical Register, which lists all the plays being enacted for the month at Hay-Market (note, there is very little repetition; it's not like today where one play has a "run" and it's the only thing being produced in a specific theatre. There are 14 different main offerings combined with 17 different secondary plays that take place "a quarter of an hour before dinner"). On the very back page-cover is the stock report (the 3 perCts, 4 perCts, Long, Short, India S. Sea, 1 perCts, Exchange Bills and Lottery Tickets).
If you've any interest in exploring an issue of The Gentleman's Magazine for yourself, you're in luck. Goggle Books happens to have a few issues available on their site: January-June 1800, January-June 1812, January-June 1824. I've no idea why only the first volume of each year seems to be available.