There were usually no printing facilities on board, so the paper could be read out to an assembly or copies were made by hand. Handwritten copies would have been produced for saloon passengers, second class and one for ‘third cabin, steerage and sailors’.
Each edition had an account of the ship’s progress provided by officers, including latitude and longitude, distance run, work of engines, and weather conditions. Many would use puns of a type which would appeal to the Victorian sense of humour, often based on nautical terms. Most included reminiscences of passengers, information and published articles on distinguished passengers, satire, natural history, letters from the public, spoof advertisements and poetry.
Poetry occured in many of the ship’s newspapers, especially from voyage 27,1865, in the form of Poet’s Corner. Many of the poems were published anonymously, and could be original compositions, adaptations of other famous poems, or copies of famous poems asking “who wrote it?”
An original compostition from voyage 27 by Theta
“In the noble ship the “Britain” proud, bearing and reliant,
See now it cleaves the waters, decisive, firm, defiant,
Directed by commander Gray, whose talents rare combined,
The baring of a gentleman, honest, social and refined.”
A “who wrote it?” entry from voyage 27
“Here we are a happy band,
Sailing for our mother land;
Our vessel by the breezes fanned,
The clipper ship “Great Britain”
(air – “The King of the Cannibal Islands”)”
A copy of the Great Britain Times from 1865 (Voyage 27)