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Canterbury Faire Newsbooks

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Canterbury Faire Newsbooks

For a number of years now I’d been wanting to do a daily news-sheet at Canterbury Faire, but I also didn’t want to lug out my computer kit and slave over it either, so a pre-prepared set of news-sheets seemed to be the answer. In ASXLVI (2012), when Lady Agnes asked me to write the banns for her forthcoming nuptials, it was the final push I needed to commit to putting together a set of daily broadsides for Canterbury Faire, and things just spiralled from there…

News-sheets – or, more properly newsbooks – were popular in late period as forerunners to newspapers. I took the liberty of straying as far as the 1640s (after which things changed) for ideas and inspirations for what manner of news and what style of format I could use to report on doings around the Kingdom, at Faire and other Matters of Import.

I had heard inklings of the in-coming reign’s libretto, of which there were hints that the royal alliance of an arranged marriage was not likely to hold up well, leading to rumours of secret loves and possible war. (His about-to-be Majesty Siridean has a wife and child; he reigned with the lovely Siobhan last time but this time round had fought for Mistress Margie of Glen More. Much was to be made of Her Majesty's dalliance with her Knights' Counsellor....)

All grist for the mill, particularly as I came to the conclusion that producing two different publications, published alternately and warring against each other could be fun – period precedent was very inspiring in this regard! And so was born the Good News from Lochac and the Corantoe.


The earliest passage of news was, of course, in the form of personal handwritten letters and reports -- and copies of such -- sent via family, academic or political networks. In the mid-1500s, the Venetians were producing weekly news reports, though still handwritten, termed avvisi or gazzette after the coins used to purchase them. They focused, not surprisingly, on political and trade news and their general approach of short news items run under a dateline later became a standard staple of the developing newspaper trade.

Not surprisingly, newsworthy letters were soon being copied, typeset and printed for circulation. According to Stephens, Columbus was said to have had one of his letters circulating in print form in Barcelona before he even got back there in 1493!

One of the earliest printed news items was a report of a tournament, printed in Italy around 1470 (Stephens). By the 1500s, broadsides, newssheets, pamphlets and newsbook began to circulate covering all manner of news from the birth of monstrous babies to dense religious arguments, political diatribes to saucy ditties about famous people.

Early newsbooks tended to cover just the one topic in lengthy detail, and be printed some considerable time after the events they reported. Thus we have items, letters and reports being published in England such as:

According to The Early History of the English Newspaper, the 1549 letter on the Devonshire and Cornish rebellion is often cited as the first true English newspaper, though there's no mention of why.

References (General)

Breaking News; Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper
Clarke, Bob; From Grub Street to Fleet Street: an illustrated history of English newspapers to 1899 (Ashgate Publishing, 2004)
Jucker, Andrew; Early Modern English news discourse; (John Benjamin 2009)
Printing in England from William Caxton to Christopher Barker
Mercurius Politicus blog
O’Connell, Sheila; The Popular Print in England, 1550-1850
Rag Linen: The Beginning of Newspapers
Raymond, Joad; Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain
Stephens, Mitchell; The History of Newspapers

Elizabeth Tudor became sufficiently concerned about the potential for seditious news publications that a 1586 Star Chamber decree required them to be licensed. "Hence printed publications of domestic news tended to be restricted to sensation, disasters, crimes, proclamations and the monarch’s speeches. Foreign political news could usually be reported in detail. Domestic political commentary was avoided" (Raymond).

Printed newspapers, of the kind we would recognise as such, come into true being just post-period. Starting in 1609, Germany had two weekly publications (one called the Aviso Relations), and over the following 10 years others followed suit in Frankfurt, Vienna, Hamburg, Berlin and Amsterdam. Stephens notes that an English official at the time complained that his country was being "reproved" in foreign parts" because it lacked a publication to report "the occurents every week."

England got its first printed newspaper, termed a coranto, in 1620, published out of Amsterdam to avoid the licensing issue. It was a single sheet, printed on both sides, and covered info on the then-ongoing Thirty Years War. The following year, England had its own home-printed publication, called the Corante, or Newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France, produced under license by the influential and fairly notorius Nathaniel Butler.

Within 30 years there were many proto-newspapers hitting the presses, including competing publications such as the Mercurius Britanicus, the Mercurius Aulicus and the Mercurius Anti-Mercurius. In 1647, the Britanicus was taken to task by another publisher for not being able to spell Britannicus correctly; the latter riposted fairly feebly and the gloves were off. Others went straight for the jugular, calling each other all sorts of names and casting many varied aspersions and slanderous assertions.

Good Newes from Lochac.

The early broadsides and news-sheets provided a useful model on which to base my initial publication. As the editorial persona started to develop, it became clear that the Good Newes was the implicit official mouthpiece, printed by Authorities. It reported initially on general Faire doings and news. As the week progressed it got into increasing contention with the unauthorised publication, the Corantoe, and clearly became more hardline in promoting the views of the Establishment.

Each cover had a woodcut, with two drawn from Solis’ version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and picked to be related to an item inside. They each also had a short mention of which saint had a feast on that day, usually one chosen for the most..er..interesting life, such as Sanct Hyacintha of Mariscotti:

…who spent her family fortune making her life in a Franciscan convent one of grate comfort and utter luxuriantness such that she had nun of the privaytions of the other tertiaries, but then repented on confesson and replaced her soft feather bed with a few bare boards and her fine foods and wine with bread and water and thus became patroness to those who are rightly despised for wealth and smugness.

The Corantoe

The Corantoe ended up being a vehicle for the fulminations of the two named publishers, a Mr P Stubbes and a Mr John Knox, who frothed at the mouth over everything they could think of, from the alleged misbehaviour of the Royal households to what people were wearing and doing at the Ball. (All carefully run past Their Majesties for approval well before Faire began, I should hasten to add!)

Almost all the text was drawn directly from period sources, with very few changes required to provide references to Lochac or the Faire. Stubbes’ well-known Anatomie of Absurditie provided much fodder for general bah-humbugging, while Knox’s infamous run-ins with Mary Queen of Scots provided a foundation for the on-going storyline of Her Majesty’s allegedly questionable behaviour.

The layout of the Corantoe was very late period, and was a combination of published reports of much greater length and later pamphlets up to around 1640, with an all-text cover, a tagline and dateline, going to fairly dense text for the interior. After the mid-1600s, the format of newsbooks underwent a significant change in style (see the post-1650s versions here as examples), so I discounted anything beyond the first half of that century for layout purposes.

Good Newes from Lochac , Edition 1, Monday

Wherein is describ'd the invest of Their Excellencies of Southron Gaard, Lord Oƒwyn Carolus and Miriam Isabel Maria del Aguila in the presence of the Noble Crown of Lochac and sundry Peers and peoples.
Also the banns of Wedlock for two gracious ladies and Newes of their Sponsalia whereat all are invited to attend.
And a report from the Banco di Don Julio.
And other Sundrie Matters as are bruited about the Kingdom, including newes of speciall events and offerings made available by Merchants and others of Good Repute.

Good Newes Edition 1 (PDF)
This is laid out to print as a double-sided A4 sheet, landscape and folded.

The report on the investiture was based on John Elder’s lengthy letter describing the arrival of Philip of Spain into England for his marriage with Mary Tudor. Given that Her Excellency is Spainsh, this seemed a particularly apt crib sheet. The cover woodcut was of some gathering (Field of Cloth of Gold court perhaps?), which looked suitable for a formal court. I covered the arms of France and Englans with the arms of Lochac and Southron Gaard

The Banco report used the circulatory metaphor of Bernardo Davanzati's Discourse Upon Coins from 1588.

The newsbook also included an item from The English Horseman on How a Horse may reckon any number, with a tie-in to the equestrian planned for that day. As it turned out, we didn’t have any equestrian at Faire this time round, but the item, though slightly OOP being from 1607, was too delightful to pass over. It basically explained how to produce the well-known Clever Hans phenomenon whereby a horse can be trained to respond to unnoticeable cues from its handler.

Ads included ones for the Roister Revel, the Archery Auction, the lovely Honey Apple Spice Buns (Hot & Steamy!) and for various market stall-holders.

Corantoe , Edition 1, Tuesday

A true Reporte of Matters of Note at Canterbury Faire and also other such sundrie Newes that hath come to the ears of this Writer.
Impartially communicating Truth, correcting Falsehood, reproving the Wilfull, pitying the Ignorant and reporting the multitude of scandalous Goings-on.

Corantoe Edition 1 (PDF)
This is laid out to print as a double-sided A4 sheet, landscape and folded.

The tagline came from the Mercurius Anti-Mercurius, and set the tone for the contents. The front-cover poetry fired the first shot in the war of the news sources, with the delightfully scornful commentary from Samuel Rowlands:

To haue themselues deluded in this sort
By euery flying fained false report;
How itching eares doe entertaine all stuffe,
If it be named Newes t’is good enough.
One saies a traveller (a friend of His)
Is new come home, and he hath told him this
Another saies, as he in Pauls did walke,
He heard the newes whereof two knights did talke:
Another, he hath newes is very rare,
And heard it sitting in a barber’s chaire:
Another, he is furnish’t very strange
With newes new taken up at the Exchange
And thus about from man to man it flied
Was neuer such an age for telling lies.
The good Newes and the bad, that here is told
Doth take foundation on a better hold
For when this booke is over read by you
I’le lay the price, you will confesse t’is true.

Within the text, the Corantoe managed to cast insinuations upon the Royal alliance, quoting from First Blast The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women as to the weakness of women, and being none too subtle about its target:

For there is Scandal at the Highest level of this Kingdom where it is said that One who hath promised to forsake a hidden love to take up a Union of Convenience for the sake of the Realme hath been sorely tempted and, yea, hath fallen to temptation for where may She be found? Not always upon the Chair of her New Estate but rather in a more horizontal place.

These base insinuitations were closed with the comment "Hereafter you shall hear more of this Great Matter", a phrase beloved by period scandal-mongers, and to which some publishers took great exception. The original scuffle over this sort of practice, and the complaint in the ensuing Good Newes is quoted in >Clarke).

The Corantoe then went on to rail against importune games such as footballl, an activity that has made the odd terrifying appearance at faire, quoting the original Mr Stubbes’s Anatomie of Absurditie, statutes from Edward II and Richard II and others. It concluded with "Let us not even consider the truely dire nature of jugger or dwyle flonking".

Jugger was on the Faire timetable, and I had an explanation of the rules of dwyle flonking ready to be posted in the Mong the following morning. The rules begin like this: One team fields the driveller, the other forms the girter. The flonking team has two chances to use the dwyle to score a wanton, a marther or a ripple. If no score is made, the driveller is swadged. (Which translates as team reps trying to hit people, preferable in the head, with a beer-infused rag wrapped round a broomstick.)

Then came more ranting about revels and theatres, noting the forthcoming Half-Circle Theatre and possibly attracting clientele to that by mentioning Stubbes’ objections such as "Do not these gatherings maintain bawdry, insinuate foolery, induce uncleanness? nay, are they not rather plain devourers of maidenly virginity and chastity?"

The first edition of the Corantoe closed with further dark mutterings about the "trimming and tricking of hair" – I had heard that Lady Jadwiga was indentured to braid Lord Ronan’s beard in diverse ways at Faire.

Like the Good Newes, the Corantoe ran a set of advertisements for merchants, as well as a "Publick Notice" for the Knight School.

References (Content)

Buchanan, George; The Indictment of Mary Queen of Scots
Cobbett, William; Cobbet's Complete Collection of State Trials and proceedings for ..., Volume
Concepts of information
Coroner’s inquisition, from Sherman, Montagu; History of Football in England, extracted from The Bibliophile Library of Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Vol. XVIII, compiled and arranged by Nathan Haskell Dole, Forrest Morgan, and Caroline Ticknor; The International Bibliophile Society, 1904
Dekker, Thomas, The guls hornbook : and The belman of London in two parts; Chapter X
Elder, John; Letter Describing the arrival and marriage of King Philip etc
Knox, John; First Blast The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, 1558
Nash, Thomas; The Vnfortunate Traveller, or The Life Of Jack Wilton
Partridge, Mary; Images of the Courtier in Elizabethan England, (Thesis 2008)
Raymond, Joad; Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain Stubbes; Anatomie of Absurditie 1590
Vadi, Fillipo; Liber de Arte Gladitoria Dimicandi (1480s)
Woodcuts: from Solis, Virgil; Ovid's Metamorphoses

Good Newes from Lochac, Edition 2, Wednesday

Wherein is proclaim'd a New Measure for the Control of vagabondes, tellers of newes, sowers of most sedicious rumours, players, vile printers without license & other unaturall subiects.
Also a report of Great deeds of Armes, and joyefull newes of a successful Impalmamento. And other Sundrie Matters as are bruited about the Kingdom.

Good Newes Edition 2 (PDF)
This is laid out to print as a double-sided A4 sheet, landscape and folded.

The woodcut showed two nymphs embracing under a tree in a rather risque fashion, a reference to the conclusion of the banns of Lady Agnes and Elena.

As the tagline presaged, the initial column announced measures to be taken against certain "coranto-coiners". As with the period vituperation, exception was taken to the "herafter you shall hear more" close in the Corantoe, citing the period complaint that "Which words, he onely useth as baites, to make the appetite of the Reader more eager for the new issue‘s pursuit" (Clarke).

Then followed some rather obscure references to Their Majesties’ recent Coronation ceremonies, firmly stating that all was well and none had been shafted by the game of thrones (arrows had been a theme at the Coronation, and his out-going Majesty Cornelius processed into court to a certain popular TV series theme played live especially for him).

Then followed a report of the tourneys, based on accounts by Froissart, Matthier d’Escouchy and from The Brut or The Chronicles of England. This allowed much reportage to be written before the fact without having to mention any actual facts, and it concluded with a list of the best known knights and former Kings and Champions that would be taking to the field, in time-honoured souvenir booklet style.

A short report announced that the banns of Lady Agnes and Elena had been concluded successfully. More ads on the back covered the Half-Circle Theatre and the Fighter Auction, with some rather pertinent advice drawn from Thomas Dekker’s guide to buying a horse, to wit:

Care not on a fayre out-side and handsome shape (like those that hyre beauteous whores though there be a hundred diseases within). Be not cosend with an over-price for a bad penyworth. Avoid bad and deceiptful commodities with false praises of goodnesse or those which are tyred, dull or diseased.

Alongside that was an advert for the Nostrum Remedium, the Choise Drink of Health, which used the text and original layout one of the first patent medicine advertisements to be printed in England. I stretched my timeline a bit as this was printed in 1673, but I couldn’t resist, as it played into further to-ing and fro-ing between the newsbooks.

The ad page ended with a declaration announcing that Messers Jhone Knox and Phillip Stubbes were required to appear before the commissioners of the justiciary on pain of being put to the horn. The legalese came from Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings.

Corantoe , Edition 2, Thursday

A lamenatable Reporte of the speciall passages of note at Canterbury Faire and elsewhere reported in True and honourable form despite the efforts of Those who would say them nay.
This Intelligencer having suffered attempts to be silenced, yet moves to speak again on Matters we thought needful to acquaint you with ; so that you may the better understand the Consequents, which we shall now publish as heretofore.

Corantoe Edition 2 (PDF)
This is laid out to print as a double-sided A4 sheet, landscape and folded.

You got the feeling from the tagline that Messrs Knox and Stubbes were feeling a little put-upon, no doubt like their period confreres who made the same moan.

The front page ditty once more deplored inappropriate publications such as the "luxurious Pamphlets" loved by women and "not penn’d by Artists byt the fruit of Cookes", a scorn originally penned by Robert Anton in The Philosophers Satyrs (1616).

The leader poured further scorn on the Good Newes for misspelling His Majesty’s name in the previous day’s edition. This was based on a real exchange between two news editors where one had misspelled the title of his own publication.

The leader goes on to mourn the fact that tacky tabloids sell better than his own much more worthy publication, despite the former making up news and advertising the healing nostrums of Quacksalving Conceipts. He states, like William Cornwallis before him (in 1627), that "…my custome is to read these and presently to make good vse of them, for they lie in my privy".

Next comes dissing the idea of markets as morally worse than faires (courtesy of 13th century writer Humbert de Romans), and exhorting people to take up the True Science of Defense (Vadi, 1480s) with gracious tournaments, rather than tavern brawls.

The poem from the cover shows its relevance with the section on the upcoming feast, starting off with a proverb from William Camden: God sends meat, the Devil sends Cooks. A diatribe against the use of lettuce was a reference to the numerous lettuce-based dishes the feast cook had on the menu for the following night. And then it goes onto fulminate against further sins such as drunkenness, quoting the Drunkeness Act of 1606 and the very dodgy manufacturing processes involved in tobacco, based on a commentary by Thomas Milne (1615). Clearly advertisers had been put off appearing in the Corantoe, for the final page consisted primarily of public notices, including period announcement deploring the sale of spoiled fish and the punishment to be dealt to anyone found nicking off with local turnips (the latter came from 1769, but was too good not to include).

Good Newes from Lochac, Edition 3, Friday

Wherein is report’d such Courte Matters as the Recent arrival of Their Maiesties of Caid, Sven & Cassandra, and further court notices and accountings of Note. And Especiall Newes of how wine, Sack, Cyder and Gargarismes maie contribute to the preseruation of healthe. And other Sundrie Matters as are bruited about the Kingdom.

Good Newes Edition 3 (PDF)
This is laid out to print as a double-sided A4 sheet, landscape and folded.

Their Majesties of Caid were most-welcome visitors at Canterbury Faire, and Saturday’s Good Newes woodcut fortuitously depicted the arrival of some royals before a city of towers and spires. Even more fortuitously, in the background was a lady boarding a ship with the assistance of an "unidentified gentleman", not that the Good Newes was suggesting Her Majesty of Lochac had run off with someone…

The lead column gave a short history of Canterbury Faire, with a small blast against the "false fained and forged reportes and opporbriouse slaunders…againste the vertuouse, innocent and Good Lady" , advising people not to heed such. The writings of defenders of Mary Queen of Scots, such as the stout-hearted John Leslie , provided some suitably righteous phrasing for this. And there was the usual dig at the weather for faires in other parts, including the traditional mention of mudde, dust and Venymous Fauna.

Court announcements were made, alledgedly to supplement the previous day’s Royal Court, including:

  • some period notifications of various fines and punishments for brawling, disturbing the neighbours, and warnings about drunkards and common scolds (from the Essex Record Office amongst others)
  • a warning against males wearing women’s clothing (foreshadowing the promised appearance of a certain cross-dressing Duke at the Ball the following evening)
  • Scots-based punishments for those caught stealing pikes and hives and breaking into dovecotes, including children to be lashed, scourged and flooged (all kinds!)
  • a (fake) accounting based on the Chamberlain's Account 1584-5 of Faire income due to fines taken of persons committing offences, and for breaking of ordinances, making of unlawful wares, breaking of the assize of bread, annoyances done in the river, for burying of jakes within the Faire liberties
  • and a report on the expenditure of the Banco di Don Julio

Oh yes, one small item announced the following:

Let it be known that a certain seditious Publisher, one P. Stubbes, has been apprehend and is to face the justice on the morrow so that he maie no more spread his anatomie of abuse.

This issue closed with a brief discourse of the Nostrum Remedium (as advertised in the previous issue) from Dr Daffy. This was taken from the original patent medicine advert of 1673 supplemented with a medicinal description drawn from a Falstaff monologue from Henry IV, Part II.

The ad page took the traditional call to tournament from Rene of Anjou’s Tournament Book and used it to advertise the Ball, and listed all the Banco Padrones. A final Errata Ammendum, from Leslie, apologised for any "letre lacking or otherwise altered", asking readers to amend any such with their pen and explaining that it was difficult enough to produce such a publication without having little faults condemned. It closed with the worthy plea, courtesy of Thomas Nashe:

And euerie one of you should have a poinyard, that if you come in companie with any who dispraise these workes, you may giue him the stickado.

Corantoe, Edition 3, Saturday

Wherein shew the manifold abuses of this wicked world, the intolerable pride of people, the wantonnesse of women, the dissumuilatoin of flatterers, the subtility orf deceivers, the beastiliness of Drunkards, the filthinesses of Whoredom, the vnthrifitines of Gamesters, the cruelty of Landlords, with a number of other inconueniences.

Corantoe Edition 3 (PDF)
This is laid out to print as a double-sided A4 sheet, landscape and folded.

Now labelled as having been "printed for J Knox", in the absence of Mr Stubbes, the leader lamented the need to "bring you this news upon my own" and then launched into a Buchanan-based diatribe concerning how Her Majesty was badly treating the King, ending with animal metaphors for naughty courtiers:

the cunning of the Foxe, the mutabilitie of the Chameleon, the biting of the Dogge, the despeiratnesse of the Elephant [??!], the reuengement of the Camel,the fearefulnes of the Hare, the laciuiousnes of the Goate, the vncleannes of the Sowe, the Simiplicitie of the Sheepe, the follie of the Asse, the scoffinge of theApe, the inconstancie of the Lionesse.
Agrippa's Vanitie, quoted in Partridge

The Ball report was in full Stubbesian spleen and, as had been foreshadowed, included some gnashing of teeth over cross dressing encounters:

it encourages men and women to abandon seemlie garb for that of the other sex and practice such vices as they maie upon unsuspecting innocents who thought that they had laid chaste handes upon a true woman matched at last in height to their owne, onlie to find that a suspect Duke was held within their grasp dressed in maiden’s clothese and sporting virginal braids, to the grate torment and shame of their erstwhile partners for that those who knew of the counterfete assumed that a libidinous acte was set to ensue when such was most certainly eschewed.

(Gabrielle Berengarsdottir made an appearance as a blushing Viking maiden, introduced by "her" father Count Berengar of Nancy, who had similarly hit the floor in full Venetian one year as nancy of Berengar. Duke Gabriel de Beaumont had made the unwise remark that he would dress up as such when a squire of his won Crown. Which Edmund of Shotley promptly did…)

The last Coranto closed with a rather sad discourse on the corruption of printing without a license, ending with a suitable quote from PIGGES CORANTOE: OR NEVVES FROM the North (1642):

The generall newes is, no body knowes what to make of this World, and that all think there is a better, but its ten to one they do not hit on’t, that future ages are more subject to alteration than the present, that the Rumors of warres makes all believe Doomesday is at hand, and hath caused more tales in every mans mouth than truth.

The back page was all public notices by this stage, with the publisher avowing that he would not stoop to advertorials from 'hucksters and hawkers of improbable goods and vile services". It included an extended Coroner’s report on a death at a football match, which had occurred during Elizabeth Tudor’s reign.

Coroner’s inquisition — post-mortem taken at Sowthemyms, Co. Midd., in view of the body of Roger Ludforde, yoman there lying dead with verdict of jurors that Nicholas Martyn and Richard Turvey, both late of Southemyms, yomen, were on the 3rd instant between 3 and 4 P.M> playing with other persons at foote-ball in the field called Evanses field at Southmyms, when the said Roger Ludford and a certain Simon Maltus, of the sd parish, yomen, came to the ground, and that Roger Ludford cried out, "Cast hym over the hedge," indicating that he meant Nicholas Martyn, who replied, "Come thou and do yt." That thereupon Roger Ludforde ran towards the ball with the intention to kick it, whereupon Nicholas Martyn with the fore-part of his right arm and Richard Turvey with the fore-part of his left arm struck Roger Ludforde on the fore-part of the body under the breast, giving him a mortal blow and concussion of which he died within a quarter of an hour, and that Nicholas and Richard in this manner feloniously slew the said Roger.


I printed around 45 copies of each edition and made up small newsboxes for distribution at three points around the Faire site, changing the material every morning. They didn’t shift that much so I started handing them out to likely people or dropping on tables. There were some definite fans, though I’m not sure how many read the full set to pick up the running battles between the two publishers.

In a inspiring piece of synchronicity, the Ildhafners arrived with a series of very tabloid broadsheets, distributed every second day and individually covering:

  • The Leek, travel/politics: Politarchopolis declares independent
  • Das Liek, financial news: Banco di Don Iulio first to receiue highest rating
  • The Leak, sports news: Gauls defeated by Crescent Isles
  • The Leke, entertainment: Smashing Turnips to play Half-Circle Theatre

They were a lot quicker to read and a lot funnier.

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