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This is a synoptic piece about the nineteenth-century annual newspaper press directories, an introduction that highlights their unique detail. Their status as a common reference work in their day is belied by their rarity in our own, which may account for their unfamiliarity. This essay discusses their history as a genre and as part of the Benthamite statistical project, with particular attention to Mitchell’s and Deacon’s directories. It assesses their relation to advertising and the press, which provided the core of their readership, and their role in the professionalization of both industries. It also considers their construction and uncertain navigation of generic distinctions among periodicals and between the newspaper and periodical press.