Melvyn Bragg, the author and broadcaster, is giving a series of talks on Radio 4 called In our time: the written world. Among others here at the British Library, I recorded a session with him about the first English patent, in 1618.
English patent no. 1 is not really for an invention but rather a monopoly, as it is for the right to engrave maps of London and other cities (no. 2 was a monopoly on representing the image of the King). It is only no. 1 because it was the first item in a the first "docket book" selected for printing when, in the 1850s, the newly set up Patent Office decided to number and print the old English patents.
I found radio to be an interesting medium for discussing the appearance of an old printed item. It is a blue pamphlet, with the wordy printed pages inside faithfully reproducing the spelling and flourishes used by the clerk whose copy is kept in the National Archives (the material handed in by patent applicants was all routinely destroyed).
The broadcast that includes my piece is going out at 9 to 9.30 am on Friday the 6 January, with a repeat at 9.30 pm. The British Library has a page on the British Library items.