How info-starved were our ancestors?

Resource Author:  Nathan Zeldes
Resource Date:  02/14/2010
Resource Name:  Nathan Zeldes's blog
URL:   Link to Source Article or Site

“A weekday issue of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in an entire lifetime in the seventeenth century.”

Variants of this statement (give or take a couple of centuries) are commonly seen when reading about Information Overload. Of course I agree that there’s more information available today than back in centuries past, but this particular statement always seemed suspicious to me. Is it true? And what if it is?