Seville Meeting: An Illustrated Report

The News Networks research group met for the fourh time in Seville last week, funded, as ever, by the Leverhulme Trust, and hosted and supplemented by the generosity of the University of Seville.  In the beautiful surrounding of CICUS (Centro de Iniciativas Culturales de la Universidad de Sevilla), scholars of news and cheap print met from across Europe to discuss the news and news production of the Iberian peninsula.

First up was Alexander Wilkinson (University College Dublin), speaking on “Bum fodder and kindling: Printed ephemera in Early Modern Spain”.  Drawing on the Iberian Books project and its continuation, which is extending the catalogue originally published in 2010 (Brill, Leiden) to include all items printed in the Iberian peninsula and the Spanish-speaking world to 1650.   As well as providing a very useful statistical overview, Dr Wilkinson was able to show a clear pattern of spikes in the production of news pamphlets and other ephemera driven by  a series of national and international crises.

Next came Renate Pieper (University of Graz), who traced, through a series of superb maps, the routes by which news from the Americas were transmitted to Spain and the rest of Europe, and thereby showing that a purported shortage of imprints on Spanish American subjects were more than compensated by a profusion of handwritten material.  The paper and subsequent discussions raised important questions about the direction of news flow, agency within networks, and the position of Spain in European news networks in the 16th Century.

Daniel Pimenta Oliveira de Carvalho (EHESS, Paris) spoke illuminatingly about the role of news and ephemeral printing both in shaping and as an instrument of Portuguese diplomacy during the Restoration War, particularly the use of foreign presses and attempts to manipulate the tone and content of Renaudot’s Paris Gazette.  Resuming after lunch, Antonio Castillo Gomez (University of Alcala) tackled some of the more fugitive forms of news discourse – libels, lampoons and satirical verses posted up on street corners and church doors, distributed as handbills, or written directly onto the walls with whitewash or chalk, and the vigorous pursuit of these conspicuous manifestations of news in the public spaces of Castilian towns by the authorities and the Inquisition in particular.

The Conversation continues during a break in procedings

Henry Ettinghausen (Southampton) drew attention to the profusion of single-event printed newsletters and short serials across early modern Europe: Spanish relaciones de sucesos, French canards, Italian avvisi a stampa, and German neue zeitungen, produced in large numbers from the 16th century onwards and revealed the extent to which these items were exchanged and translated transnationally, the remarkable degree of focus on what might be considered popular as opposed to state news, and opened up a discussion concerning the formation of ad hoc networks of news around particular events or episodes, to consider alongside the more securely established and longer-running serials and periodicals of the seventeenth century.

The next day began with a paper from Javier Diaz Noci (Universidad Pompeu Fabru) on the methodological challenges of describing the Iberian position in European news networks and the problems faced by current projects.  As well as tracing references to now-lost Avvisi of Spanish news appearing and circulating through private netwroks in Italy in the early seventeenth century, drawing attention to the hithero under-acknowledged importance of San Sebastian as a centre of distribution through which foreign news arrived in Spain, and the state of current Spanish efforts to compile catalogues and digitised repositories of early newsprint, as well as a series of desiderata for future projects.

Carmen Espejo (Seville) offered accounts of the earliest Spanish news serials so far discovered, and the networks that constructed them from Italian originals through Jesuit correspondence networks.  Dealing with Sigismund Bathory’s campaigns against the Ottomans in central and eastern Europe, these pamphlets provide evidence for the cultural and conceptual coherence of news in Spain at a date much earlier than is usually allowed, for infrastructures of news that could be quickly adapted or fashioned in response to particular events, and for some of the professional antecedents of the newswriter, such as the chronicler.

After a visit to the magnificent Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina in the Cathedral – and a guided tour of the collections of Ferdinand Columbus, a natural son of Christopher Columbus who had amassed a private library of close to 15000, mostly printed volumes by the time of his death in 1539, an astonishing figure for the time – we resumed with a paper on the revival of older tropes and genres of news in 19th-, 20th-, and even 21st-century Iberian printing from Inmaculada Casas Delgado (Seville).  The final individual intervention was from André Belo (University of Rennes), on the status and networks of the earliest author/editors of Portuguese newspapers, focusing on the Gazeta de Lisboa, which started life in 1715.  As well as revealing the professional networks (and professional anxieties) of the gazeteer, the paper illuminatingly explored some questions of definition and news-writing practice that apparently remained unstable even into the 18th Century – the practice of binding and preserving it inseries, with annual introducions written for the volumes, for instance.

The event was rounded off with a roundtable session: a country-by-country rundown of the emergence of seriality and periodicity in their various regions of expertise by the core members of the network.  The project’s next meeting will take place in Venice in March; shortly before then, the call for papers for the Nework’s London symposium will expire, on February 28th, ahead of the event itself in July (26-28). The CFP can be found elsewhere on this blog: please read it, recirculate it and respond to it! Thanks are due to the Leverhulme Trust, for making this excellent event possible in the first place, to Carmen Espejo for her efforts in organising the event and entertaining the participants, and to CICUS, for accommodating us.CICUS

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