The Venice Workshop in Photos

ImageThe meeting assembles (note posters for the forthcoming conference in the centre of the table – our very own attempt at creating a news network by handbill distribution).ImageMassimo Petta explaining his circuit of standardisation for Milanese newsprint.ImageA very small fraction of the 70km of shelving holding original documents in the Archivio di Stato…Image…of whose astonishing holdings Mario Infelise led a demonstration.ImageAfter a brief downpour, we returned to the Universita Ca’ Foscari…Image…where we heard papers from Sheila Barker, Lodovica Braida, and Joad Raymond. Above, André Belo responds to Lodovica Braida’s paper…Image

Sheila Barker considers a question from the audience…Image…and the project director delivers his paper.ImageSheila Barker, Massimo Petta, Laura Carnelos and Chiara Palazzo (l-r) attend to the subsequent discussion.ImageLaura Carnelos delivers a paper on the trade in cheap print in early modern Venice.ImageScholarly collaboration over dinner…Image…and just to prove we were in Venice.


News and the shape of Europe – 9 days left to submit abstracts!


Conference Poster Final

The deadline for abstracts for News Networks’ summer conference is coming up quickly – February 28th next week. Send your proposals (250 words), for papers of 20 minutes duration, to; and follow the blog for updates.


News Networks V: Venice

News Networks in Venice, 7-9 March 2013

News Networks is approaching its fifth workshop, to be held at the Universita Ca’ Foscari in Venice in six weeks time.  This event will be our last research workshop before the project conference, News and the Shape of Europe 1500-1750 (to be held at Queen Mary, University of London this summer from 26-28 July – deadline for abstracts is the 28th of February, so get submitting!).  Confirmed speakers at this event include the project director, Joad Raymond (QMUL), as well as Mario Infelise (our host on this occasion), Lodovica Braida (University of Milan)Sheila Barker (Medici Archive Project), Laura Carnelos, Chiara Palazzo, and Massimo Petta.

The meeting will have a strong regional focus; as our previous two meetings have examined the Germanies and the Iberian peninsula, this event will focus on Italy, including papers on Venetian, Roman and Florentine networks of news-gathering and distribution.  The other strand of the workshop will be a comparative focus on the role of censorship and state control in the production and circulation of news throughout Europe, from the self-regulation of the Stationer’s Company in London to the intensive state interference in France (which practically established the newspaper as an organ of state, and from which even literary journalism was not immune – see last week’s blog on the Journal des Sçavans.)  The various modes and intensities of censorship, the criteria according to which they were applied, and the strategies used for getting around them are of critical importance to understanding the structure and function of early modern news networks.  Who had the task of censoring the news? What kinds of news were especially prone to censorship? And what were its aims (that is, was it principally concerned to suppress news at home, or abroad?) The Italian focus of the meeting is particularly apposite for these questions, at once because of the continuing importance of the manuscript newsletter in Italy, the many and competing jurisdictions on the peninsula, and the prominence given to news from Rome and Venice in news in other European languages.   More news of the event will be posted here in due course; and suggestions for further topics and themes for discussion are of course always welcome!

Librarians, learned journals and men of action

A bit of a tangent for News Networks, this, occasioned by a note in an early learned journal. The run of the Journal des Sçavans in Archbishop Marsh’s library in Dublin appears to have belonged to its first keeper, Elie Bouhéreau. Bouhéreau was a remarkable man in many respects, but more of him anon.  The Journal des Sçavans is well known as the first learned periodical, its first issue beating by a couple of months Henry Oldenburg’s Philosophical Transactions (which consoles itself with the distinction of being the first scientific journal – the Journal des Sçavans took the republic of letters more generally as its remit).  Both were immediate successes, both survive down to the present under largely the same title (with a few hiccups along the way, in each case) and each borrowed extensively from the other.   Their status as rivals and analogues was pointed out from the beginning; Sir Robert Moray (one of three candidates for the title of first President of the Royal Society, depending on what criteria you use) wrote to Christiaan Huygens in Paris to tell him that Oldenburg had shown a copy of the first issue of the Journal at a meeting of the Society.  (Intriguingly enough, Moray refers to it as the “Gazette des Sçavans”, not the “Journal”.)  He added that Oldenburg had produced “a sample of a similar project, but much more philosophical in nature” which would eschew legal and theological matters.

The remark proved prescient – the Journal ran for barely three months before its repeated endorsements of gallican positions led to its being shut down by the government following a complaint from the papal legate.  It was revived in 1666, when it appeared weekly; thereafter its periodicity was extremely erratic for most of the next ten years, varying from a handful of issues per year up to 1674, to an average of fortnightly or better in the late 1670s and early 1680s.  Oldenburg had problems of his own to face – wars on the continent that disrupted his correspondence, plague, fire, and a spell of incarceration – but by and large he kept the Transactions up to its intended monthly periodicity (with exceptions usually made for July and August, or August and September, when the Royal Society took its annual recess.)

Neither was exactly a news periodical, but it’s worth noting that news and the structures of news discourse had an important influence on both – something that has been partly forgotten in the subsequent emphasis on the ways in which they represented something new.  Moray’s renaming, for instance, is suggestive; whether intentionally or by Freudian slip, “gazette” associates the new publication with Théophraste Renaudot’s Gazette de France.  The implication is that weekly periodicity gives rise to expectations of a certain kind of discourse (and Moray knew that the Journal was intended to appear more often than monthly, since his reference to Oldenburg’s nascent Transactions acknowledges that they will ‘only’ appear once a month).  Like the Gazette, the Journal was under the direct patronage of the government; it was the subject of a privilege, intended to grant its author a monopoly; and it touched often on political or theological matters.    The Transactions, for its part, presented surprisingly little that would now be recognizable as scientific research papers.  Oldenburg, occasionally fêted as the world’s first scientific editor, might be more aptly remembered as the world’s first scientific journalist, pulling together from his role as Secretary to the Royal Society and the vast correspondence he kept up across Europe a snapshot of contemporary goings-on in natural philosophy.  The letter-extracts, second-hand reports, and promotional extracts of books in which Oldenburg had a financial stake as editor or translator (notably by Robert Boyle) represent a very large proportion of the whole of the early journal, and formally presented research rather less than is sometimes thought.


The picture above shows the 27th of June 1672 issue of the Journal. Bouhéreau’s note remarks on the fact that he’s been informed, almost two years after the fact, that the issue that was supposed to come between this and the next extant issue of July 25th “is not to be found, the author not wishing it to be printed”.[1]  I’d like to think that Bouhéreau made this note in 1674 when he got Abraham Tessereau’s letter, because it would speak well of his bibliographical curiosity some time before he became keeper of Marsh’s Library.  Bouhéreau knew there was a missing issue not because of an unexplained gap in the periodicity of the Journal­ – it was too erratic for that, and individual issues weren’t numbered  – but because there is a gap in the pagination.  An issue was earmarked for that gap, and perhaps even printed, but was withdrawn or suppressed before it could reach the public, and at any rate does not survive.  (The rest of the visible text is a book review of a treatise on the airs, waters, soils and places of England, as well as of the habits and temperaments of the English, printed in England but written in Latin; this section is a translation of the review section of the Philosophical Transactions for March of the same year.)  The reason for the non-appearance of this issue is not clear – Bouhéreau’s note indicates that it was the will of the publisher, although in a French context that could as easily indicate the interference of Colbert, Louis XIV’s chief minister, as a decision by Jean Gallois, who was the principal author of the Journal in the 1670s.

Bouhéreau is, or ought to be, a hero to librarians everywhere; a dedicated bibliophile, a skilled cataloguer, on the surviving evidence, and a man of action.  Exiled from his hometown of La Rochelle for his Protestantism, he successfully smuggled his books out of the country into England and, eventually, Ireland, where they were eventually donated to Marsh’s. (In this he had the help of the English ambassador).  He followed the books soon after; lest anyone think his priorities were a little off, he also arranged the escape of his family, and subsequently, it’s reported, returned to France to rescue his youngest son, whom he hadn’t managed to smuggle out in the initial attempt.[2]

[1] News Networks has the present Keeper of Marsh’s, Dr Jason McElligott, to thank for bringing the note to our attention and supplying the image.

[2] For an account of Bouhéreau, see Muriel McCarthy, ‘Elie Bouhéreau, first keeper of Marsh’s Library’, Dublin Historical Record 56 (2003), 132-45.

Early Modern News Networks

News Networks in Early Modern Europe is very pleased to announce an international, interdisciplinary conference, to take place at Queen Mary, University of London in July 2013 on the theme ‘News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750’.  The call for papers is available to download below:

For more information about what should be a very exciting event, or to submit a paper proposal, please write to; the deadline for paper proposals will be the 28th of February 2013. Please tweet, post the cfp on facebook, and circulate it to wherever you think it will be of interest! We look forward to seeing lots of you at the event.

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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