From the I Love Typography folk
, here’s a short read that will serve both as a piece of trivia and as an interesting dinner fact, over Zoom with the family.
“News” have existed even before the invention of writing. As soon as there was language, humans were keen on exchanging pieces of information with each other, whether by word of mouth or by writing on cave walls. But when and how did we start recording them as artifacts?
In the Middle Ages, news, especially foreign news, was an expensive commodity, and only available to those rich enough to support a network of agents and messengers.
Travel was slow and dangerous and, whereas nowadays news travels literally at the speed of light, it was once limited by how fast we could run, how swiftly horses galloped, and by how favorably prevailing winds carried our ships.
Back then, news only happened whenever there were noteworthy news to share (can we go back to this model?).
In Italy, from about 1500, a new kind of manuscript began to circulate. These avvisi, also known as gazzettes, reporti, corantos, and zeitungen were short handwritten news-sheets reporting on international politics and international commerce. At the beginning, Rome and Venice were among their most enthusiastic proponents, and for obvious reasons. Rome and Venice were major business spots at the time. But the newspapers and avvisi were different, and it’s important to see how:
“It’s important to understand how avvisi differed from the impending printed newspapers. They served very different audiences, and so didn’t directly compete. The avvisi were written by those in the know, by intelligencers close to the seats of real power, both secular and religious. Avvisi also earned a reputation for reliability. And, although the avvisi were not averse to regular gossip and quotidian affairs, they also excelled at social commentary, power politics, international diplomacy and commerce — the kind of news indispensable to aristocrats, politicians and business leaders. ”