Glossary of Early Modern Popular Print Genres



Handwritten Avviso in Italian, dated 23 December 1663, with news from Antwerp, Cologna, Vienna, Roma, Venice. Private collection.

Other languages

  • Dutch: advijs, advis, adviso 
  • French: advis/avis (notification, often political/military), lettre (newsletter) 
  • German: geschriebene Zeitung, Kaufmannsbrief, Fuggerzeitung (handwritten newsletters from the Augsburg merchant house Fugger, 1568-1605) 
  • Italian: avviso, foglio di avvisi 
  • Polish: awizo
  • Spanish: aviso, relación de avisos, noticia (modern) 

Material form




In Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries, avviso (spelled with double v in Italian) denoted a specific type of handwritten or printed newsletters as well as the content of these newsletters (news). Thus, the term could either refer to a sheet with different pieces of news put together (also referred to as foglio di avvisi), or to a single piece of news. These newsletters, typically in the form of a single (folded) sheet in quarto format, were produced by professional scribes and distributed at regular intervals (e.g. weekly) through the postal networks among subscribers across Europe. In the 16th century the genre began to acquire a relatively consistent layout. The news items were often clustered in sections, preceded by a headline that stated the date and the place where the news was gathered (rather than where it happened). The individual items regularly also stated a source and author. This general layout soon spread to other news genres, making use of the fact that the aviso (and hence its layout) was a marker for reliable news.  

The term avviso originated in Northern Italy already during the 15th century, referring initially to handwritten news sheets in prose, as opposed to the contemporary news poems. Venice and Rome in particular had well-developed news services that distributed such newsletters to other countries as well. Handwritten avvisi continued to be produced alongside printed versions that emerged in the course of the 16th century. The printed versions typically consisted of four or eight pages in quarto. Until the 18th century, avvisi remained the predominant media in Italy for the exchange of political, military and economic news. Initially they circulated among courts and chancelleries, but quickly also broader in society. There was a general distinction between avvisi secreti, which contained confidential information for state institutions, and avvisi pubblici, with the former being exclusively handwritten and the latter being distributed publicly in writing or in print. In 16th-century Italy the term was sometimes used interchangeably with gazette. From the 17th century onwards, the term aviso came to refer to a more or less periodically appearing series. 

The general form of the aviso spread to other European countries already in the 16th century. In English they were referred to as advice or aviso, in Dutch as advijs, advis or adviso. Similar to the gazette in this time and place, the advijs/advice referred primarily to foreign news, and Italian news in particular. 

In Dutch as well as Spanish, aviso could also indicate a single piece of news, synonymous to tidings, report. Several Spanish news pamphlets thus contain the plural avisos in their titles, to indicate a gathering of multiple news items. In 18th-century Spain, the term aviso had a different meaning: it denoted a broadsheet containing a public announcement, whether by the government, the army or a person or organisation seeking to promote an event or product. 

In France, advis was not used to denote handwritten newsletters but news pamphlets (often of a formal nature) that entailed a warning or instruction that required action, especially in military and political contexts. By the 18th century, avis was used as a general term for news, similar to nouvelle

Related terms

advice, gazette, tidings, report


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Modified on: 05/02/2024