Glossary of Early Modern Popular Print Genres



Gazzetta universale nr. 51, 1792. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek; Europeana.

Other languages

  • Dutch: gazet, gazette, courant 
  • French: gazette
  • German: Gazette, Zeitung 
  • Italian: gazetta, gazzetta (modern spelling)
  • Polish: gazeta
  • Spanish: gazeta, gaceta (modern spelling) 

Material form




In Italy, the gazetta (gazzetta in modern spelling) was a particular form of the avvisi pubblici that was cheap and widely available. The name was quite possibly derived, as several early modern dictionaries assert, from the small Venetian coin of the same name that corresponded to the initial price of the news-sheet, attesting to its cheap nature. Its first recorded use was in 1572, but it seems that for quite some decades the term was more common in spoken than in written language. 

While the term initially referred to handwritten news sheets (e.g. in Italy, France, and the Low Countries), gazette started to appear in print as well from the early 17th century on. Indeed, during the 17th century, gazette and its local variations became one of the most widely used terms across Europe for printed periodicals. 

Gazette was sometimes used as a synonym of avviso, but its range of possible meanings was somewhat more diffuse. The term was first applied to both one-issue news sheets as well as regularly recurring sheets, but later uses – especially after 1631, when Gazette became the title of France’s major printed news medium – more commonly refer to a periodical. In 17th-century Spain, gazeta continued to be used to indicate occasional as well as serial publications.   

Already during the 16th century in Italy the term gazetta, or the commonly used plural gazette carried the connotation of news sheets that lacked credibility. In France and England the term was sometimes taken up in a similar vein, referring to possibly unreliable, sensational news publications. In England, after 1660, gazette became more neutral as the most commonly used term to indicate a serial news publication.  

In the Low Countries and Germany the term also seems to have been more neutral, being used as a generic indication of printed newspapers, synonymous with courant/Courante. In Germany, the term Gazette was much less common than in the other countries considered here. 

Related terms

aviso, coranto, newspaper


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Modified on: 05/02/2024