Glossary of Early Modern Popular Print Genres



Nouvelles de ce quis'est passe en Espagne [...] (Lyon: Guichard Iullieron, 1596). Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale; Gallica.

Other languages

  • Dutch: nouvelle, tijding 
  • French: nouvelles (usually in plural) 
  • Italian: nuova; reporto 
  • Polish: nowina, wiadomość
  • Spanish: nuevas (usually in plural) 

Material form





Term used in French, English, Dutch (nouvelle) and Italian (nuova) to denote a single piece of news, similar in use to tidings and report. In Italy reporto was also used. 

In France, nouvelles à la main or gazettes à la main were clandestine, handwritten news sheets that distributed news, via the postal services, across the provinces. In the 19th century they became incorporated in the newspapers, as a section rather than an independent genre. 

In the 18th-century Low Countries, nouvelles was also used as a general word for news, as was nuevas in early modern Spain.  

Predating, and subsequently running parallel with, the early modern use of nouvelle in a news context, the term was used to indicate a literary genre of short narrative prose (Italian, English and Spanish: novella, French: nouvelle, Dutch: novelle, German: Novelle). In the Middle Ages, most famously and influentially in Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353), such stories were said to be related to true and ‘new’ events. When in the early modern period nouvelle came to be used to indicate news items, its meaning as a literary genre shifted towards fictional stories. 

Related terms

tidings, report


P. Arblaster, A. Belo, C. Espejo, S. Haffemayer, M. Infelise, N. Moxham, J. Raymond, N. Schobesberger, ‘The Lexicons of Early Modern News’, in: J. Raymond and N. Moxham (eds.), News Networks in Early Modern Europe (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016), 64-101.

R. Darnton, ‘An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris’, American Historical Review 105 (2000), 1-35.

G. Feyel, L’annonce et la nouvelle. La presse d’information en France sous l’Ancien Régime (1630-1788) (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2000).

H. van Goinga, ‘Alom te bekomen. Veranderingen in de boekdistributie in de Republiek 1725-1770’, in: Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis 3 (1996), 55-85.

F. Moureau, ‘Informer et diffuser la pensée dans la France du dernier siècle de l’Ancien Régime’, Lumen 28 (2009), 29-50.

F. Moureau (ed.), Répertoire des nouvelles à la main: dictionnaire de la presse manuscrite clandestine, XVIe – XVIIIe siècle (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1999).

Modified on: 05/02/2024