Glossary of Early Modern Popular Print Genres



Paolo Bisciola, Relatione verissima del progresso della peste di Milano [...] (Ancona, Bologna: Allessandro Benacci, 1577). Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France; Gallica.

Other languages

  • Dutch: relatio, relaes, relatie, verhael, discours, beschryvinghe 
  • French: relation, discours, recit, description 
  • German: Relation (Messrelation) 
  • Italian: relatione, relazione, discorso
  • Polish: relacja
  • Spanish: relación, relación de sucesos, libro de relación 

Material form



The term relatione originated in Italy in the 16th century, where it referred to occasional publications that specifically related military and political events. These publications were almost exclusively in print, usually containing four pages in quarto or octavo. 

In Germany, the Italian relatione tradition was largely taken over, but some subgenres developed, most notably the Messrelation. Here, the relation referred mostly to eye-witness accounts of specific events. They were usually published twice per year and reported on events from the previous months. Due to their regular appearance from 1583 onwards, it has been suggested that they were perhaps the first printed periodicals. In German, publications of a single news item were also often called Zeitung (see Tidings). 

In the Low Countries the relatio, or relaes, relatie, verhael, discours, beschryvinghe were primarily ‘substantial narrative accounts’ of single events.  

In Spanish, relación had a similar meaning and the term could also be used for narrative accounts that were not news (see History and Playbill/Playbook). The Spanish relación commonly took the form of a four-page pamphlet, the text could be prose or verse (see also Topical poetry). 

Related terms

history, pamphlet, tidings


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.

H. Ettinghausen, ‘The Golden Age of the Single Event Printed Newsletter: Relaciones de sucesos, 1601–1650’, in: A.S. Wilkinson and A. Ulla Lorenzo (eds.), A Maturing Market. The Iberian Book World in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2017), 241-258.

S. González-Sarasa Hernáez, Tipología editorial del impreso antiguo español, thesis Universidad Complutense de Madrid (2013), 428-432 (‘Relación, libro de’), 656-674 (‘Relación de sucesos’).

V. Infantes de Miguel, ‘¿Qué es una relación?: divagaciones varias sobre una sola divagación’, in: C. García de Enterría et al. (eds.), Las «relaciones de sucesos» en España, 1500-1750 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne / Alcalá de Henares: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alcalá, 1996), 203-216.

J. Hyde, J. Raymond, M. Rospocher, Y. Ryan, A. Schaffer, H. Salmi, Communicating the News in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge Elements series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2023).

J. Weber, ‘Strassburg, 1605: The Origins of the Newspaper in Europe’, German History 24.3 (2006), 387-412.

N. Zemon Davis, T.V. Cohen, G. Warkentin et al., Renaissance & Reformation 34:1-2 (2011), special issue ‘Things Not Easily Believed: Introducing the Early Modern Relation’.

Modified on: 07/02/2024