1. Studying the Early Modern newspaper reader
Let us first have a look at how newspapers in those days were read. There are several ways to answer the question. A discourse analysis can take all published statements such as treatises on newspapers into consideration. For many national cultures, there is a considerable amount of written statements on this subject. Kaspar Stielers „Zeitungs Lust und Nutz“ published in 1695, was an often quoted statement in discussion in the German world of the 17th and 18th century. The scholar underlined the importance of the newspaper and gave a long list of arguments pro newspaper reading. He mentioned that an informed public is beneficial for the state. However, numerous contrasting views of contemporaries existed and one might get the impression that newspaper reading was rather judged than actually described. As a result, we must regard these documents as sources to the intellectual, political and moral reception of the new medium. The approach of researching treatises like that can uncover attitudes and preferences of contemporaries towards the newspaper.
Members of the Early Modern News network have discussed an approach, based on surviving issues. In an entry on the early modern post website, Joad Raymond mentioned the research of influences on newspaper reading. Amongst them was „the history of reading, as a field. Here he was thinking about the analysis of material marks, and attention to demography and literacy rates, replacing the assumption of an implied reader“. This approach is based on surviving material and can – as it has been shown in studies – make important contributions to the field of reading history. A number of articles is available to tell us more about reading practices. However, a synopsis is still to be written and needs to be internationally focused and based on a broader fundament of sources.
The approach I seek to develop is material-based too, looks at the layout conventions and asks how printers designed their papers to meet their readers’ expectations. We know that the newspaper has been influential in the development of new reading practices ever since. Its typography reacted, according to Susanne Wehde, in the second half of the 19th century on the emergence and differentiation of new forms of content. Advertisements, the gloss, interviews, photos, illustrations and cartoons plus the continuously growing amount of news needing to be reported, lead to the need of structuring the content in a way that allows the reader to skim and skip text that was of no interest. As a form of visual classification of the different text-types, a hierarchical order that guided the view of the reader was introduced to newspaper typography. This is the main requirement for selective reading and the broader range of typographical features structured the text more deeply. Markups such as title texts above the articles, the building of paragraphs, the usage of different line- and letter-spacing, varying fonts, words in boldface and capitalizations are known features of every modern paper and allow the reader to quickly scan the text.
We can now ask: How did the printers met their readers’ expectations? I did not come across archival sources of comments of what they would expect to find in a 17th century gazette and how they wanted it to be presented. It is therefore useful to turn to the surviving sources and seek for patterns that could give hints. It then becomes clear that printers have carefully decided to design their products according to known standards from book and pamphlet printing.
2. Macro-typographical elements and designIt is unfortunate that Power Point only allows you to show a single page at a time so I have to give you a more detailed description orally. At first, it is necessary to have a look at the distinctive typographical features of the typical Dutch and German paper and then we need to ask how these features contributed to the reading process. General features of the printed medium are described in the macro-typographical perspective. We can see that certain features are characteristically for newspapers.
Throughout the whole 17th century, newspaper design varies widely. However, significant for Dutch titles is that they have a higher grade of typographical standardization than German papers. A German paper could consist of a title page and sometimes even an annual title page for later binding purpose, an index, the main news texts and illustrations. While those newspapers appearing between 1605 and roughly 1630 mostly have a length of four to six pages, for Dutch titles we find single sheets with only the recto page containing text. But within a short time news would appeared on the verso too. Dutch and German printers used relatively simple and coarse paper.
A mayor difference between these two typographic styles lays in the usage of columns. Both, German and Dutch newspapers were for the main text centre-justified. Because of the short length, Dutch issues had from the beginning on two columns with the smaller petit font size. The earliest example for a German newspaper featuring two columns is the 1629 issue of “Raporten”, later to be known as “Wochentliche Postzeitungen”, printed in Cologne by Johann Mertzenich. Nevertheless, for the most part throughout the whole century, German newspaper remained mostly single columned. Only 10 out of 260 titles were printed in two columns.
3. Table of Contents, visual orientation
Being a medium of varying content, papers had to give the reader quick access to their different news. For this, a table of content was a useful device. They can be found in this sample, taken from the title page of the “Zeitung”. Often the title, varying from one weekly issue to the next, gave the reader an indication of the papers’ content. Barock-sounding titles like “Relation: Aller Fürnemmen vnd gedenckwürdigen Historien/ so sich hin vnnd wider in Hoch und Nieder Teutschland/ auch in Frankreich/Italien/Schott vnd Engelland /Hisspanien/Hungern/Polen/Siebenbürgen/Wallachey/Moldaw/Türckey/ verlauffen vnd zugetragen möchte“ were typical and gave the reader an exact list of the content of the news and the order they appeared in the paper. The example depicted here is simpler structured. The printer gave the places of correspondence and the date that the news arrived.
A common practice was to work with one layer of text only. Headlines structured the news, clearly indicating where a text began and where it ended. In a 1621 issue of the Dutch “Tijdinghen uyt verscheyde Qartieren” marginalia were used as a second layer of text to structure the paper. With a list of 45 convicts sentenced to be hanged in Prague in the aftermath of the bohemian protestant uprising in 1618 after the second Defenestration, the paper informs about the ranks and duties of the convicts. This information is included in the marginalia in order to make the news easier to understand. Joachim Andreas von Schlick, Count of Passau and Weißkirchen and leader of the rebellious protestants, is named as his duty of being “Burghgraef tot Carlsteyn”, as the burgrave of Hrad Karsltejn near Prague.
Marginal notes were in some cases, as Raymond has shown, produced by readers as means of a better understanding of the paper. This particular issue of the “Tijdinghen” is a special case, because here, the printer Broer Janszon used printed marginalia to include additional information that was vital to understand the main text. Only in an 1645 issue of the Mercurius Britannicus paper I could find printed marginalia.
3.1 Title and bodyThe few decorative features and the usage of initials have an influence on the design of the page. The pattern, mostly consisting of a number of news on one page, is formed by a typographical simple layout. Speaking of the German newspapers, there is a clear visual distinction between the individual news. All newspapers that I came across differentiate between title and news text through the usage of larger line spacing, font size and/or bold letters. Often, the first line of the text is also decorated and emphasized with an initial, sometimes covering one line, sometimes even up to nine lines like in the example depicted. Dutch newspapers are using the same design pattern, even though there is a broad variation of the usage of emphasis in the headlines and the text. In Dutch papers, often headlines are centred, set in italics, and appear in the same font size as the main text. However, relatively small line spacing visually separates the title.
Designed to meet the readers’ expectations, newspapers from their beginning on appeared in fonts that were characteristic for the local typographic cultures. Following the German Sonderweg, newspapers of the Holy Roman Empire were generally set in Fraktur German types. However, Antiqua typefaces also occurred. Especially words of foreign origin or place names that were in those days not Germanized, had to be set in Antiqua typeface and printers adhered to this, as it is a known standard in the layout of the book. Printers in the Dutch Republic adopted the typeface class of their target market. If the papers were printed in Dutch, they would use the Dutch black letter, a typeface developed by printers in the Netherlands in the 16th century that was commonly used during almost the whole Early Modern period. Depicted on the bottom is an issue from Caspar and Jan van Hiltens “Courante d’Italie et d’Almaigne”. Because French readers would expect an Antiqua font, the newspaper printers carefully designed their products in order to meet the standards of the local market.
German printers used italics or even more often Antiqua as an emphasis. This practice proofed to be useful for example in school education. Moravia’s important teacher and educator John Amos Comenius dedicated one lesson per week for reading the newspaper in his 1654 curriculum for a Hungarian school. Pupils could quickly identify place names or relevant verbs derived from the French. But this did not only matter to students. Ever since, there had been a debate that newspapers might be too difficult for the general reading public to understand. Some contemporary writers used this argument as to deny access to newspapers. However, more optimistic scholars took a different way. One century after the advent of the new medium, the first newspaper dictionaries or Zeitungslexika, an in those days popular book format, began to appear, intending to pave the way for an easier reception of the news. Kaspar Stieler was the first to write a dictionary on newspaper reading that he included in his general treatise, featuring more than 1.600 entries. Most of the lemmas were words, printed in Antiqua in the papers. We can see that Stieler as a regular and presumably highly skilled reader of newspapers, made use of a special German feature and created a useful device for reading the news.
4. Usage of IllustrationsUnlike modern day examples, Early Modern newspapers were restricted to the text to communicate the news. Dutch titles in those days did not have illustrations; we can only find decorations in the form of initials. Nevertheless, exceptions existed.
Around 20 per cent of the German newspapers had illustrations on their title page. We can classify them into three different groups. The first has sheer decorative functions: the “Aviso Relation oder Zeitung”, published between 1609 and 1624 is a good example. Roughly, one third of the title page of the number features the emblematic human horned head, surrounded by a frame. In total, we find two newspapers equipped with such illustration. Another more prominent example for decorative use of illustrations is depicted here on the right. There are nine papers carrying the Reichsadler, mostly dating from the first half of the century. Although newspaper printing was often privileged, the purpose of the imperial eagle was not to indicate this privileged status of an individual title.
While there is a number of books and pamphlet printings that feature the same decoration, emblematic and heraldic images who form the second group clearly stood out in the context of early modern media. A number of newspapers used symbolic illustrations that clearly referred to the post system. The title pages had illustrations depicting a postmaster or a courier at his duty. By using this imagery, it was clear to the reader, what she or he could expect from the print simply by looking at its title. Another way of making it visually obvious that this is a newspaper was the reference to the antique world, using the Greek Hermes or his roman equivalent Mercury. Depicted in a very traditional manner, the god was wearing the talaria, the winged shoes and in some cases the winged helmet petasos . In some cases he was holding the caduceus in his hands and a paper with “si memora” written on it. Contemporaries were familiar with this and could quickly identify the medium. Using these symbols did not only have a correspondence to the content of the paper but also to the title. Many newspapers, including the well-known “Mercurius” had the name of the roman god in its title and the depiction in the title page served as an additional reference. In Hamburg, one exceptional kind of illustration was tested that makes the third group. The “Türkischer Estats- und Krieges-Bericht” was for the most part focused on bringing news from the Ottoman Wars with a series of 137 numbers between 1683 and 1684. What made this newspaper stand apart from others is the use of its woodcuts as to illustrate the content. In almost all of this titles’ issues, we find illustrations, depicting the various political parties taking part in the war and their armies. The printer Thomas von Wiering put a focus on the development of the battles by including maps, showing the movements of troop units. The equipment and weaponry of the armies was of interest, too. He used a series of woodcuts, produced by himself, Louis Danet and a third, anonymous artist in his newspapers depicting the individual armament of the ottoman troops. He took his woodcuts from Melchior Lorichs “Wolgerissenen vnd Geschnittene Figuren”, a work portraying the standard weaponry of ottoman troops and scenes from everyday life in the Ottoman Empire. The connection between the illustrations and the text was often tight. In this woodcut, the text referring to the illustration of this Chinese foot soldier explains the usage of the longbow and the possible harms it can do to allied Christian forces.
Having the illustration used solely for the newspaper would possibly have let to commercial ruin. Thomas von Wiering has specialized himself in the production of print media concerning the ottoman wars. He published at least 433 pamphlets between 1706 and 1748 and illustrating his “Türkischer Estats- und Krieges-Bericht“ was only economically sustainable because he saved money by using already carved woodcuts and re-used them later in other publications. He did so and a good example is his “Thesaurus Exoticorum. Oder eine mit Außländischen Raritäten und Geschichten Wohlversehene Schatz-Kammer“, published five years after the newspaper in 1688, on this slide on the right. In this book, illustrating the Asian and Arabic world, he puts the previously acquired woodcuts to a second use. He later recycles them a third time in his broadsheets and pamphlets. We do not know how the reading audience of Hamburg responded to this title. We must assume that it was of a high interest to the public because it stood out in a competitive local market. However, it was only possible for von Wiering to publish a paper like this because of his high grade of specialization and his chance to re-use the illustrations in other contexts. This made his illustrations somewhat universal, as they could fit with a variety of texts and were not newspaper-exclusive.
We can identify three different functionalities of early modern newspaper illustrations: initials, emblematic or heraldic symbols had a decorative function. The use of illustrations referring to the post system and the world of newspaper publishing was closely linked to the title and make the second group. Mercuries or postal-couriers are good examples for those illustrations that visually characterize the medium. With the “Türkischer Estats- und Krieges-Bericht”, only one example can be found for the last group of illustrations with reference to the news itself. By doing so, they enlarged the amount of information that was transported in the paper. A map can more precisely show the course of a battle and the text can carry information on the actions of the parties.
Once found and established, Dutch and German newspaper design showed a remarkable longevity. They differed only in length as papers printed in the Netherlands slowly settled for a quarto format printed on each side. In contrast, from the start, German newspapers had been appearing in a wide range of typographic forms and a trend towards standardization developed roughly at the same time.
It is difficult to talk about fixed and static readers’ expectations; we must rather understand the early layout conventions as an adjustment to reading practices that already existed. Printers and publishers using established layout schemes met expectations through referring to layout models known to the readers. The analysis has shown that German newspapers applied the standards for book typography while printers in the Dutch Republic with their papers often visually referred to the layout of a broadsheet or a pamphlet. In both cases, it is to ask in which way readers consumed the papers. The important implication of these two layout schemes is that the newspaper had to be read in a linear way. However, it was not a necessity to structure it with more than headlines and in the case of the German papers with more than a table of content.
Compared to modern day papers with a length of sometimes up to 80 pages, Early Modern newspapers were not time-consuming to read and therefore the need for structuring the content was not as urgent as in other formats like handbooks, dictionaries or in an encyclopaedia. Nevertheless, we find attempts to structure the content and the typographical layout remained relatively stable during the whole century. It is yet to ask, why printers decided to change the layout of the newspapers. Growing economic pressure, a more fierce competition and the growing mass of news are amongst possible candidates. The singular case of using illustrations to enrich the covered news prompts the question, why illustrating the news was a common practice in broadsheet and pamphlet printing, but not in newspaper printing.
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