Avvisi (Italian: [avˈviːzi]; singular: avviso) were hand-written newsletters used to convey political, military, and economic news quickly and efficiently throughout Europe, and more specifically Italy, during the early modern era (1500-1700). In the beginning avvisi were very similar to letters written from one dignitary to another, but diverged from such letters in the sixteenth century with more standardized practices. Avvisi can be divided into two categories: 'public' avvisi and 'secret' avvisi, though each copy was often written by the same person.[1]

Avviso from Antwerp dated 26 Dec 1663

In Italian, the word avviso translates to notice, warning, advice, or announcement.


The avvisi found their origins, and peaked, in the early modern Italian world - primarily Rome and Venice. The popularity and distribution of the avvisi was driven by each court's desire to know what the opposing and even the allied courts are up to. News networks spread all across Europe, but the avviso itself was generally created in either Rome or Venice, with the rest of Europe simply consuming.[citation needed]


Avviso from Rome dated 4 Dec 1700

Avvisi influenced many aspects of the early modern world including public opinion, political battles, the nature of propaganda, careers, and historical records.

Public Opinion
Avvisi helped to develop public opinion by informing, organizing, and providing a voice for the public. They allowed the general public to learn of the secret dealings of the nation's leaders, form a response, and then have that response actually be heard by their fellow citizens - essentially making them new players in the game of politics.[citation needed]

Politics and War
Though officially renounced by many leaders at the time, avvisi were then used by those very same leaders to wage their political campaigns against one another. Destruction and censorship of avvisi was selective, demonstrating that the authorities recognized the importance of spreading news but would have preferred to spread only news that was of benefit to themselves.[citation needed] Competition quickly led to avvisi being used as propaganda devices both as a machine of war[citation needed] and in attempts to turn the mob on their own country.[2] Conflict as a result of avvisi being used as propaganda is certainly not out of the question, either with the public or between nations.[3] Further the avvisi provided the public with political power rarely seen before in the form of 'secret' information that could have allowed them to have influence upon the courts,[citation needed] and government decisions.[2] A minority of people, such as Paolo Sarpi, believed that government institutions should rescind their censorship of avvisi and make full use of publication to combat enemy publication. An example of this includes several pamphlets written by Sarpi in defense of Venice's rights over the Adriatic.[citation needed]

Finances and Wealth
Creation and distribution of avvisi required writers, those who can deliver the news, and those who can grant the information that makes the news and this provided many people with jobs, earning them money through standard means. In addition, invaluable secrets provided by the avvisi could be used in extortion or allowing individuals to influence prices at market. Those who used the avvisi in this way held the opinion that the information provided by avvisi could not be stopped and it was thus better to capitalize on it.[4]

Avvisi led to a realization of the importance of the after-effects of historical records, whether they be true or not. Paolo Sarpi's work is an excellent example of this, as he states that he may cause more damage dead (through his writing) than he ever had alive.[citation needed]


Public avvisi

Public avvisi were news letters that were available to anyone who wished to travel to a distribution center in a city. They were limited to generic, often harmless facts.[5]

Secret avvisi

Secret avvisi were news letters available to a restricted audience, much akin to duplicated personal letters. Their content could be considerably more harmful than the public counterpart, as it could include opinions of top officials and the discussions from secret meetings. This form of communication often had a very specific purpose.[citation needed]


Distribution of the avvisi began with the sources of information. Reporters (newsletter writers, menanti, reportisti, gazzettieri) had networks of contacts filtering information from chancelleries, Catholic churches, Protestant churches, foreign embassies,[citation needed] and shops.[6] Information was gathered and put together individually or at a Scrittoria (writer's workshop). The avvisi would then be distributed by regular news services and organized postal service networks. Whether newsletters were sent weekly, bi-weekly, or annually depended on the type of news and the writer.[citation needed][7] As the public avvisi were presented the news would quickly spread by word of mouth among the illiterate, no longer relying on the avvisi reporters. The range of information presented within avvisi was very broad, including countries such as France, Italy, and the Netherlands.[8]


Writers of avvisi received very little recognition which, quite often, was exactly how they wanted it. Fear of censorship kept writers from signing work under their own name - for in the early modern era censorship could mean death. Mutual bonds of trust developed between certain reporters and clients once they found they could trust each other to provide reliable information without any trouble. The quality of avvisi may fall under question for numerous reasons; the recopying of documents, the translation of documents, and the insertion of opinions for example.[citation needed][9]


Censorship of avvisi began with Pope Pius V's campaign, beginning in 1570CE. Writers caught distributing what the Catholic Church determined to be defamatory were punished severely - several examples of punishments include death, imprisonment, and torture (sometimes to death).

The harsh punishments did not prevent writers from continuing in their task, though they were forced to use pseudonyms.[10]

The avvisi were blamed for causing disputes by church officials and writers. However, institutions that condemned avvisi found they could do nothing to quell the hand-written newsletters and began to use them to their own benefit, even with bans still in place.[11]

Religious leaders were not alone in banning newsletters - more secular leaders also laid down limitations and prohibitions, including Venice's Council of Ten who held bans until at least 1567.[12]

A popular reporter, Paolo Sarpi, was a minority in his time for holding the belief that the spread of information could not be stopped so censorship was a waste of resources. Sarpi believed that the only way to combat the enemy's newsletters is for the government to have their own avviso.[citation needed]

Printed vs. WrittenEdit

It was not until the middle of the seventeenth century that printed avvisi became more common, and even then Venice and Rome abstained from print. Due to restrictions from censorship on printed works, a sense of urgency, and a desire for personalization hand written avvisi would not be easily replaced by the printing press.[citation needed]

Printed works were produced much more slowly and as a result the public would lose interest in the topic before it came to print.[13]

Further, printed avvisi were less robust in an effort to avoid censors and cut editing time.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 212, 214, 216-217.
  2. ^ a b See (DeVivo 2005).
  3. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 219.
  4. ^ See (DeVivo 2005).
  5. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 216-217, 220.
  6. ^ See (DeVivo 2005).
  7. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 212, 219, 224.
  8. ^ See (DeVivo 2005).
  9. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 216, 219-220.
  10. ^ See (DeVivo 2005).
  11. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 214-215, 217.
  12. ^ See (DeVivo 2005).
  13. ^ See (DeVivo 2005).
  14. ^ See (Infelise 2002), page 227.

Works citedEdit

  • DeVivo, Filippo (2005), "Paolo Sarpi and the Uses of Information in Seventeenth-Century Venice", Media History, London: Routledge, 11 (1): 37–51, doi:10.1080/1368880052000342406CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Infelise, Mario (2002), Roman Avvisi: Information and Politics in the Seventeenth Century. Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492-1700., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 212–228CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)

External linksEdit