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Avvisi were hand-written newsletters used to convey political, military, and economic news
News is the communication of selected information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience.- Etymology :...

 quickly and efficiently throughout Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and more specifically Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, during the early modern era (1500-1700)
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

. 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.

In Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, the word avviso translates to a notice, a warning, advice, or an 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.


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.

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
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 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. Competition quickly led to avvisi being used as propaganda devices both as a machine of war and in attempts to turn the mob on their own country. Conflict as a result of avvisi being used as propaganda is certainly not out of the question, either with the public or between nations. 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, and government decisions. A minority of people, such as Paolo Sarpi
Paolo Sarpi
Fra Paolo Sarpi was a Venetian patriot, scholar, scientist and church reformer. His most important roles were as a canon lawyer and historian active on behalf of the Venetian Republic.- Early years :...

, 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.

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.


Avvisi led to a realization of the importance of the after-effects of historical records, whether they be true or not. Paolo Sarpi
Paolo Sarpi
Fra Paolo Sarpi was a Venetian patriot, scholar, scientist and church reformer. His most important roles were as a canon lawyer and historian active on behalf of the Venetian Republic.- Early years :...

'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.


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.

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.


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, and shops. 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. 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.


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.


Censorship of avvisi began with Pope Pius V
Pope Pius V
Pope Saint Pius V , born Antonio Ghislieri , was Pope from 1566 to 1572 and is a saint of the Catholic Church. He is chiefly notable for his role in the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation, and the standardization of the Roman liturgy within the Latin Church...

'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.

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.

Religious leaders were not alone in banning newsletters - more secular leaders also laid down limitations and prohibitions, including Venice's Council of Ten
Council of Ten
The Council of Ten, or simply the Ten, was, from 1310 to 1797, one of the major governing bodies of the Republic of Venice whose actions were often secretive. Although some sources may indicate that the Council of Ten was generally accepted in Venice, there was some opposition...

 who held bans until at least 1567.

A popular reporter, Paolo Sarpi
Paolo Sarpi
Fra Paolo Sarpi was a Venetian patriot, scholar, scientist and church reformer. His most important roles were as a canon lawyer and historian active on behalf of the Venetian Republic.- Early years :...

, 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.

Printed vs. Written

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.

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

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

See also

  • List of the earliest newspapers
  • Gazetteer
    A gazetteer is a geographical dictionary or directory, an important reference for information about places and place names , used in conjunction with a map or a full atlas. It typically contains information concerning the geographical makeup of a country, region, or continent as well as the social...

  • Journalism
    Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

  • Journalist
    A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

  • Journal (disambiguation)
    Journal (disambiguation)
    Journal may refer to:* a written medium, for instance:** an academic journal** a diary** a literary magazine, a periodical devoted to literature** a daily newspaper** a scientific journal...

  • Newspaper
    A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

  • Printing press
    Printing press
    A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

  • Public sphere
    Public sphere
    The public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action...