September 2019 marked the beginning of the EURONEWS Project, funded by the Irish Research Council and hosted by University College Cork in collaboration with the Medici Archive Project.
The EURONEWS team is embarking on a challenging adventure: analysing, classifying, and digitising 200 volumes of handwritten documents; each document being the repository of astonishing news coming from all around the world. We are becoming more accustomed to reading Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century news than today’s newspapers!
The avvisi writers gave their own interpretation to the quote “less is more”: their way of reporting events in a dry and sober style left room for much more news. For instance, a six-page newsletter from Venice written in February 1563 comprises 38 pieces of news: the shortest piece being one line long, whereas the longest covers twelve lines!
Furthermore, an avviso is not limited to local news but reports events from all over Europe and beyond. Sitting in Florence four centuries ago, thanks to an avviso from Venice, you would have known that the plague was spreading in Aleppo, Syria, or would have received news about the Indies or America, brought by the Spanish ships and later gathered in some newsletters in Rome.
The vast geographical coverage of these newsletters is combined with a wide array of topics. Although a great part of avvisi deals with political, military, and diplomatic issues, they also frequently report strange things and curiosities, entertaining also to the modern researcher. Apart from politics, wars, ceremonies, processions, murders and diseases we also find supernatural events, exotic animals, and the like, adding to the richness of the avvisi, which offer an incomparable lens for understanding the early modern period, its culture, its networks.
The avvisi collected in the Mediceo del Principato are a true mine of historical evidence and information. We have just started digging it out!