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Brief Notes on the Long War in the Early Modern News Cycle

  • Robyn D. Radway


It is difficult for the historian to imagine how the scraps of paper encountered in the archive, filled with printed words and images, served as the first newspapers that were created, distributed, and read throughout early modern Europe. Taking an empathetic approach to history, the process could look something like this: In a village outside of Augsburg in late spring of 1595, a small crowd gathers around a well-worn tavern table, staring intently at a sheet of paper. Some focus their eyes on the brightly colored image filling the top half of the page: a bird's-eye view of a citadel in a heavily fortified countryside with throngs of armored figures mercilessly slaying their turbaned enemies. Others let their eyes wander through the two columns of text below, perhaps quietly sounding out the letters they recognize as they search for familiar words and phrases. One man, possibly the local notary, darts his eyes more rapidly across the lines, reading portions out loud to those still waiting to digest the contents of the sheet of paper. Everyone present knows the key points from the headline running along the top, having heard it called out by the street vendor who sold it in the square, a raspy voice crying: “The City and Fortress of Simbalt in Moldavia on the Danube, and other locations”; “2000 Turks slain with poleaxes”; “The army spared no one, men or women, young or old”; and “Lots of booty.” The peddler, who carried the sheet along with a variety of small wares as he moved around the countryside, had picked it up earlier that week from the courtyard establishment of Leonard Schweiger, in the Augsburg suburb of St. James. That morning, it had arrived in a stack of 100 to 500 identical sheets in the hands of the entrepreneuring publisher and Briefmaler, Georg Kress. Earlier, Kress had hurriedly added the finishing touches of paint to the image, the last of the white pigment still drying as he ran his latest batch of newssheets over to the shop. Time was of the essence. Kress needed to get his print out before his rival, Bartholomäus Käppler, overheard his source boasting about the events and created his own newssheet. This fresh news, of Christian forces defeating the Muslim Turks, sold quickly. Kress was ready to provide it, just in time for our hawker to pick up a stack of copies, one of which would eventually make its way into the hands of the villagers sitting around the tavern table.


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The author wishes to thank Anthony Grafton and the participants of the Early Modern History Workshop at Princeton for their thoughts and comments on an early draft of this article. She also wishes to thank the anonymous readers for their suggestions.



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1 Georg Kress, Newe Zeytung: kurtze Anzeigung, welcher Gestalt die Sibenbürger, Moldawer, vnd Wallachen die gewaltige Statt vnd Vestung Simblt in der Moldaw an der Thonaw gelegen, den nechst verschinen Monat Aprilis in disem 1595. Jahr ein genommen, darinnen 2000. Türggen ohne Weib vnd Kinder nidergehawen, auch andre mehr Ort verheret, verbrandt, erobert, vnd grosse Beut bekommen haben (Augsburg, 1595). Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University (Broadside #143).

2 On the genre of the broadsheet, see Pettegree, Andrew, ed., Broadsheets: Single-Sheet Publishing in the First Age of Print (Leiden, 2017). Paas, John Roger, “Georg Kress, a Briefmaler in Augsburg in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries: For Wolfgang Seitz,” Gutenberg Jahrbuch 65 (1990): 177204.

3 Nester Feirwar (Maurocastrum in today's Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine, 125 miles north of Sulina—though here shown as two separate fortresses); Kiliet (Kiliya, today in the Ukraine, 28 miles north of Sulina); and Galamboz (possibly Golumbacz, Serbia, more than 800 miles upstream from Sulina).

4 For the state of studies of members of the lower administration in the region, see Géza Dávid, Pasák és bégek uralma alatt: demográfiai és közigazgatás-történeti tanulmányok [Under the rulership of pashas and begs: studies in demographic and administrative history] (Budapest, 2005), particularly the section on “the possibilities of Hungarian Archontologiacal studies (the Sanjakbegs of Arad-Gyula).”

5 The vizierate changed hands four times in 1595: Koca Sinan Pasha to Feb., Serdar Ferhad Pasha to July, Koca Sinan again to Nov., Lala Mehmed Pasha for nine days before ending again in the hands of Koca Sinan Pasha. See Imber, Colin, The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1650: The Structure of Power (New York, 2002), 6669. The emperors referred to were Rudolph II and Mehmed III.

6 Though incomplete due to damage to the paper, a full transcription of the visible text is reproduced in the appendix.

7 On the European reaction and response to Emperor Rudolph II's Long Turkish War, see Niederkorn, Jan Paul, Die europäischen Mächte und der “Lange Türkenkrieg” Kaiser Rudolfs II (1593–1606) (Vienna, 1993). On the battle of Mezőkeresztes, see Tóth, Sándor László, A Mezőkeresztesi csata és a tizenöt éves háború [The Battle of Mezőkeresztes and the Fifteen-Years War] (Szeged, 2000). For the most recent overview in English, see Tracy, James D., Balkan Wars: Habsburg Croatia, Ottoman Bosnia, and Venetian Dalmatia, 1499–1617 (Lanham, 2016), 307–66.

8 Antov, Nikolay, The Ottoman “Wild West”: The Balkan Frontier in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Cambridge, 2017).

9 On these alliances from early 1595, see Tracy, Balkan Wars, 326.

10 On the siege, see Csillag, Mária, Esztergom története a tizenötéves török háboru alatt [The history of Esztergom during the Ottoman Fifteen Years’ War] (Budapest, 1916).

11 On these sieges, see Lajos Fekete, Budapest a törökkorban [Budapest in the Turkish period] (Budapest, 1944), 33–40.

12 These successful late-seventeenth-century wars have received far more attention. See the classic clash-of-civilizations narrative still in print by John Stoye, The Siege of Vienna: The Last Great Trial between Cross and Crescent (London, 1964).

13 On the religious situation in Transylvanian courts, see István György Tóth, “Old and New Faith in Hungary, Turkish Hungary, and Transylvania,” in A Companion to the Reformation World, ed. R. Po-Chia Hsia (Oxford, 2006), 205–20. On how these differences played out during the long Turkish war, see Ildikó Horn, Hit és hatalom: az erdélyi unitárius nemesség 16. századi története [Belief and power: The sixteenth-century history of Transylvanian-Unitarian nobility] (Budapest, 2009), 158 and the relevant biographies of the individuals involved, 271–79.

14 László Makkai and András Mócsy, eds., History of Transylvania, 3 vols. (Boulder, 2001), 748.

15 The most useful work on the topic for the region of Dobrudja is a vast collection of primary sources: Mihai Viteazul în constiinta europeana [Michael the Brave in the European consciousness], 5 vols. (Bucharest, 1982). The five-volume work includes letters written to, from, and about Michael, as well as newsletters, broadsheets, and contemporary chronicles written about his exploits. It is an unexploited goldmine for researchers interested in the history of Wallachia. For some additions to the corpus, see Mihai Maxim, L'empire ottoman au nord du Danube et l'autonomie des principautés roumaines au XVIe siècle: études et documents (Istanbul, 1999), 157–72. For the place of Michael the Brave within the larger history of the region, see Peter F. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 1354–1804 (Seattle, 1977), 118–19. Also L. S. Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1453 (New York, 2000), 160–61.

16 Mihai Viteazul, V1 (#14). The Latin treaty was signed on 20 May 1595.

17 Paul Wittek, “Yazı̊jı̊og̱ẖlu ’Alī on the Christian Turks of the Dobruja,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 14, no. 3 (1952): 639–68.

18 Mária Ivanics, A Krími Kánság a tizenöt éves háborúban [The Crimean Khanate and the Fifteen Years’ War] (Budapest, 1994).

19 For example, see a letter dated 29 Sept. 1600 from Henry Lello, English diplomat in Constantinople to Sir Robert Cecil Salisbury about Michael the Brave's negotiations with the Sublime Porte, Mihai Viteazul, V1, 565 (#209).

20 Zsuzsa Barbarics-Hermanik, “Handwritten Newspapers as Interregional Information Sources in Central and Southeastern Europe,” in The Dissemination of News and the Emergence of Contemporaneity in Early Modern Europe, ed. Brendan Dooley (Burlington, 2010), 155–78. On the Fugger newsletters more generally, along with details on how to access and use them, see Nikolaus Schobesberger, “Mapping the Fuggerzeitungen: The Geographical Issues of an Information Network,” in News Networks in Early Modern Europe, eds. Joad Raymond and Noah Moxham (Leiden, 2016), 216–40.

21 On Statu Mare, for an example that mentions the region of Dobrudja, see the newsletter from 7 Dec. 1600 in Cod 8973 of the Fugger Zeitungen at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (ÖNB), fol. 340r–340v. On Alba Iulia, see the 10 Jan. 1595 newsletter in ÖNB Cod. 8968, 188r–189r. On Strovo, see the 22 Feb. 1595 newsletter in the same codex as preceding, 800r–801r.

22 This route remains least studied, yet one could use these paths to complicate the thesis of John-Paul Ghobrial, who sees the news networks within Constantinople and England as separate from these Central and Eastern European systems. John-Paul A. Ghobrial, The Whispers of Cities: Information Flows in Istanbul, London, and Paris in the Age of William Trumbull (Oxford, 2013). An expansive list of travelers’ descriptions of taking this route can be compiled from Stéphane Yerasimos, Les voyageurs dans l'Empire Ottoman, XIVe–XVIe siècles: bibliografie, itinéraires et inventaire des lieux habités (Ankara, 1991). On how this route then continued to Seville, see Carmen Espejo, “The Prince of Transylvania: Spanish News of the War against the Turks, 1595–1600,” in News Networks in Early Modern Europe, eds. Joad Raymond and Noah Moxham (Leiden, 2016), 512–41.

23 Mihai Viteazul, V1, 80–82 (#9). While the fortress of Braila is not illustrated in any of the prints found from 1595, Giurgiu appears on a print by Lucas Mayer of Nuremberg and one by Bartholomäus Käppeler of Augsburg and will be discussed in further detail in the following text.

24 Mihai Viteazul, V4, 42–43 (#10).

25 Mihai Viteazul, V1, 82–84 (#11).

26 Mihai Viteazul, V4, 42–43 (#10).

27 Mihai Viteazul, V4, 50–52 (#18).

28 Renata V. Shaw, “Broadsheets of the Thirty Years’ War,” The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 32 (1975): 2–24, here 22.

29 For the most comprehensive catalog of single-leaf woodcuts from German-speaking lands that include these broadsheet newspapers, see Walter L. Strauss, The German Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600 (New York, 1975); Max Geisberg and Walter L. Strauss, The German Single-leaf Woodcut, 15001550 (New York, 1974); and Dorothy Alexander and Walter L. Strauss, The German Single-leaf Woodcut, 16001700 (New York, 1977). Printers also made compilations of “old” and “new” news, such as a lengthy pamphlet published by Matthias Stöckel in Dresden, which reprints a history of the 1529 Siege of Vienna by Sultan Suleiman alongside news of the successful campaigns of Sigismund Báthory in Transylvania in May 1595. Peter Stern and Niclas Meldeman, Alte vnd Nawe Zeitunge… (Dresden, 1595). On regular subscription newspapers, see Johannes Weber, “The Early German Newspaper: A Medium of Contemporaneity,” in The Dissemination of News and the Emergence of Contemporaneity in Early Modern Europe, ed. Brendan Dooley (Burlington, 2010), 69–79.

30 For an example of local news, Lucas Mayer published a broadsheet on floods in Nuremberg from 24 to 28 Feb. 1595 with a three-column rhymed couplet below an image of the submerged suburbs and city walls. Lucas Mayer, Warhaffte Beschreibung der den unerhrten gewaltige Wassergus… (Nuremberg, 1595). For an example that combines news on the Turks with a comet seen in Transylvania, see the broadsheet published by Lucas Mayer, Ein Wunderbarliche Newe Zeytung (Nuremberg, 1595). Also see Eduard Gebele, “Augsburger Kometeneinblattdrucke,” Das Schwäbische Museum (1926): 89–94.

31 Carl Göllner, Turcica: die europäischen Türkendrucke des xvi. Jahrhunderts. (Bucharest, 1961).

32 Ibid., 525–602.

33 For example, Wilhelm von Lutzenkirchen, Warhafftige newe Zeitung auss dem Feldtleger vor Gran… (Cologne, 1595); and, Göllner, Turcica, 597 (#2173). On the Habsburg capture of Gran (Esztergom), see for example, Georg Lang, Zweyerley Newe Zeittung… (1595); and, Göllner, Turcica, 599 (#2178). On the defeat of Sinan Pasha, see for example, Leonhard Heussler, Newe Sybenbürgische Victoria… (Nuremberg, 1595); and, Göllner, Turcica, 588 (#2152).

34 Warhaffte Newe Zeitung unnd Bericht… (Cologne, 1595). Göllner, Turcica, 596 (#2170).

35 For a travel narrative, see Augerius Gislenius Busbequius and Ludovicus Carrio, Avgerii Gislenii Bvs Beqvii… (Frankfurt, 1595). For a chronicle of recent Ottoman history, see for example, a reprint of the 1593 edition of Michael Bapst von Rochlitz, Türckische Chronica… (Leipzig, 1595). According to Ballagi, this work compiles news from the 1520s and 1540s. Aladár Ballagi, Buda és Pest a világirodalomban: 14731711 [Buda and Pest in world literature: 1473–1711] (Budapest, 1925), 896. See also, Samuel Dilbaum, Quadripartita historia anni 1594… (Augsburg, 1595). Göllner, Turcica, 529–30 (#2027). For a lengthy Latin eulogy of heroic knights, see for example, Nicolaus Gablman, Oratio funebris, super obitum… (Prague, 1595). Göllner, Turcica, 534–35 (#2037–38).

36 Stöckel, Matthes, Nawe Zeittung von Eroberung der newen Festung Georgia vnd Symbeldt… (Dresden, 1595). Göllner, Turcica, 592–93 (#2161).

37 It also mentions a “newen Festung Georgia” that might be identified with the town of Saint George, 18 miles away from Sulina. Otherwise it may simply refer to the fortress of Giurgu mentioned earlier in this article in relation to Brailia. The full text was published in Kertbeny, Károly Mária, Ungarn betreffende deutsche Erstlings-Drucke, 1454–1600 (Budapest, 1880), 279–80 (#1167).

38 Though not useful for this broadsheet, the extensive catalog of seventeenth-century material is extremely important for the genre. Unfortunately, Göllner does not reproduce this print, and therefore I was unable to consult it for anything other than its title: Göllner, Turcica, 580 (#2131).

39 Other examples include Ballagi, Buda és Pest a világirodalomban, which covers hundreds of printed references to Buda and Pest to 1600. On Hungary's appearance in newssheets exclusively, see Hubay, Ilona, ed., Magyar és magyar vonatkozásu röplapok, ujságlapok, röpiratok az Országos Széchényi Könyvtárban, 1480–1718 [Hungarian and Hungary-related broadsheets, newspapers, and pamphlets in the National Széchényi Library, 1480–1718] (Budapest, 1948). On verse examples in German, see Brednich, Rolf Wilhelm, Die Liedpublizistik im Flugblatt des 15. bis 17. Jahrhunderts (Baden-Baden, 1974). For Italian prints from 1500–50, which are often left out of the others surveys, see Raymund Wilhelm, Italienische Flugschriften des Cinquecento (15001550): Gattungsgeschichte und Sprachgeschichte (Tübingen, 1996). As it is evident from the preceding list, most of the scholarship is bounded by somewhat artificial linguistic and spatial categories that sacrifice breadth over depth. While Göllner misses all the ones in Alexander with the exception of the Visegrad Kress, he does include a Czech print from 1595 that suggests far more exist.

40 At the moment they still largely reproduce the published lists found in the secondary literature with additions based on the collections of institutions involved in their creation. This leaves broadsheets like the one discussed here out of their databases. They also depend on funding schemes designed to cover a set number of years and often face the risks of becoming incompatible with new technology or obsolete. For example, see the Universal Short Title Catalogue ( and the Union Catalogue of Books Printed in German Speaking Countries (for the sixteenth century:; and for the seventeenth century:

41 Paas, John Roger, The German Political Broadsheet, 16001700 (Wiesbaden, 1985).

42 Ibid., 23.

43 Ibid.

44 See Susan Dackerman, Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance and Barock: Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts (University Park, 2002).

45 This process looked different when the fame of the artist outweighed that of the Briefmaler. Curiously, Kress lays claim to another parallel profession in several of his extant prints between 1606 and 1611, signing with “Brieff und Kunstmaler,” which implies that he, at least temporarily, considered himself to be a professional involved in painting finer works of art with oils. Additional archival research might uncover some temporary level of participation in another guild, one that usually excluded Briefmaler.

46 Paas, “Georg Kress.”

47 Göllner, Turcica, 580 (# 2131).

48 Lucas Mayer, Newe Zeytung auss der Reuschen… (Nuremberg, 1595). Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 715.

49 Mayer, Lucas, Newe Zeyttung, Auß Weissenburg in Sibenbuergen… (Nuremberg, 1595). Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 717.

50 Lucas Mayer, Warhafftige Newe Zeytung auss Graz… (Nuremberg, 1595). Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 719.

51 Lucas Mayer, Ein wunderbarliche Newe Zeytung… (Nuremberg, 1595). Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 718.

52 Paas, “Georg Kress,” 177.

53 Discussed in detail below. See Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 552.

54 Paas, “Georg Kress.”

55 Ibid., #7.

56 Ibid., #4

57 Rózsa, Georg, “Ungarn betreffende illustrierte Flugblätter von Georg Kress,” Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1962 (1962): 353–59.

58 Georg Kress, Sygreiche newe zeyttung… (Augsburg, 1595). See Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 552.

59 Kress, Georg, Zwey herrliche schöne newe Lieder… (Augsburg, 1595).

60 Kress, Georg, Von wider eroberung der Vöstung Dotis in Vngern… (Augsburg, 1597). See Strauss, Single-leaf Woodcut, 15501600, 553.

61 Bisaha, Nancy, Creating East and West: Renaissance Humanists and the Ottoman Turks (Philadelphia, 2004). Johnson, Carina L., Cultural Hierarchy in Sixteenth-Century Europe: The Ottomans and Aztecs (Cambridge, 2011).

62 Pálffy, Géza, “The Bulwark and Larder of Central Europe (1526–1711),” in On the Stage of Europe: The Millennial Contribution of Hungary to the Idea of European Community, ed. Marosi, Ernő (Budapest, 2009), 100–24.

63 These questions are informed by the approach taken to prints of the 1663 Siege of Ersekujvar in Nóra G. Etényi, Hadszíntér és nyilvánosság: a magyarországi török háború hírei a 17. századi német újságokban [Theaters of war and the public sphere: News from the Hungarian-Turkish War in seventeenth-century German newspapers] (Budapest, 2003).

64 Dooley, Brendan Maurice, ed., The Dissemination of News and the Emergence of Contemporaneity in Early Modern Europe (Burlington, 2010), 12.

65 Meserve, Margaret, “News from Negroponte: Politics, Popular Opinion, and Information Exchange in the First Decade of the Italian Press,” Renaissance Quarterly 59, no. 2 (2006): 440–80, here 463.

66 See, for example, Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, Explorations in Connected History: From the Tagus to the Ganges (Oxford, 2005): 138–79.

67 Ibid., 145.

68 Such devices for increasing perceived credibility are discussed in relation to prints on the Ottomans from earlier in the sixteenth century by Johnson, Cultural Hierarchy, 8–10.

69 Kress refers to the letters of noblemen from Wardein (today Oradea, Romania), Sackmar (today Satu Mare, Romania), and the governor of the fortress of Samblio in Transylvania. In a damaged part of the text, Kress recounts how the Habsburg forces had recaptured canons taken from Buda that once belonged to the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus. On the canons, see the exhibition catalog entry for a depiction of the so-called Elephant Cannon, written by András Végh, in Péter Farbaky et al., eds., Matthias Corvinus, the King: Tradition and Renewal in the Hungarian Royal Court, 14581490 (Budapest, 2008), 301–2.

The author wishes to thank Anthony Grafton and the participants of the Early Modern History Workshop at Princeton for their thoughts and comments on an early draft of this article. She also wishes to thank the anonymous readers for their suggestions.

Brief Notes on the Long War in the Early Modern News Cycle

  • Robyn D. Radway


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