Pamphlets were short, unbound or loosely bound booklets that could be printed at low cost and could be distributed by anyone willing to stand on street corners for hours at a time (or to pay someone else to do it for them). Basically, pamphlets were a tool used by people who wanted to rant - about religion, about politics, about specific authority figures they hated - you name it.
In Italy, our buddy Aretino started out as a pamphleteer so he could spread his anti-authority satires far and wide. In Germany, Martin Luther used pamphlets very effectively to promote the Protestant reformation.
Of course, the Church could play the pamphlet game too.
|pamphlet depicting Luther as a seven-headed beast
In England, writers like Thomas Dekker, Thomas Nashe, and Robert Greene used pamphlets to distribute their romantic fiction and social or literary criticism, Francis Bacon published his Essays as a series of pamphlets, and King Henry VIII had pamphlets distributed to publicly defend his break from the Catholic Church. ("Like it's my fault they won't let me divorce my first wife after 20 years to marry that hottie Anne Boleyn!")
French writers also distributed their fiction in pamphlet form.
In the 1560's, long before the first newspapers were invented, pamphlets first began to be used in England to convey news to the public.
Unlike a book, a pamphlet describing a political event could be written and printed up within hours after it occurred, enabling people outside of court circles to quickly be in the know. Elizabethan England also became the base for "pamphlet wars" - the use of pamphlets by groups holding opposing viewpoints to carry out public debates on issues ranging from the civil war to the roles of women in society. In fact, pamphlets became so popular that the Queen herself recognized their propaganda value and took to participating in these discussions.
Pamphlets continued to gain popularity well into the 17th century, and only began to die out after newspapers and journals became widespread.
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So there you have it, folks. There were times when I thought I would never make it through this Challenge, but I survived, thanks in large part to the support and encouragement of a lot of amazing A to Z bloggers who, in addition to consistently writing wonderful posts on their own blogs, also somehow found the time to bloghop and offer kind words. Sincere thanks to everyone who visited here, either to leave comments or just to read. I love learning more and more about the 16th century. For me, it's a well that never runs dry. And I love sharing the things I learn with as many people as I can. Blogs work so much better than 16th-century pamphlets in that regard!
It's been a lot of work for me, but so much fun that it was worth every hour of research. Ciao for now, and I hope to catch up with you next year, if not sooner!