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Pamphlet by Reinhard Lutz: "Warhrachtige newspaper from the godless witches" (1571)

As pamphlet is called non-single, non-periodicals publication with a circumference of more pages, usually at least four (as distinct from the group consisting of a leaf leaflet ).

History and definition

Beginnings of pamphlets

The pamphlet put the technology of the printing press by Gutenberg advance. They have been around since the 15th century . The pamphlets produced on special occasions belong to the first media of mass communication and precede the weeklies and daily newspapers . They provided up-to-date information , often in sensational form even then, and were used for political propaganda , religious admonition or polemics (around the time of the Reformation ). At that time they were already publishing controversial statements on current events and trying to influence opinion.

Often pamphlets appear and appear anonymously or under a pseudonym . Sometimes they are published or simulated by authorities or agencies. The pamphlet has a special meaning in wars and revolutions. As early as the 16th century, pamphlets contained drastic and terrifying illustrations ( woodcuts ) of war scenes or religious scenes such as depictions of the devil. The early pamphlets were quite expensive and, because of their illiteracy , were affordable and useful only for the educated and the higher classes.

In contrast to the leaflet, they are usually without images or pictures. They have differentiated themselves from the “New Newspapers” by the opinions they contain, newspapers are much more neutral, they also contain opinion-giving text forms, but mostly news that are presented relatively neutrally.

Reformation time

In terms of content, the pamphlets of the Reformation period, according to Werner Faulstich's definition , differ from the pamphlets in that they should agitate and influence more openly. It was new that influence no longer took place exclusively orally, for example by the preacher, and was no longer tied to the individual occasion.

Most of the pamphlets and leaflets appeared in large cities, trade and news centers. Numerous pamphlets and leaflets were sold, especially in Nuremberg, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and Augsburg (Fuggerzeitung).

Pamphlets played a decisive role in Martin Luther's struggle to spread the ideas of the Reformation and to implement them. His missions were extremely successful: His nobility writing from 1520 (“To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation”) was out of print in the first edition after just a few days - despite a print run of 4,000 copies, which was sensationally high for the circumstances. A year later, Philipp Melanchthon , together with Johannes Schwertfeger , published the “Passional Christi und Antichristi”, the illustrations are by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Ä. Other theologians and rebels also wrote pamphlets, for example Johannes Eck and Thomas Müntzer . After 1525, the pamphlet was then mainly used by law firms and theologians who propagated their “true” direction in the emerging division and sectarian movements. Between 1501 and 1530 around 10,000 pamphlets with religious and / or political content were published; the content was mostly sharp criticism and satirical depictions of the situation. Among others, Hans Sachs and Albrecht Dürer wrote pamphlets. The pamphlet was very popular during the Reformation. Other very important topics were war reports, for example about the Turkish wars .

Pamphlets specified opinions that were already vaguely present in large parts of the population. A similar function is often ascribed to modern political magazines today . However, one must not forget in consideration that pamphlets did not seek any kind of objectivity. They are therefore perhaps best comparable with today's political press releases , information brochures from interest groups or position papers.

Witch newspapers, which were published as pamphlets, played a role in the witch hunt.

Due to the popularity of the "new medium" pamphlet, numerous critical and authoritarian criticisms were published, state censorship was introduced in the Holy Roman Empire in 1529 .

The Reformation pamphlet was not free either. Rather, writers and / or printers often made good money on them. We know from Martin Luther that at times he earned twice as much with his pamphlets than with his pastor. Thomas Müntzer also earned money from his pamphlets.

In connection with the movement that originated in Wittenberg, other authors also emerged journalistically. According to calculations, around 2,400 pamphlets were published in 1524 alone, with an estimated total of 2.4 million copies.

The willingness of people in early modern times to pay money for political agitation was partly based on their desire for all kinds of information; on the other hand, only 10 to 15 percent of the population were literate. Thus, very many people could not be informed by leaflets or leaflets.

17th and 18th centuries

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the leaflet disappears more and more from the media network and particularly small-format leaflets shape the living environment in urban areas of Europe. The circulation of pamphlet titles increased regularly as soon as there was dissent and different interpretations. A large number of actors used pamphlets in urban areas around 1700 as paper present accelerators, which acted like "impulses in the media resonance space". Since the 17th and 18th centuries at the latest, pamphlets have regularly been used to make politics or at least try to influence politics in front of an “audience”. The numerous pamphlet duels that were produced were published loops of answers and comments on local, regional or supraregional topics which, due to their vitality, were interpreted as "ping-pong" dynamics.

The invention and introduction of lithographic printing made it possible at the beginning of the 19th century to print and distribute fonts faster, cheaper and in larger editions. The main political issues were now the effects of the French Revolution, the weavers' revolts and the Wars of Liberation.


See also

Leaflet , extra sheet (press) , press history , intelligence sheet , censorship ; newspaper


  • Daniel Bellingradt: Aviation journalism and the public around 1700. Dynamics, actors and structures in the urban space of the Old Kingdom (= contributions to the history of communication. Volume 26). Steiner, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-515-09810-6 (Dissertation Free University Berlin 2010, 548 pages with 17 black and white illustrations, 24 cm).
  • Daniel Bellingradt: The forgotten sources of the Old Kingdom. A research overview of early modern flight journalism in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. In: Astrid Blome, Holger Böning (Hrsg.): Press and history. Achievements and perspectives of historical press research (= press and history. Volume 36). Edition Lumière, Bremen 2008, ISBN 978-3-934686-58-8 , pp. 77-95.
  • Michael Giesecke : Book Printing in the Early Modern Era. A historical case study of the implementation of new information and communication technologies. Unchanged reprint of the bound edition from 1991. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-518-58171-6 .
  • Werner Faulstich : Media between rule and revolt. The media culture of the early modern period (1400–1700) (= The history of the media. Volume 3). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-525-20787-5 .
  • Gerhard Dünnhaupt : New Comets - Evil Prophets. Comet pamphlets in the journalism of the baroque period. In: Philobiblon. Volume 18, No. 2, June 1974, ISSN  0031-7969 , pp. 112-118.
  • Paul Hohenemser : Gustav Freytag pamphlet collection. Frankfurt am Main city library. Frankfurter Societäts-Druckerei, Frankfurt am Main 1925, reprographic reprint: Olms, Hildesheim 1966; Johann Christian Senckenberg University Library, Frankfurt am Main 2008, full text, online (PDF, free of charge, 522 pages, 57,157 kB).
  • Arnold Kuczyński: Thesaurus libellorum historiam reformationis illustrantium. Directory of a collection of almost 3,000 pamphlets by Luther and his contemporaries, 3 volumes (main volume and supplement volumes 1 - 2), Weigel, Leipzig 1870–1874 (2nd reprint, de Graaf, Nieuwkoop 1969).
  • Paul Wentzcke : Critical bibliography of the pamphlets on the German constitutional question 1848-1851. Niemeyer, Halle (Saale) 1911 (reprographic reprint. Olms, Hildesheim 1967).
  • John Roger Paas: The German Political Broadsheet 1600–1700 , Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 14 volumes 1985–2017
  • Rudolf Stöber: German press history. From the beginning to the present (= UTB 2716, Media and Communication Studies, History, Literary Studies ). 2nd, revised edition. UVK Verlagsgesellschaft, Konstanz 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2716-2 .
  • Otto Holzapfel : List of songs. The older German-language popular song tradition . Online version (as of November 2018) on the homepage of the Folk Music Archive of the Upper Bavarian District (in PDF format; further updates planned), own file of song pamphlets .

Web links

Wiktionary: pamphlet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Pamphlets  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. Volker Hagedorn: Galloping Reporters. In: The time . No. 43, October 22, 2015, p. 18, ( online ).
  2. ^ Digitized newspapers of the 17th century
  3. Hans-Joachim Köhler: First steps towards an opinion profile of the early Reformation period. In: Volker Press, Dieter Stievermann (Ed.): Martin Luther: Problems of his time. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1986 (late Middle Ages and early modern times 16), pp. 244–281.
  4. Bellingradt: Flight journalism and public order 1700. 2011, pp 369 et seq.
  5. Bellingradt: Flight journalism and public around 1700. 2011. Femke Deen, David Onnekink, Michel Reinders (ed.): Pamphlet and Politics in the Dutch Republic (= . Library of the written Word 12 = . Library of the Written Word The Hand Press World . 7). Brill, Leiden et al. 2011, ISBN 978-90-04-19178-5 .
  6. Bellingradt: Flight journalism and public order 1700. 2011, p 253rd