Intelligence sheet

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Herzoglich Nassauisches general intelligence sheet for the year 1811, 530 pages.

An intelligence paper (compare English: intelligence , message) was an official newsletter based on the English model with notices such as court dates , tenders, bankruptcies, foreclosures, lists of foreigners staying in the hotels and the like since the 18th century . a. as well as business and private (small) advertisements, etc. a. Rental, sales and family advertisements (birth, wedding and death advertisements). The intelligence sheet was the first form of an advertising sheet .

The word “intelligence” (Latin for intellegere , to see, to understand) in the name of the publications meant “news” or “information”.


They were initially created as independent publications, since the actual “ newspapers ” only published political, literary and other articles, but no advertisements. But soon the "newspapers" also recognized the great source of income that announcements and advertisements represent. By the beginning of the 19th century at the latest, not only the political daily and weekly newspapers , but also most of the literary and scientific journals only added formally separate advertising supplements from the editorial section. These had a wide variety of names, such as “Intellektivenblatt zum Morgenblatt”, “Mindenscher Public Gazette, supplement to the 26th piece of the Sunday paper from ...” or similar.


17th to 19th century

Their story began in France. Around 1630, the Parisian doctor Théophraste Renaudot (1586–1653) opened an advertising office (“bureau d'adresses”). It was supposed to be a non-profit job exchange for vagabonds, but it established itself as an information exchange for all kinds of purchases, sales, vacancies or travel matters. The demand was so great that from 1631 the offers were allowed to be published periodically as Feuille du bureau d'adresses ("Leaf of the address office") and were also distributed free of charge.

The Public Advertiser appeared in England from 1637 , and the first intelligence paper in German-speaking areas on January 1, 1722 in Frankfurt am Main, the weekly Frag- und Anzeigungs-Nachrichten , two thirds of which was financed from the advertisements. Until around 1840, the advertising monopoly was often assigned to the intelligence papers by the state. The fact that as a rule only advertisements were allowed to be published also had advantages: Intelligence papers, for example, were spared the wave of Napoleonic newspaper bans in 1810.

The intelligence papers published in Prussia and other German states since 1727 were subject to the so-called mandatory insertion , an advertising monopoly for the respective area of ​​distribution. In addition, all government employees were obliged to subscribe ( mandatory subscription ).

Together, the two measures were called intelligence compulsion, which Prussia introduced on January 6, 1727. Other publications were only allowed to publish these advertisements if they had already been published in the respective intelligence gazette. This made the intelligence papers a lucrative source of money for the state. The compulsory subscription was abolished in 1810 and the compulsory insertion in 1850. In Prussia the intelligence papers were abolished as early as 1811 as part of the reforms. Most of them disappeared with the introduction of the freedom of trade in 1848.

In order to be able to bind readers to the paper, entertaining, instructive and even political articles were added after a few years. Some of them even became journal-like magazines, in the tradition of the moral weekly papers. Even later, the intelligence paper also became a forum for social criticism. Many intelligence papers thus matured into newspapers. The intelligence papers did not have high circulation figures , but that was mainly due to their exclusive regional distribution.

20th century

The name "intelligence sheet" was in use until about 1930. The historian Friedrich Huneke records 188 startups in 166 locations. His colleague, the Bremen press researcher Professor Holger Böning , estimates their number at at least 220 in the 18th century alone (German-speaking countries). Circulations of 500 to 1000 copies were the average, higher ones were not uncommon. The total weekly circulation of the Prussian intelligence papers in 1806 was 17,000 copies alone . The journal database shows around 560.

21st century

The last “intelligence paper” in Germany is published in Dorfen (Bavaria). It's just an advertising newspaper, like at the beginning of the story.

Newspapers and magazines with high demands on the readers, such as FAZ , Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel , are still half-jokingly referred to today, sometimes even in ignorance of the original meaning of the term, as "intelligence papers".

Goethe and the "papers"

As early as 1774, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe designed the scene in the Urfaust, which is still contained in Faust today , in which Mephisto mediates the acquaintance of Margarethe for Faust through her neighbor Mrs. Marthe Schwerdtlein. Mephisto pretends to be a messenger from her husband Schwerdtlein, who has been missing for years as a mercenary (“Malta”): “Your husband is dead and sends his regards!” Ms. Schwerdtlein demands a death certificate or similar. with the reason: "... would like to read it dead in the paper."

In 1774, “leaflet” can only refer to an intelligence sheet. Ms. Schwerdtlein's statement means that she attaches great importance to the publication of a death report or obituary notice in her local intelligence paper. Goethe characterized Ms. Schwerdtlein in such a way that as a woman she can not only read, i.e. is above average for her time, but as a woman was an avid reader of an intelligence paper as early as 1774. At the same time, Goethe shows that she is so clever and intelligent that she does not fall for the crude assertion of Mephistus, but demands written official evidence. In general, Goethe shows that the intelligence sheets were widely used as early as 1774, and that obituaries were already an important social status symbol.

However, it cannot be ruled out that the scene is only meant to be satirical, that Goethe wanted to caricature anti-feminist and scornfully emancipated bourgeois women in Frau Schwerdtlein who can read and write and even read the “papers”.

Intelligence sheets as a source of history

While the literary and political sciences traditionally judge the intelligence journals with disdain because of the alleged lack of highly intellectual political, literary or other articles in them, the historiography of the press and communication has always dealt with the intelligence journals. In particular, the history of advertisements and advertisements has received scientific and entertaining-cultural-historical presentations. In addition, closer knowledge of the intelligence papers of the 19th century could have come across the historical, biographical, and literary-historical papers, which were not infrequently published there, and, after the freedom of the press achieved in 1848, also contemporary political treatises.

In the meantime, modern social, economic and cultural history has discovered the intelligence papers as an important and rich source of history. The notices and advertisements published therein provide deep insights into every conceivable aspect of public and private social and cultural life, theater performances, book lending, medical care, the range of goods and consumer habits, fashions, company and company history, and biography and family history. In general, they confirm the impression - intentionally or unintentionally - created by Goethe in the Faust scene that the middle classes in the 18th and 19th centuries obtained an ever increasing public and media presence and thus importance in public life through the intelligence papers.

See also

Digital copies


  • Curt Riess : Looking for an honest horse. History of the listing. Hoffmann and Campe Verlag, Hamburg 1971, ISBN 3-455-06287-3 .
  • Werner Greiling : "Intelligence sheets" and social change in Thuringia. Advertising, communication, reasoning and social disciplining (= writings of the Historical College . Lectures 46) . Munich 1995 ( digitized version ).
  • Gerold Schmidt: Church book publications in intelligence papers of the 18th century and in parish papers of the 19th century as a biographical-genealogical source. In: Archives for kin research. Vol. 54 = H. 111, October 1988, ISSN  0003-9403 , pp. 557-559.
  • Holger Böning : The intelligence sheet. In: Ernst Fischer , Wilhelm Haefs, York-Gothart Mix (eds.): From Almanach to Newspaper. A handbook of the media in Germany 1700–1800. Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-45476-3 , pp. 89-104.
  • Sabine Doering-Manteuffel , Josef Mancal, Wolfgang Wüst (eds.): Enlightenment press system. Periodical writings in the Old Kingdom (= Colloquia Augustana. 15). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-05-003634-6 .
  • Rudolf Stöber: German press history. From the beginning to the present (= UTB 2716). 2nd revised edition. UVK-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Konstanz 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2716-2 .
  • Astrid Blome: The intelligence sheet. Regional communication, everyday knowledge and local media in the early modern period, habilitation thesis, Masch. Hamburg 2009.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Intellektivenblatt Dorfen