Transcribing Faith

Italian Religious Broadsides

In the early modern period, religion was a public matter. Most European Christians participated in a culture of religion in which faith was displayed and practiced out in the streets as well as in the privacy of their own home. Members of the book trade participated in this culture as well, providing readers with the materials needed to celebrate religious occasions of all kinds. Many of these materials were ephemeral in nature, meaning that they focused on current events and were cheaply printed. Given that such works were not regularly collected in the period, only a small fraction of this vital evidence for religious culture survives today.

The Newberry holds an outstanding collection of broadsides and other ephemeral printing, a reflection of our collecting interest early modern Italian history and culture, but also in all aspects of the book trade in the period. This particular resource makes available some rich examples of public religious ephemera: the Newberry’s collection of 154 religious broadsides printed in Italy between 1611 and 1697. These broadsides were produced and posted to advertise public celebrations and commemorations of Catholic feast days and other religious occasions, primarily in Rome, but also at Todi, Orvieto, Perugia, and Naples. As a group they offer a glimpse into the world of public religion in 17th-century Italy, especially in towns ruled directly by the papacy, where religious and civic practices were closely intertwined. In these communities, devotion, marketing, art, and typography came together in the print shops to support, advertise, and monetize the practice of public religion.

View: Catalog record | All digitized broadsides at the Internet Archive

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Looking for more opportunities to help out? Please see our Transcribing Modern Manuscripts site to assist in making 19th and early 20th century letters and diaries more accessible.