The first book ever advertised in a newspaper

By Andrew Pettegree |

In the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic the making of money was the highest form of science. Nowhere was this more evident than in the introduction of advertising into their newspapers. The first Dutch newspaper was published in Amsterdam in 1618, and within thirty years every other newspaper carried one or more advertisements. In the first decade most were for newly published books, but gradually a more varied range of trades and public bodies made use of the newspapers to promote their wares and services. By the end of the century many papers carried up to a dozen advertisements, which eventually began seriously to constrain the space for news.

No other national newspaper culture makes this extensive use of advertising, though the London newspapers were beginning to catch up the end of the century.  So it is all the more provoking that in introducing this crucial commercial innovation the Amsterdam newsmen were beaten to the punch by their pesky, provocative and turbulent competitor, Abraham Verhoeven of Antwerp. Verhoeven ran a serial newspaper in the Catholic Southern Netherlands, trumpeting Catholic victories in the Thirty Years’ War and teasing the Dutch. He sustained this venture with brio for ten years, until Catholic victories became more infrequent, and his own rackety lifestyle caught up with him. Verhoeven would die in poverty, but his flamboyant and innovative approach to news would leave its impression. Very early Verhoeven took to signing off his news series by drawing attention to the next issue, and on 17 January he advertised another book he would be publishing: Den Eygen sin ende meyninghe vande Oorloghen in Europa [The true motive and meaning of the wars in Europe]. This modest twenty-four-page pamphlet (featured above) was the first book ever to be advertised in a newspaper (USTC 1115722).

Newspaper advertisement, image
An example of an advertisement in an early modern newspaper. From the Tijdingen uyt verscheyden Quartieren, 1640, No. 15. 14.04.1640.


This pamphlet actually survives rather well, with six copies recorded in libraries in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.  The only copy known in private hands was purchased recently by St Andrews book group member and newspaper historian Arthur der Weduwen.  Dutch-language pamphlets from the seventeenth century are still offered for sale very regularly, but the seller of this item clearly did not recognise its significance: Arthur was able to snap it up for a very reasonable price. In this, the four-hundredth anniversary year of the first Dutch newspapers, it seems only appropriate that this monument to one of the most important developments in newspaper history, the adoption of advertising, should have found a safe haven.


Further Reading: Arthur der Weduwen, Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, 1618-1700 (Leiden: Brill, 2017).


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Andrew Pettegree is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue. He is the author of over a dozen books in the fields of Reformation history and the history of communication including Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (Cambridge University Press, 2005), The Book in the Renaissance (Yale University Press, 2010) and The Invention of News (Yale University Press, 2014) and Brand Luther: 1517, Print and the Making of the Reformation (Penguin, 2015). His new projects include ‘Preserving the World’s Rarest Book’s’, a collaboration with the international library community funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His most recent book, Trading Books in the Age of Rembrandt (co-authored with Arthur der Weduwen), will appear in March 2019.


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