The above title page conveys a vision seen over the prophet Mohammed’s tomb in “Arabia” and a depiction of the skies raining blood in Rome. The pamphlet is a good example of how news was transmitted in England before the newspaper. Originally written as a letter, it was translated from Italian into English before being printed.
News which circulated in continental Europe was often translated into English and republished in an effort to satisfy the increasing appetite for exotic news. One report from China marvels at shaven-headed Buddhist priests, the fine quality of Chinese horses, and the small stature of the people. It also laments the lack of grapes to make wine.
Other reports show that for many Elizabethans, news did not have to be current. Roger Ascham was the tutor to Princess Elizabeth and author of The Scholemaster , a popular book on education. In 1550, Ascham traveled to Germany as the secretary to the English ambassador to the Court of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. In order to satisfy the demand in England for news from Germany, Ascham began to compile a daily report on affairs of the court. Although written as a series of manuscript newsletters, Ascham’s reports were of sufficient interest to be published after his death and twenty years after the events described.
Protestant England delighted in reading scandals about the Pope and the Catholic Church. The author of the newsbook, Newes from Rome (right), has reproduced a woodcut which was circulated in Rome attacking corrupt Catholics and the papacy. An empty speech bubble allowed buyers to fill in their own unflattering caption.