This is the third post in a short series about my trip to Utrecht, to the EDPOP conference European Dimensions of Popular Print Culture: A Comparative Approach.

digThe second day of the conference (which was, thankfully, slightly cooler than the first) began with our news panel: News – Intermediality and mobility, coordinated and chaired by Joad Raymond. Joad Raymond and Alexandra Schäfer were first up with ‘News moves’.  Joad cautioned that news ‘forms’ and the way they were communicated have communicated too much attention, and that we should consider thinking about the ‘unit’ of news, which is very mobile.  That unit could be a textual part such as a paragraph as well as an entire publication.  He pointed out that news forms are designed with codependency in mind, so that what is presented in one can be put with other materials.  Alexandra compared reports of the French Wars of Religion in France and the Holy Roman Empire. She showed that in France, the vast majority of publications supported the Catholic league, only a tiny minority the Protestants, and the Royal party only published proclamations.  In the Holy Roman Empire, only a few publications supported the League, whereas most were pro-royal.  She concluded that news changed when it moved in order to fit legal and publishing contexts, as well as to suit diverging personal and political backgrounds.
Massimo Rospocher and I were up next with ‘News sings’, comparing and contrasting Italian and English sixteenth-century news ballads.  We talked about war songs, political news, murder and disaster ballads.  Although they take different forms, Italian and English ballads have much in common.  They stressed their newsworthiness, truthfulness and novelty, while straying into sensationalist territory in the way that they appealed to their listeners.  Above all, it was the fact that they combined many media that was key to their success.  As well as singing short excerpts from two English ballads (A Dolefull Ditty, or sorowfull Sonet of the Lord Darly, sometime King of Scots. Neuew to the Noble and worthy King, King Henry the eyght and William Elderton’s A New Well a Day), I also had a go at singing some Italian ones too (La morte de Papa Iulio con altre Barzellette: cosa nova and Historia come papa Iulio secondo ha prese la cità de Bologna).
The final paper on our panel was given by Hannu Salmi and Yann Ryan: ‘News counts’.  Their paper concentrated on methodologies. They described newspapers not as monolithic texts but as collections of paragraphs.  Hannu and Yann set out to discuss whether it was possible to record data using network science which takes the mobility of these paragraphs into account in order to say something in a general sense about the mobility of paragraphs across Europe.
digSession 4 was entitled ‘Stories and songs travelling through Europe’. It was coordinated by Juan Gomis and chaired by Jeroen Salman, who also gave the first paper on ‘Popularising classics in Spain and the Netherlands: Penny prints and Aleluyas’. Juan described Dutch penny prints being distributed by schoolmasters as rewards for children.  He looked at the similarities between auques, which were used as board games, and aleluyas, with 48 woodcut illustrations of saints which were cut out and thrown during processions.  High numbers of aleluyas were printed, indicating that they were extremely popular.  Jeroen noted that huge numbers of the auques and aleluyas were educational and aimed at children, though others were about history, politics or moralistic stories.  Over time, they began to tell stories from popular literature such as Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver or Don Quixote, although he pointed out that they don’t keep entirely to the storyline – although it’s obvious that the plot would need to be reduced to fit on the sheet, the cuts at times made the single sheet versions absurd.
digSiv Gøril Brandtzæg and Juan Gomis  then talked about ‘Crime and Punishment: mapping the European execution ballad’ in a paper which had been written in collaboration with Una McIlvenna. This was a paper which took a broad sweep, looking at Spain, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Britain, Germany, Italy and France over several hundred years.  Not all of them were broadside ballads, and sometimes more than one ballad was printed on a sheet.  The central function of the the execution ballad was to provide a moral lesson for the audience.  Ballads were seen as a vehicle of learning, with divine retribution creating a warning for the audience to amend their ways.  Execution ballads were usually written in the first person by a criminal who was not only guilty but also repentant.  The Spanish ballads were different because they sometimes showed admiration for bandits.
Antonio Serrano, who had worked in collaboration with David Stoker described ‘Cluer Dicey and Agustín Laborda. Chapbooks in eighteenth-century England and Spain’.  He suggested that one of the keys to success of Spanish pliegos printers was their high production volumes, whereas in England it was the variety of business that they produced.