Vol. 23 (2020): Cromohs
Approaches to the Paper Revolution

Paper, Commerce, and the Circulation of News: A Case-Study from Early Modern Malta

William Zammit
University of Malta
Cover image Cromohs 23, 2020, background: Jan Gossaert, Portrait of a Merchant, ca. 1530, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, National Gallery of Art. Open access image
Published March 24, 2021
  • Malta,
  • paper,
  • communication,
  • ephemera,
  • early modern,
  • correspondence.
  • ...More
How to Cite
Zammit, W. (2021). Paper, Commerce, and the Circulation of News: A Case-Study from Early Modern Malta. Cromohs - Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 23, 113-134. https://doi.org/10.36253/cromohs-12041


This contribution discusses the vital role of paper in the context of an early modern Mediterranean island-state. From a commerical, but also from a political perspective, the increased amount of seaborne communication not only characterised statehood but indeed made it possible. Paper-based communication was the main channel of formal but also of informal communication, with the latter comprising the exchange of news, rumours, and hearsay between the geographically isolated community and the rest of the Mediterranean and beyond. Such paper transactions comprised manuscript but also increasingly printed genres. The role of these and of other typologies of printed commercial literature went beyond a purely utilitarian one, as very often such forms included decorative iconographical representations asserting either political sovreignity or religious power. Paper-based communication enabled such an island community not simply to receive news but also to be a net distributer of it.