So what is a Broadside?
Broadsides are single sheets printed on one side. Historically, they are the most common form of printed material between the sixteenth nineteenth centuries. Rich in detail variety, sometimes with eye-catching illustrations, broadsides offered clear insights into the daily activities attitudes of the individual communities that created yesteryear.
Usually posted or read aloud, broadsides provided news of battles, deaths, executions, other current events; official notices of laws regulations; they preached of morality the consequences of wrongdoing; were an inexpensive method for selling poetry, songs, satires. Produced in large numbers distributed free or at a nominal cost in town squares, taverns churches, broadsides were intended to have an immediate impact. Illustrations were difficult to design time-consuming to cut from wood, so most printers accumulated a supply of “stock” woodcuts for repeated use. Broadsides were the popular “broadcasts” of their time.
Broadside printing has grown since the emergence of printing itself. The oldest dated example, a letter of indulgence printed by Gutenberg in the mid 1400’s before he printed his Bible. Colonial printers of newspapers almanacs printed posted broadsides as a source of extra income. Late-breaking news was transmitted as broadside “Postscripts” or “Extras” to the weekly newspapers.
In fact, the first publication of an estimated 200 copies of the US Declaration of Independence was printed on the night of July 4, 1776 by John Dunlap as a broadside. Dunlap also printed broadsides announcing the crossing of George Washington across the Delaware, on December 30, 1776.
Today, broadsides can still be the direct expression of our cultural, historical, political, social, spiritual, personal collective perspective. Slow, elegant gestures, quick modern messages, fragments of visual poetry image for our times are reflected in the fine art broadside.
Ephemeral by nature in purpose, broadsides are collected by historical societies around the world, museums, libraries individuals. They are valued as refined examples of information for the study of art, literature, history, culture, theater, music, graphic book arts.
Opens First Friday, November 4, 2011, 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Exhibit: November 1 – 30, 2011