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Catholic Periodical Literature

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The invention of printing, besides exerting a great influence on literature in general and on education, gave birth to a new species of literature: publications appearing at intervals either regular or irregular. These sheets, or broadsides as they were called, dealing mostly with religious and political events, can be traced back to the year 1493. The oldest existing broadsides were published in Germany, the earliest Italian periodicals were the "Notizie scritte" of Florence, which were called Gazetta from the coin paid for reading them. These early precursors of the modern newspaper were of course very rudimentary, and without any set form or scheme. From the first, however, religious interests found an echo in them. The broadsides were later succeeded by the "relations" and the title of the Jesuit "Relations", which has become almost a household word in American history, shows how early the Church authorities appreciated the possibilities of this new kind of periodical publication. In the present article the reader will find not only a history of Catholic periodical literature in the most prominent countries of the western world, but also an account of its present status.

Our article treats of periodical literature whether appearing daily, weekly, semi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. It includes not merely the political newspaper, of which the American daily is the most characteristic specimen, but also the weekly, of which the London "Tablet" and the New York "America" may serve as types; the monthly, dealing mostly with historical, scientific, religious, and literary subjects, for which the English "Month" or the French "Correspondant" may be cited as examples; the quarterly, of which there are two kinds, the one being more general in character, the other treating of special sciences and interests. Of the former class the "Dublin Review" may be adduced as an instance; of the latter there is a great variety extending from such publications as the "Revue des Questions Scientifiques" to the special reviews on dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, the history of religious orders, and even hagiography, like the "Analecta Bollandiana". It will be perceived at once that many of the last mentioned publications appeal only to a very limited public and that in their case the circulation of 500 may be evidence of great merit and influence, though the number of their subscribers is small compared with the thousands of patrons of which our dailies and some of our magazines can boast.

In order to enable the reader to appreciate justly the information laid before him below, we submit the following general remarks:

  • (1) Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century and in fact almost up to the time of the French Revolution, all the periodicals published in a country reflected the spirit of the religion dominant in that country; in other words, in Catholic countries they were animated by the Catholic spirit and may be regarded as a part of Catholic literature.
  • (2) Even in the nineteenth century, and especially during its first half, the Press of the various countries of the western world largely represented the feelings and ideas of the majority of their inhabitants. Thus at the present time, the Spanish journals are largely written from the Catholic point of view.
  • (3) The daily journals of continental Europe still differ markedly from the typical American daily. The latter aims above all at gathering and printing the political, social, including criminal and economical, news of the day, while art, literature, and religion occupy a secondary rank and the editorials have grown gradually less important. In continental Europe, editorial articles, feuilletons, and varied essays often fill much more space than telegraphic and other news. This state of things accounts for the fact that the continental European journal requires much less capital than a great American daily. It also explains, why, in general, the non-Catholic European Press is characterized by much greater animosity to the Church and why Catholic dailies are more easily established and supported in some of the European countries.
  • (4) The European weekly Press hardly makes any effort to publish contemporary news. The Catholic weeklies confine themselves for the most part to the discussion of topics, either purely religious or involving ecclesiastical interests.

The following articles have been written by men specially well-informed on the Press of their several countries, deserving of every confidence.

For the respective Countries, see:—

  • Periodical Literature, Austria
  • Periodical Literature, Belgium
  • Periodical Literature, Canada
  • Periodical Literature, England
  • Periodical Literature, France
  • Periodical Literature, Germany
  • Periodical Literature, Holland
  • Periodical Literature, Ireland
  • Periodical Literature, Italy
  • Periodical Literature, Mexico
  • Periodical Literature, Poland
  • Periodical Literature, Portugal
  • Periodical Literature, Scotland
  • Periodical Literature, Spain
  • Periodical Literature, Switzerland
  • Periodical Literature, United States
  • for Periodical Literature of INDIA, — See India

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