One of the earliest forms of printed literature intended for public consumption, broadsides were initially printed to advertise events, share information, or entertain. They showed depictions of famous battles, promoted local businesses, gave politicians a forum for their views, and announced appearances by visiting dignitaries, lecturers, and performers. People also used these sheets to circulate things like poetry and ballads. Now, these collectible broadsides are a valuable resource for recalling those written pieces that are otherwise lost to history. People see them as works of art and important historical documents that offer glimpses into the news and events of the past.
In the most literal terms, broadsides or broadsheets are large pieces of paper printed on one side like posters or flyers, meant as public announcements. They began appearing in the 15th century and lasted until the advent of the newspaper, when printing technology began to improve. Most of the earliest examples featured typeface, while some later versions included illustrations, ranging from decorative borders to full maps. Many displayed images printed from engravings. Because broadsides were intended to advertise specific events or share information, most people discarded them once they served their purpose, making older examples even more rare and desirable.
Later broadsides were less about sharing information or advertising and more about featuring written pieces, especially poetry. In the 20th century, people sometimes handed out or hung up poetry broadsides to promote the work of poets. Many times, these sheets featured illustration, making them true works of art. Here, you can buy broadsides to study and display, whether they are historic pieces preserved for centuries, vintage advertisements, or more modern sheets that celebrate popular writers. Our sellers' collections include everything from early Americana song sheets and 16th-century maps to Beat poetry, often signed by the authors or artists and ready for framing.