Evolutionary and Revolutionary story of pamphlets

Everything has its origin and history! Even Pamphlets / Flyer / Leaflets.

Pamphlet story title

I always wondered does these small pieces of paper called pamphlets hold any significant past?

After some research I was astound reading its strong and notorious past.

These so-called Pamphlets, flyers, leaflets and brochures are like generations who have evolved through time being same to the core but with different personalities.

“Do you know they are centuries old dated back to 12th century!!”

In those time It was a short , quarto book. The format and size of medieval printed books were determined by the proportions of the paper on which it was printed and number of paper folds. A folio was made from one fold sheets, resulting in large and grand books, a quarto was made from sheets folded twice. A Pamphlet typically consisted of between 1 sheet to a maximum of 12 sheets.

Nowadays these humble papers are used for publicity and marketing of businesses but if you look at their past Oh boy….. what a past!

With starting revolutions to ousting governments, it has been involved in lot of politics of Britain, France and other European countries since the 15th century and in the pre-television era, they entertained the masses with juicy gossips and wild tales.

As we all know most of the innovations are from west, so is the story of Pamphlets/flyer which started in Europe mainly Britain.

So buckle up and let’s take a trip back in time to the origins of this outstanding communication tool.


The word “pamphlet,” meaning a small treatise or other work consisting of pages without covers, entered English in the late 1300s, according to the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology.

It came from the French word Pamphilet, which the Oxford English Dictionary explains was the French title of an anonymous 12th-century comic love poem written in Latin: Pamphilus, seu de Amore (Pamphilus: or, On Love).

At that time, the poem was very popular and was widely copied and passed around in the form of a thin leaflet.

Hence the English word “pamphlet” became a generic term for an unbound text smaller than a book.

Invention of Printing Press

Before the invention of printing press the messages were passed on to public at the common squares through beating drums announcements but this way either message was spoiled or altered. Although at that time rich and powerful always relied on hand written messages with the seal.

After the invention of printing press in Germany in 1450 everything changed. Where once the written word belonged to the upper affluent caste, new groups emerged that questioned the monarchy and the church.

They would organize themselves and get their message out to the common people through these printed carriers. If they had to spread a political, social or religious message, flyer printing was considered a powerful way to educate about the cause.

old Printed Pamphlet

1500’s printed ancient pamphlet

witches of northampton leaflet

1612 Pamphlet

Wars , Propaganda And Role of Leaflets

British Civil War

The British civil war in 1640′ s were the most extensively reported conflict that the people had seen in history.

Historians termed this period as ‘the print explosion’ as both sides used pamphlets to re-group their soldiers and threaten their enemies. Flyers played a critical part in circulating information and miss leading information to the curious British public.

One leaflet, The Bloody Prince, showed the Royal Commander Prince Rupert with a smoking gun over Birmingham as it burned. This influential printed leaflet aroused outrage against the royals and raised support for the parliamentarians.


The Bloody prince leaflet

                 Prince Rupert leaflet

The printed pamphlets became tool of intense straight talks and the flow of information and messages increased tremendously across the Europe.

Printed leaflets became an important part during all the world wars, revolutions and freedom fights. They were widely used to provoke people to contribute in the cause and to get involved.

Sir Bibliomaniac

Another interesting related story I read in Joad Raymond journal states that in 1597 a teller called Richard Stonley in Queen Elizabeth’s exchange of receipt was charged on embezzling over 12000 pounds. His property was seized and it was found that he has spent his illegal money in satisfying his bibliomania.

Bibliomania is type of obsessive–compulsive disorder, which involves the collecting or even hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.

There were thousands of anonymous written pamphlets found in his bedroom and in his whole house. later even in prison in his confession he admitted spending all his money in acquiring writings.

The onset of American Revolution

In 1776, Thomas Paine’s leaflet Common Sense lit a firecracker under the American Revolution, inspiring people to stop what they were doing and immediately fight for independence from Britain.


thomas paine common sense pamphlet

Thomas Paine famous leaflet commonsense

Contribution in Abolition of Slave Trade

The humble pamphlets has a significant contribution in the slave trade abolish movement. It was against the all those wealthy landlords with large properties who had the vote – many of them who had invested in the produce of slavery – sugar, tobacco, rice, cotton and indigo. So they distributed print leaflets to put pressure on parliament and rally public opinion, using accounts of the horrors of the slave trade. Their flyer design included the picture of the slave on his knees under the phrase ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’

Slave trade pamphlet

Abolish of slave trade pamphlet

Suffrage – Women Rights Movement

Next came The women’s rights movement in 1848 . Protesters used printed flyers to get the sisterhood acknowledge about the injustice of being denied to vote. Activists would get on the streets and would circulate them to the females, showing how flyers are the cheapest and perfect medium for targeted marketing.

The Unforgettable World Wars I and II – Airborne leaflets Propaganda

Right from the beginning of war all the countries used various propaganda’s to influence and shape international opinion. Newspapers, journals, cartoons and leaflets (flyers) were used extensively to influence both neutral and conflicting sides.

Aerial leaflets were first used on a large scale during World War I by all parties. The British dropped packets of leaflets over German trenches containing postcards from prisoners of war detailing their humane conditions, surrender notices and general propaganda against the Kaiser and the German generals. By the end of the war MI7b had distributed almost 26 million leaflets.

leaflet bomb

Leaflet Bomb

World War I British anti-German propaganda poster.

World War I British anti-German propaganda poster.

In the Second World War, massive quantities of leaflets were dropped from the air via plane, rocket, shell, and balloon in a propaganda war to influence the people on the ground. for example, when the population was afraid or unable to listen to foreign radio broadcasts.

Airborne pamplet bombing

Leaflets were seen as being an effective tactic in manipulating troops when morale was low.

One interesting example Among the leaflets war was when Germans threw leaflets to American troops  depicting a passionate kiss between a man and woman. The leaflet read: “FAREWELL Remember her last kiss … ? Gee were you happy then … ! Together, you spent marvelous times …, lounging on beaches …, dancing, enjoying parties galore …, listening to the tunes of your favorite band …”. The leaflets back side reminds the soldier that his loved one is longing for him and that most of the men he had come with are dead now. In return, one Allied country designed flyers simply showed a picture of a large open field with thousands of German graves.



Arthur Szyk Pamphlet

Arthur Szyk Illustration                                        (Arthur Szyk 1894-1951 was a very famous pollish illustrator)

world war 2 image pamphlets


world war 2 Pamphlets

                 Demoralizing leaflets


ww2 army pamphlets

The printed flyers served as an effective weapon during the wars to inform and educate both soldiers and civilians .

The biggest advantages were that the printed words on the leaflets were more authoritative and its potential to reach many people.

Indian Freedom Movement

Pamphleteering was involved in Indian freedom fight too. The Indian freedom fighters aggressively used printed flyers to spread the word of freedom across India against British.

All the rallies and movements were accompanied by distribution of leaflets printed with messages from leaders and freedom fighters.

indian freedom movement


The Baby-Boomer Era

Then in the 1950s, came the glorious post war modern time where these leaflets entered houses to promote goods and services.

After the great success of leaflets during the war in spreading the message; the consumer products companies started using them to promote their products. Technology advancement and colored printing  helped companies in mass marketing at affordable costs with utmost impact.

Pamphlet printing evolved with slick, modern designs promoting all the goods, from fridges to holidays and cars, which the post-war baby boomers had the disposable cash to buy. Lot of attention was paid on designs, paper and print quality.

With the advent of the color photocopier in the 1970s, everyone could use cheap leaflet printing to advance their cause. The leaflet has also been a key tool in the arsenal of guerilla marketers since the 1980s.

Baby Ads pamphlets

vintage pepsi ad flyer

vintage coke ad pamphlets

vinatge ad pamphlets

monac ad pamphlets

swiss air ad pamphlet


Recent developments in software technology has enabled every one of us to design and print a flyer that says exactly what we want it to in look and language.

As you can read how these delicate yet strong papers have changed the History; Imagine what it can do to your brand. Even in the age of handheld devices, these leaflets reach people that no other medium can.

From their political, scandalous, subversive and rebellious roots to their colorful customizable present, there’s tremendous potential in these printed leaflets/ flyers/ pamphlets !

So contact us now to change the history of your brand.