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Little Magazines



Little Magazines and Small Presses

The turn of the last century — the 19th into the 20th, that is — was the heyday of the Little Magazine and the Small Presses which often printed them with handset type, on rich, textured papers, in small quantities for limited circulation. “Precious” might be the word that springs to mind. But they were published in thick of the Arts & Crafts Movement, after all; it was a precious decade. Many of them never achieved three complete volumes, however, but that had little to do with their influence: the ephemeral can sometimes have a large and lasting effect. Today, they have become highly collectible — and proportionally quite expensive.

Their content leaned toward the aesthetic; William Morris, Aubrey Beardsley (a.k.a, Awfully Weirdly), and Oscar Wilde are names we associate with the phenomenon. Indeed, it was The Yellow Book, a prominent U.K. literary journal published during 1894-1897, that made Beardsley a virtual household word — especially if your house were designed by Richard Norman Shaw. I’m privileged to have a nearly complete run, with literary contributions by Max Beerbohm and Baron Corvo (alias Frederick William Serafino Austin Lewis Mary Rolfe), among others probably not on your literary radar. [For a complete list, see F. W. Faxon’s Ephemeral Bibelots of 1903.]

Another exotic quarterly was The Blue Sky Magazine, published by Messrs. Langworthy and Swift at their Blue Sky Press [operational during 1899-1907] in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, not far from Robie House. Copies of their publications could have been perused at Browne’s Bookstore, a long-demolished interior redesigned by Frank Lloyd Wright for Francis Fisher Browne in 1907; Browne was a leader in the Chicago literary renaissance and publisher of The Dial.

Glancing this evening at one of these journals caused me to wonder: Was there a print shop in Agincourt? Could it have been part of the Little Magazine-Small Press phenomenon, say some time between 1900 and the outbreak of World War One? And what might that imply about a rural Iowa community’s intellectual linkage with the wider world?

Wouldn’t it be fun to cobble an issue together (he inquired rhetorically)?

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