Tag Archives: lady’s magazine

Notes on periodical genres, inspired by a trip to Trondheim

UKCWorking at the University of Kent has many advantages. Our colleagues are great, our students contribute enthusiastically to the vibrancy of the academic community, and our hillside campus provides beautiful views on Canterbury and its Cathedral spires (when it’s not too foggy). What I like most about the University, however, is its international orientation. It styles itself ‘the UK’s European university’ and justifies this appellation by organizing acclaimed student programmes in Brussels and Paris, and by stimulating collaboration with institutions in Continental Europe and Scandinavia. It is a source of great satisfaction to me that my current department has an excellent understanding with my former, at Ghent University. On Friday 30 October, for instance, a delegation of Kent staff and students will visit Ghent for a jointly organized workshop on nineteenth-century periodical studies, where our guest speaker will be living legend Prof. em. Laurel Brake. Earlier this month, I visited the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, to talk about our project to our friends of Enlightenment News.

     After my presentation, the Enlightenment News team gave feedback on our project’s most ambitious output, the annotated index for the magazine that will be available in open access as of September 2016. They confirmed the effectivity and efficiency of the index and gave advice on the use of state-of-the-art tools for the visualization of extrapolated data. You will get to see the results of our conversations in the next months. Their splendid ideas on Digital Humanities notwithstanding; the researchers on Enlightenment News are especially valuable contacts for the Lady’s Magazine project because of their specific expertise on eighteenth-century newspapers. During our discussions I noticed that they knew much more about magazines than I know about newspapers, but that neither side felt entirely confident on the genre that it did not focus on. The Enlightenment News website also states that this project ‘springs from the mass digitization of newspapers and periodical publications’ [my emphasis].

   The distinction made there is widespread in the study of eighteenth-century print culture, and I certainly understand why the Trondheim researchers decided to uphold it. Nevertheless, it struck me that this may be another one of those institutionalized imaginary boundaries that sometimes bring about an unhelpful compartmentalization of scholarship. Although some scholars are active in both, there are arguably still distinct academic circuits for the study of periodicals as either an offshoot of literary studies, or as a discipline within media history. Essay periodicals and magazines have been getting increasing attention over the past few decades from literature scholars working within periodical studies because these genres are now acknowledged as important sites of literary publication and public debate, but apart from a few notable trailblazers (including Enlightenment News), scholars outside of media and history departments have been paying little attention to newspapers except as easily quotable sources of historical information.

     Newspapers are ‘serial publications with [their] own distinctive titles’,[i] to cite one definition of ‘periodicals’, but they are often represented as incommensurable with periodical genres like the essay periodical, magazine, journal, review publication or miscellany. There are at least two explanations for this. Between 1712 and 1855, so-called ‘Taxes on Knowledge’ were in force in Britain to curtail publications that focused on current events, and this consolidated the classification of newspapers as a genre of publication apart from others with a periodical frequency. Today, for practical reasons, most libraries in North America and Europe index newspapers separately from (other) periodicals because the internationally accepted bibliographical classification system MARC 21 (Machine Readable Cataloguing) does so too. There is however no absolute necessity to do so, and I am sure that most periodical scholars would not object to the classification of newspapers as part of the wider category of periodicals.

     After pondering this problem, I became convinced that I need to learn more about those publications that are traditionally categorized as newspapers. The awkward phrasing of that last sentence is intentional. Genre categories are demarcated by means of definitions, and this is necessary because the corresponding terms have functioned historically and need to be taken into account, but we need to remember that these are all inevitably reductive. Achieving some kind of Linnaean taxonomy of textual genre should never be our goal. Whichever genre you tend to work on, it is advisable to occassionally take a peek over the fence at the neighbours. Especially in the eighteenth century, when the press is still coming into its own, self-classification is a matter of commercial pragmatics and legal opportunism, and many publications blurred the differences between genres on purpose. It is fair to say that such clever manipulation of genre is the very raison d’être of magazines.

LM, XXI (Jan. 1790): 49. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM, XXI (Jan. 1790): 49. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

     The defining feature of a newspaper is that it contains mostly ‘news’, a slippery term usually understood as denoting a concise record of current events. The Lady’s Magazine, for instance, also contains news sections in every number, divided into the subsections ‘Home News’ and ‘Foreign News’. The monthly frequency of the Lady’s Magazine makes it less adequate than the usually daily or weekly newspapers for ‘professional’ readers who needed to keep up with the most recent political and commercial developments, but for a less exigent audience that was not yet reliant on the then increasing centralization of government and globalization of commerce, it probably did the job just fine. Additionally, readers who preserved their copies and had them bound into annual volumes could use these sections as a chronicle of the past year. When we give talks about the Lady’s Magazine, we are often asked where it got its news facts from (in the jargon: ‘newsgathering’), but this is a difficult question as there may well be dozens of sources for every single number. As I have discussed before, ‘news’ was unprotected by copyright law and, even more generally than other content, harvested from sundry other publications, although the leading newspapers of course had channels of their own to secure scoops. More apt questions may be what the principles were whereby the Lady’s Magazine selected some events for inclusion and omitted others, and what the ideological slant of its reports tended to be. The Lady’s Magazine is also unlikely to have gathered itself all of its monthly notices for births, marriages and deaths, another feature which it shared with newspapers.

     Besides these more obvious overlaps with newspapers, the Lady’s Magazine also contained surprisingly detailed court proceedings for the most sensational cases of its day, like the trial of the Monster. It also printed the entire defence speech of Lord Erskine on behalf of Thomas Paine during the latter’s trial for seditious libel in 1792, in which the Magazine’s publisher George Robinson was implicated. Its regular articles on official celebrations at court could be seen as ticking off yet another topical interest, even if the emphasis there usually was on the dresses worn by the Queen and her ladies. Vice versa, many publications that are categorized as newspapers included types of content that we now more readily associate with (other) periodical genres, such as book reviews, historical items that at first glance bear no immediate relevance to topical events, original poetry, and occasionally serialization of prose fiction.

Leeds Intelligencer (2 April 1771): 1. Image © Gale / British Library.

Leeds Intelligencer (2 April 1771): 1. Image © Gale / British Library.

     Also if your research is limited mainly or solely to the magazine genre, there are clear advantages to a more thorough consultation of newspapers than a quick search for keywords in online databases. To give only one example, ephemeral materials such as advertisement sections are often better preserved for newspapers than for magazines, because they are usually fully integrated into the paper’s contents and therefore harder to purge from the text. The Lady’s Magazine regularly advertised in the major newspapers of the day, and reading these adverts – ideally in context of the paper in which they appear – can tell you much about how the magazine was marketed. Reading them successively may tell you which price changes it underwent throughout its run, and how the publishers believed they could present themselves most profitably. The advert partially reproduced here is actually much longer, and contains valuable descriptions of the contents that indicate which items were expected to attract most attention.

     I came back from Trondheim with a renewed interest in newspapers as points of comparison to, and secondary sources of information on the Lady’s Magazine, and for that I am as grateful as for the warm welcome I received. As previous blogs posts have shown, presentations at other institutions where Jennie, Jenny and myself have been hosted have stimulated our research in other ways. If you work on topics congenial to our own, and think that it would be useful for us to present our project to you and hear about yours in turn, we urge you to get in touch. We welcome all suggestions wholeheartedly and are keen to gain new contacts wherever people are interested in our research!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

 

[i] Reitz, Joan M. “Periodical”. Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. http://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_P.aspx?#periodical [last consulted on 20 Oct. 15]

The P-word, part II: is it ever right to call a periodical a plagiarism?

In the past few weeks, a recurrent topic in our blogs has been the regular appearance in the Lady’s Magazine of material taken from other sources, as opposed to original submissions. Our interest in this matter was sparked by a new phase in our work on the annotated index. I have recently started cross-checking the over 14,000 items in the magazine with several online databases, as manual a job as they come in the age of digital research, and noticed that a considerable number of items appearing without ascription in fact had appeared elsewhere first. There are a number of possible reasons why the magazine does not always own up about this: the editors were sometimes fooled themselves by reader-contributors (as I argued in my last), they felt that they were legally and ethically entitled to republish without acknowledgement, or they thought that acknowledging republications might tarnish their reputation for offering novelty. Printing non-original material without ascription was of course a widespread practice in the eighteenth-century press, and several readers of our blog have kindly contacted us to tell us about their own thoughts and experiences.

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This monkey never appeared in the LM.

   One highly important problem that repeatedly surfaced was one that usually takes some explaining to people who do not dwell – day in, day out – in the fascinating / exasperating world of periodical history: what to call this ubiquitous phenomenon. Last week, Jennie argued persuasively against using ‘the P-word’, plagiarism, for unacknowledged republications in eighteenth-century magazines, even if we would not hesitate to use it for such items as they occur in publications of today. She pointed out the notoriously hazy copyright laws of the period, and the equally relevant difference between eighteenth-century ethical notions of intellectual property and our own. We were excited and very grateful that Prof. David Mazella, who has done vital work on the Lady’s Magazine before, accepted Jennie’s invitation to write a response.

   Prof. Mazella there elaborates on the issue of ambiguous authorship, and adds (amongst other pertinent suggestions) that a prominent cause of this ambiguity was that periodicals were in the eighteenth century not explicitly covered by copyright legislation. As he points out, copyright was at the time regulated under the Statute of Anne (1710). This pivotal legislation ended the monopoly of the Stationers’ Company  by for the first time stipulating that copyright was not to be held in perpetuity, but for a fixed period. From now on, copyright was also subject Statute_of_anneto other specific regulations, that were intended to protect not only the interests of the author, but also those of society at large, by creating what we now call the ‘public domain’ so that texts that were out of copyright could circulate freely.[1] Even though publishers kept referring to obsolete legislation to claim an unlawful absolute property of works that they originally issued, the judges usually would have none of this, and the Statute worked relatively well for books. However, Prof. Mazella, following Slauter,[2] suggests that the anarchic attribution policy of magazines was made possible by a lack of specific regulations in the Statute concerning periodical publications, and an unwillingness of the publishers’ sector to remedy this because the industry had come to rely on the manipulation of such unclear legal descriptions. This enabled, for example, a proliferation of newspapers, as snippets of texts regarded as ‘news’ could in slightly altered phrasings quickly travel across different titles, to the point that it is nigh on impossible to find out in which publication they originate. Prof. Mazella suggests ‘that the brief “textual units” of the [Lady’s Magazine], though formally and generically examples of short fiction, moral essays, biographies, etc., were […] treated on the model of the newspapers’ “textual units,” as a kind of readily accessible, transformable information that could be extracted or reworked as needed’. Using the term ‘plagiarism’ for this would be misleading, as we tend to use this term to denote, with an eighteenth-century definition also quoted by Slauter, ‘surreptitious theft of a named property’.

   I fully agree that the connotations of the P-word are misleading. Furthermore, an allegation of plagiarism requires an assessment of the intentions of the alleged plagiarists, which is obviously highly precarious when you are dealing with authors about whom you have little or no information. Although I have in a past blog post once referred to certain items as ‘plagiarized’, I have reserved this verdict precisely for those cases where the ‘surreptitious’ appropriation of another’s labour seemed clear to me. For instance, when a reader-contributor, without acknowledgement, cheekily adopts the entire text of a poem, except for all references to people and places proper to the original poet, swapping these for cherished connections of her/his own. The reasons why I restricted it to this sense is that I agree with the points made by Jennie and Prof. Mazella, and their recent posts have convinced me that I should drop the term altogether. In what follows, I would nevertheless like to address (briefly) the abovementioned two ideas that are frequently cited in discussions of the supposed absence of a notion of fixed authorship during the eighteenth century: (1) the legal argument that there is no specific legislation for copyright of magazines in the period, and (2), the ethical argument that people did not think of the ownership of intellectual productions as we do today. Both are correct; they however do require, in my opinion, some nuance.

   It is of course true that the Statute of Anne does not explicitly refer to publications other than books. Because of this, the republication of content between periodicals was always safe, as lucidly explained by Prof. Mazella. That, however, does not mean that there was no legal praxis concerning periodicals appropriating content from books, and in many cases this quite simply derives from the more straightforward regulations on the book trade. This is an important consideration because a significant number of republications in the magazines were taken not from other periodicals, but from books. Eighteenth-century copyright boils down to the general rule that, while texts are in copyright, republication in any form is prohibited to anyone but the copyright holder. This includes serialization in periodicals. However, partial republication, for instance the extracting of books in periodicals, was not covered by this. Even abridgements were sometimes ruled to be new works, thereby not constituting infringements of copyright, when the efforts of the editor/author would have produced a text that had the added value of brevity to a hurried reader, although here, problematically, intentions and motives needed to be gauged. This is also how magazines defended their miscellaneous character: the ongoing boom in publications had made it impossible for readers to keep up with everything that was being printed, so the magazines offer a digest tailored to their needs.

   In his invaluable history of copyright in Britain, Ronan Deazley cites two cases against pioneering magazine publisher Edward Cave of the Gentleman’s Magazine (1731-1922).[3] These may offer a simpler explanation for the prevalence of extracts in magazines than the parallel to news items circulating across newspapers. In Austen v. Cave (1739) the plaintiff was publisher Austen, who held the copyright to the moral treatise The Nature, Folly, Sin and Danger of Being Righteous Over-Much (1739) by Joseph Trapp. The defendant, Cave, had excerpted this work, and was now accused of infringing the plaintiff’s copyright. Cave defended himself by stating that he excerpted books all the time, and that this was usually welcomed by the publishers and authors. He also referred directly to the Statute of Anne by stating that he only had intended to republish a part, and not the whole, and that too stringently applying the regulations as to copyright would be detrimental to the dissemination of knowledge that would have been the Statute’s main objective. Still, an injunction against further publication was obtained by the plaintiff, only to be lifted if Cave could satisfactorily prove that it had never been his intention to republish the work in its entirety. Cave failed to convince the judge, and therefore was forbidden from resuming the series of extracts. The second case, Cogan v. Cave (1743), is similar. The Gentleman’s Magazine excerpts Eliza Haywood’s Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman (1743), copyright holder Thomas Cogan obtains an injunction, but this is lifted after Cave has cleared himself. Deazley suspects that Cave had once again referred to the Statute.

   Both items could just as well have appeared in the Lady’s Magazine, where extracts from moral treatises and novels abound too. Only rarely do editorial notices betray any misgivings about such republications when these appear unsigned (presumably furnished by staff writers), but the editors do get nervous when they catch reader-contributors at sending in unascribed items for publication in the magazine. Here is one example from 1776:

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LM VII (March 1776): facing p. 116. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I have in a previous post referred to this sort of moral posturing as a sign of hypocrisy, but after further consideration, I think it rather was a strategy of risk containment. Although they had no actual qualms about repurposing content, the editors may have wanted to discourage readers from submitting non-original items without acknowledgement, because they had no control over these. Caution was advised, because republication could land you in court and make you squander time, money and your reputation, as every rival magazine would gleefully report on court proceedings against you. Whether or not to acknowledge the source for a republished item must have been regarded as a call to be made by the editors, not the readers. If there was no deontological argument against unacknowledged republication, this would arguably not have been a concern at all. Consider also the following notice, appearing after the magazine had published an extract from Dr. Gregory’s conduct book A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters (1774):

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LM XV (Aug 1784): facing p. 36. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

“Mary Turner” was most likely a reader-contributor who submitted the item in question without due ascription to the original source. Even though this was only an excerpt of about a page, and the magazine should legally have had nothing to worry about, there appears to have been some worry about the mere allegation of content piracy.

   It may be relevant to remark that plagiarism, despite what is commonly thought, is actually not a legal concept, but rather pertains to the ethics of authorship. After all, even today you can plagiarize a text that is in the public domain without having to worry about any legal consequences, because you did not infringe any copyright. This brings me to the second assumption concerning ambiguous authorship in the eighteenth century, being the argument about publishing ethics. There are countless accounts of publishers and authors resenting the appropriation of their labours, but I believe that it is also easy to overstate the claim that readers would not have cared about correct attribution. The abovementioned attempts of the editors to deny that the Lady’s Magazine featured unacknowledged republications, despite these being undeniably present, and the magazine’s staff writers’ cosmetic edits to decontextualize appropriated material suggest that the reputation of offering (mainly) original matter, and reliably acknowledging non-original items, was deemed a valuable asset. A certain part of the readership, large enough to fuss about, must have cared.

   As Slauter indicates, the term ‘plagiarism’, in exactly the sense that we use it today, already occurs in the 1730s.[4] Although I have not yet had time to check all possible associated search terms exhaustively, I did find that there were at least eighteen instances of the term ‘plagiarism’ in the Lady’s Magazine between 1770 and 1800, and three of ‘plagiarist’ . These sometimes occur in discussions (often heated) between reader-contributors about the originality of submitted pieces. To do the subtleties of this debate justice, we will return to the attitudes of readers towards the P-word in a future post, but one more example from an editorial notice may suffice to prove that there definitely was an ethical dimension to republication that went beyond legality.

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LM XI (June 1780): facing p. 284. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

This even though, as I have found, the magazine’s staff writers had repeatedly repurposed items from the Gentleman’s Magazine before, without acknowledgement. It’s all very complicated!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Cf. Mark Rose, “The Public Sphere and the Emergence of Copyright: Areopagitica, the Stationers’ Company”. Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright, Ed. by Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer and Lionel Bently, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2010. <http://books.openedition.org/obp/1066> [last accessed 23 Sep. 15]

[2] Will Slauter, “Upright Piracy: Understanding the Lack of Copyright for Journalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain”, Book History, 16.1 (2013), 34-61.

[3] Ronan Deazley, The Origin of the Right to Copy, Oxford: Hart, 2004. pp. 79-80

[4] Slauter 2013, p. 48

Lost time well spent: exploring the Robinson archives

As we have said many times before, eighteenth-century periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine can be challenging to research. Magazines are intrinsically diverse texts, but at this early stage they were especially complex and unstable, to the point that it is difficult to make statements about the form and content of these publications that apply for their entire run. Furthermore, the Lady’s Magazine does not tell you much about its publishers and authors, and there is a dearth of reliable secondary sources that could fill you in on who was involved in its publication and writing. The General Censuses that are such a blessing to nineteenth-century periodicals scholars only start in 1801, and although it is very helpful that descriptions of holdings at town record offices can now largely be found online, you often need significant research leads in order to land on anything of use there. Ideally, you hope to retrieve a publisher’s ledgers, which potentially contain all kinds of information on the business transactions of a publisher.

It is my job to identify people associated with a poorly documented periodical, so I value such sources highly. Among the items often contained in ledgers are receipts for payments and “memoranda of agreement” between the publisher and authors, which can help you to reconstruct a background for the discussed publications. This may include the date that a copyright was acquired, the price paid for the latter, the agreed number of copies to be printed, a precise address for the author, and (oh Joy of Joys) the full legal name of authors behind pseudonymous or anonymous publications. In some cases you also find out about long forgotten members of the printing or bookselling trade who played a vital part in bringing the texts into the world, for instance when you find receipts for engravings, or an invoice for book deliveries.

LM VI (1775). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

We can hardly be certain just how complete centuries-old archives are, but in some lucky cases vast ledgers have been preserved. Unfortunately, no such detailed ledger appears to have survived for Robinson and Co., the company that owned the Lady’s Magazine. There is however a small archive extant, which is kept at the Manchester City Library, containing about 300 ledger items. If you want to make sure that you are not missing out on any relevant information, there is nothing for it but to work through these one by one. For some this takes a long time because they are all handwritten and not always legible, and in names and addresses they contain abbreviations and spelling variants that make it difficult to cross-check with other sources, like our own detailed notes, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online library and database catalogues, and the surprisingly useful Google Books.

We never had high expectations for the information that these documents would yield on the contributors of, and publisher’s network specifically relevant to the Lady’s Magazine. Our regular readers may be able to guess why: the magazine of course relied to a large extent on unsolicited submissions by reader-contributors, who most likely were never paid. No payment will normally equal no paper trail. What did not come in for free would usually have been taken (as in “pirated”) from other publications, as was common in magazines until well into the nineteenth century, and therefore not be documented either. After putting in close to fifty hours, I discovered that despite several items pertaining to Robinson’s other periodicals such as the Journal of Natural Philosophy (1797-1814), only a few documents held in Manchester are directly relevant to the Lady’s Magazine, and none of these contain any ground-breaking information.

Nevertheless, I was not overly disappointed. Among other things, the archive brings home the extraordinary diversity among the books and periodicals published by the Robinsons and their associates. The publications mentioned in the archive range from plays to novels, and from philosophical treatises to gardening manuals. There is something endearing in the fact that the Godwin Pol Jus blogpublisher to whom we owe volatile works like Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) also took on The Complete Wall-tree Pruner, given to posterity by horticulturalist John Abercrombie in 1799. There are documents on both of these books in the archive. Professor Abercrombie apparently received £12-12s-6d for the fruits of his labours. How much he received for the fruits of his wall trees is not on record.

Some documents give you intriguing insights into the day-to-day operations of publishing firms in this period. There are notices about bills drawn by authors on the publisher, for instance several ones signed by Charlotte Smith from the period 1791-1792, a few years after her financially crippling divorce. This was a quite common practice whereby cherished authors would be allowed to have advances on the sales of their books paid straight to Charlotte Smithdebtors. As Wiliam St Clair informs us, this was not only a favour to ingratiate oneself with authors; such largesse also boosted the reputation of the publishing firm for solvability.[1]

More directly relevant to the magazine are the regular mentions of certain contributors to the magazine in other contexts, which imply that they were in some capacity connected to the publishing firm. This is an angle that we will need to pursue, as it may lead us to the identification of staff writers and editors for the magazine, and as yet we know very little about these. Here and there names for engravers and printers pop up, which could in turn provide welcome clues to the identities of people associated with the material production of the magazine.

One hypothesis I was looking to verify was that there would be a substantial, two-way connection between the acquisition by Robinson of copyrights for books on the one hand, and items appearing in the Lady’s Magazine on the other. We already know that books issued by Robinson were often excerpted in the magazine with a short notice that they had recently appeared, and commercially this of course makes a lot of sense. Eighteenth-century magazines tended to have a prominent miscellaneous character, which means that readers would next to entire self-contained narratives also expect to find some enticing snippets to guide them in their future choices from their subscription libraries or booksellers. It would be fabulous if we could learn whether the copyright for books was not sometimes acquired after excerpts therefrom had appeared in the Lady’s Magazine. This would imply that the publisher used the magazine to test the market value of texts, and based the ultimate acquisition on feedback from the public. This would be a likely way for amateur magazine contributors to make the transition to (semi-)professional authors of books. So far we have not been able to find conclusive evidence for this theory, but as soon as we do, we will let you know. Once we’re done celebrating.

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] St Clair, William. The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. p. 171

Word Clouds and Visualizing the Archive

The digitization of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) has opened up exciting new research methodologies that we use on our project to help extrapolate trends and changes that occur in the periodical over the course of its 62 year print run. One of these research tools is the word cloud, a means of representing data visually by inserting a large quantity of text into a program that analyzes word frequency. The resulting word cloud depicts the range of word or phrase frequency through size difference so one can readily see how different terms are weighted relative to one another. This is useful when working with a database the size of the Lady’s Magazine because it enables us to see changes in, for example, the terminology used in titles over the magazine’s entire print run. 1770 prose top 75For example, in 1770 the most frequent 75 words that appear in the prose titles are terms descriptive of genres or types of writing: history, anecdote, treatise, account, biography, tale, letters, French, translation, etc. Also appearing frequently are the words ‘lady’, ‘lady’s’, and ‘female’.

In comparison, using the most frequent terms in prose titles from 1815 reveals a shift in the magazine’s composition. With the exception of the ubiquitous anecdote, fewer genres appear while increasingly individual names and titles (with an understandable emphasis on the French) are featured.1815 top 75 Prominently featured are the terms death, Bonaparte, France, Paris, Duke, Nelson, king, general, Lord, Hamilton, Chesterfield, Cromwell, Sir, Wellington and theatre.

The content shifts that lie beneath the articles’ titles require, of course, careful analysis of the underlying contexts that such visualizations merely nod towards. So while between 1770 and 1818 the term ‘men’ appears with around the same frequency, in 1778 the titles with men include ‘Verses on the Folly of Men’ while in 1817 readers were presented with ‘Maxims of Eminent Englishmen’. The same approximate frequency – but very different content indeed!Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 11.48.31 Because our index includes a series of keywords for each item in the magazine, we can compare word clouds of the keywords in one year to word clouds of the titles and discover substantial differences. For example, the keywords for 1770 look quite different from the article titles.

When working with material as sizeable in scope, quantity, and chronology as the Lady’s Magazine archive, similarly diverse research methodologies are likewise required. The word cloud is one of the methods that digitization has made possible and that raises new and important questions about the magazine’s content and how such content was presented to the readers.

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi, University of Kent

 

Robinson and Roberts vs Wheble: Periodicals and Piracy

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LM, I (1771). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

One of the many problems involved in working with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century periodicals is not knowing for sure what you are reading. Distinguishing between original and repurposed content is easier in a digital age, but is still a very inexact science because of the sheer scope of the archives from which serial publications can be drawn. Faced with a bewildering array of multi-genre content, the doggedly determined periodical scholar (is there any other kind?) is left heavily reliant on gut instinct and old-fashioned detective skills. 

Characteristically, the Lady’s Magazine does its best to keep readers off the scent. True: many articles drawn from previously published, longer works, are credited as being ‘By’ their original author or are acknowledged as extracts in their titles. But there are many other articles that appear in the magazine with no signature attached to them and no form of acknowledgement of prior appearance even though they are not originals. And there are others again that have a signature and read as though submitted by a reader for the first time when, in fact, these turn out to be, shall we say, borrowed. Whether the magazine sought deliberately to dupe its readers about such contributions or was itself simply deceived by contributors trying to pass of the work of others as their own (the editors certainly discovered authors doing this on many occasions and proudly declared so when they did) is unclear to say the least.

Trying to pursue the bigger question of how copyright law was understood to apply to eighteenth-century periodicals takes you into still murkier territory. Evidence from the magazines themselves suggests that editors and booksellers saw serial publications as working at the very margins, or even completely outside, of contemporary copyright law. Indeed, they seemed often to have operated in a culture of broad (if not unshakeable) understanding that their contents could and would be widely repurposed.

But there were limits to this understanding, and the Lady’s found itself on both sides of the copyright infringement fence. For nine years of its print run, The Lady’s  was forced to fend off the unapologetically unscrupulous efforts of publisher and rival Alexander Hogg, who, working out of 24 Paternoster Row, was the next door neighbour to George Robinson and his partners. Hogg’s New Lady’s Magazine waged an unrelentingly aggressive campaign against the Lady’s from 1786 to 1795 in a publication that Hogg claimed was more polite, better produced and better value than its predecessor and contemporary. In fact, huge swathes of the New Lady’s Magazine was plagiarised verbatim, without acknowledgement, from the Lady’s itself. Quite what Hogg and Robinson said to each other as they inevitably walked past each other in Paternoster Row intrigues me. But Robinson couldn’t claim the moral high ground all of the time. In 1819, for example, his magazine was forced to respond (not exactly apologetically) to the proprietor of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, who had complained that the Lady’s had committed an ‘invasion of [literary] property’ by printing ‘without alteration, abridgement, or acknowledgement’ a piece entitled  ‘Some Remarks on the Use of the Preternatural in Fiction’ by John Wilson, which they had printed the year before (L: Oct 1819: ‘To Our Correspondents’).

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LM, 1 (1770). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

In many ways, however, the most interesting insights the Lady’s Magazine offers us into contemporary understandings of the periodical’s place in debates about piracy and plagiarism comes early in its history. When the first issue of the Lady’s Magazine appeared in August 1770 it was as a joint venture between the bookseller John Coote and publisher John Wheble. During April 1771 Coote sold his interest in the publication to the publishers George Robinson and John Roberts for 500l. Sensing that he was onto a good thing, Wheble, who had himself previously and unsuccessfully sought to buy the interest off Coote, would not give up on the Lady’s, however, and continued to publish it alongside Robinson and Roberts’ official version. The resulting dispute between Robinson and Roberts and Wheble over which Lady’s Magazine was legitimate led them to the courtroom in July 1771 in a trial that found in favour of Robinson and Roberts, who were awarded nominal damages of 5s.

A transcript of the courtroom proceedings, which was presided over by Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, appeared in full in the July 1771 issue of the magazine. It is an extraordinary document, worth every twinge of eye strain occasioned by scrutinising its densely printed text and densely argued perspectives on the thorny question of who ‘owns’ a publication that is the work of multiple hands: a proprietor, a printer, a publisher, an editor as well as engravers and numerous (and often unknown) writers.

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LM, IV (1773). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Wheble’s defence lay in the quantity of labour he claimed he had put into getting the publication off the ground. He contended that the ‘time, application and invention’ he had invested in the magazine should have been enough to prove his title to it (I, July 1771: 44). Coote unsurprisingly disagreed, arguing that he had been proprietor and legal owner of the magazine and that Wheble’s small part in proceedings had been simply to get the publication onto readers’ bookshelves: ‘After the author has wrote, the compositor has done his part, and the printer has set the press, the last hand it comes to is the publisher [… .] All he has to do with it is, upon the one hand to publish it, upon the other hand, to transmit the profits to Mr Coote’ (I: July 1771: 42).

Coote’s case was hard to dispute, but the serial form of the The Lady’s complicated matters rather. As Wheble pointed out, some significant elements of the content of the Lady’s Magazine, such as the long-running travel narrative, A Sentimental Journey (1770-77), had yet to be concluded when Robinson and Roberts took over publishing the title. This begged an important question that the trial dodged rather than resolved: What rights has a publisher over a work that is published in part form? Wheble insisted, as he would, that as publisher of the previous eight installments, he had the right to publish future parts. Coote responded by asserting that serial literature (and its authors) belonged not to a publisher but to the publication in which it appeared. Since he had sold the Lady’s Magazine to Robinson and Roberts, the unknown author of A Sentimental Journey (known only as ‘a Lady’) was duty bound to write for its new publishers.

Lord Mansfield would not be drawn on these matters of ownership. After all, Mansfield declared, ‘there is not a colour of property’ in such ‘title[s]’ (I: July 1771: 50). In arguably the most interesting sections of the transcript, Mansfield, rather than focus on the rights of publishers, proprietors or even lowly authors, looks out for the magazine’s readers.

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LM, IV (1773). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

No law could prevent Wheble from continuing to publish the periodical after Coote sold his interest in it to his rivals, Mansfield declared, and indeed, Wheble ploughed on with publishing his own Lady’s Magazine alongside Robinson and Roberts version until December 1772, when it died a sudden death. But for Wheble not to acknowledge his break with Coote, for Wheble to present his Lady’s Magazine as a continuation of Coote’s original, was to dupe readers, Mansfield concluded: ‘If he had said Mr Coote has left off his work, and I will continue it, he had a right to do it; but he has gone on in a manner that has imposed upon the public, in saying No. 9. was a continuation of the original work, of which eight numbers had been sold which was a fraud’ (1: July 1771: 52)

By July 1771, it is clear that The Lady’s Magazine was an established brand that readers and subscribers bought into with every purchase. As Mr Wallace, Wheble’s solicitor, declared with undisguised irony, the case of Robinson and Roberts vs Wheble ‘got a great victory [for the booksellers], in being told they have got no property in such works’ (I: July 1771: 52). In the process, the court failed to resolve a set of questions about the periodical’s place in contemporary copyright law that would resurface throughout the long history of the Lady’s Magazine’s run. But it also worked to emphasise the rights of readers whose title to serial publications seemed in some ways more secure than those of their publishers and authors.

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English, University of Kent

 

 

 

 

An open-access research index for the Lady’s Magazine

Over the next two years, the Leverhulme-funded research project on the Lady’s Magazine at the University of Kent will share with you its findings on the diverse contents and often obscure authors in this pioneering women’s periodical. The project’s most ambitious service to the scholarly community is its fully searchable index of the magazine, from its launch in 1770 to the start of the reformatted ‘new series’ in 1818. Used alongside the digitized holdings in the Eighteenth Century Journals database, the index will allow researchers to find their way around the magazine much quicker than with the means currently at our disposal.

LM, XIII (1782). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The original readers of the Lady’s Magazine obviously approached their favourite periodical much differently from modern-day literary scholars and historians. The publishers therefore understandably catered to the needs of their immediate readership in the minimalistic tables of contents and annual indexes that they themselves provided. These documents lack data that researchers are most interested in, and are not user-friendly. They invariably contain errors in pagination, omit many items that were likely deemed of too ephemeral interest, and are not arranged systematically. Authors are never mentioned in these listings, and when they are credited within the magazine, inconsistencies in signatures frequently hamper exhaustive queries. Furthermore, there is as yet no comprehensive index for the entire run of the series.

Our open-access index will address all of these formal issues, delivering detailed records for each of the over 15,000 contributions. To facilitate research within specific genres or interests, all contributions will be assigned one or more relevant genre categories, and keywords will be provided based on subject matter or themes. As the Lady’s Magazine even more than other periodicals actively encouraged interaction between its reader-contributors, useful tags will point out when given contributions are noticeably in dialogue with each other, bringing back to life the controversies that caught the interest of the magazine’s wide readership over two centuries ago. If the magazine gives information about the sex or age of the contributor then this is recorded as well, and mediating contributors who preface or translate the work of others are also identified. When content has been taken from other publications (be it another periodical or a book), then this source will be stated.

partial preview of index

Besides being the first reliable and comprehensive listing of the magazine’s contents and contributors, the index should also be considered a scholarly work in progress, to which new insights will be added continuously. The project’s researchers will identify as many anonymous and pseudonymous contributors as possible, and enter these attributions into the index too. It will become clear that the countless initials and pseudonyms belong not only to obscure amateurs ‘to fortune and to fame unknown’, but also to a diverse array of more famous authors and public figures.

http://www.kent.ac.uk/english/ladys-magazine/research-data.html

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English; University of Kent