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.
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.
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.
Dr. Koenraad Claes