Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2003 Issue
Catalogue Review: Periodicals<br>From William Reese Company
By Mike Stillman
Catalogue 228 is an unusual venture for the William Reese Company. Noted for handling many of the most important books and manuscripts of American history for the past quarter century, this catalogue turns its attention to some of the smallest and obscure of printed material. The catalogue's title is "Periodicals 1890 V 2000," and it is a collection of 919 listings of periodicals and little magazines.
You won't find any copies of Time Magazine or National Geographic in this collection of periodicals. Most likely, you won't have heard of most of them. These are primarily literary publications, with a few political and other intellectual journals added to the mix. A few survived for a decent amount of time, but most had relatively short lives, in many cases never making it past volume 1 number 1. Many reflect the literary and political environments of their times, such as radical politics in the 1930s. The works of well-known writers are often found in these obscure, short-lived journals. Besides those who collect periodicals, this catalogue should be reviewed by anyone who collects 20th century literary figures. It may also be of interest to those who collect local imprints as many were published from small communities across the U.S., frequently college towns, as well as several foreign cities.
An example of the short-lived is Aesthete 1925, a one-shot publication created as a satirical response to an article in the first "American Mercury." Contributors to this publication included Allen Tate and William Carlos Williams. Item 19. Three copies available, priced at $125, $350, and $500.
Some of the titles are amusing, even if the publications themselves weren't sufficiently appealing to garner large audiences. There's The Ant's Forefoot, published in Toronto in 1971 ($20), Angry Penguins, Adelaide, Australia, 1941 ($25), or Suck-Egg Mule, Taos, New Mexico, 1951 ($55).
An example of radical politics is The Anvil Stories for Workers, later subtitled The Proletarian Fiction Magazine. Twelve out of the thirteen issues are offered in this run. The publishing dates, from 1933-1935, in the heart of the Depression, are not unexpected for radical political views. Item 61. $650. A shorter run is offered for $400 and a single issue for $40. Another unhappy sign of the times is Americana, another periodical published briefly during the early 1930s. The editors state that they "are Americans who believe that our civilization exudes a miasmic stench and that we had better prepare to give it a decent but rapid burial." Evidently the Depression made people a bit cranky. Among its contributors was e. e. cummings. Offered is volume 1 number 1 from 1932. $60.