Trade and Professional Periodicals Database

To download the Excel file of the UK Trade and Professional Press 1900 as recorded by 2 Press Directories, click on the following link:

BLT19-Trade-and-Professional-Press-Database-1900

We’d be very grateful if you could use the form at the bottom of this page to offer us any corrections, emendations or additions.

While there have been a few academic attempts to map the huge field of the Victorian trade and periodical press – most notably by David McKitterick’s “Publishing for Trades and Professions” in volume VI of his Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (2009) and J. Donn Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel’s Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society (1994) – none has been complete or rigorous (see King, “The Trade and professional Press” in David Finkelstein, ed. The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press volume 2 (2020) ). The linked Excel file above is the first attempt to create a database that maps the field. For now it only covers 1900; more and more years will be added as they are checked and processed.

Creating such a database is not a simple or obvious process.

First, I had to decide what data it was feasible to gather and in what form it could be presented. Key was the question of value for money: how could I balance cost with value? Rather than creating an elaborate bespoke database, it was much cheaper both in terms of time and money to use a Excel spreadsheet. There was another advantage: many bespoke databases are not transparent or easily editable by the user. Excel enables the user to see all the data at once and order it in various ways. It also reveals at once any inadequacies in the data and enables the user to correct or add to it. This at once appealed to me. The database is an example of (comparatively) Big Data that does not promise more than it can deliver: inspired indirectly by the values of arte povera, the 1970s Italian art movement that used discarded and overlooked objects to challenge the values of the commercialised art system, it uses unglamorous, readily available and cheap software that openly shows its construction and its gaps as well as its content.

As explained in more detail below, the database was generated from a selection of nineteenth-century press directories. The elements I eventually chose to capture, having started with many more (from page size and number of columns to printers’ names and addresses and the sequence of items in sample issues) comprised the

  1. title,
  2. frequency,
  3. price,
  4. publisher and
  5. the publisher’s address

While the complete database covers 1846 -1900, the Excel file I have posted to this website covers only 1900. As the other years are checked, they relevant Excel files will gradually be added.

I consulted every edition of the chosen directories available to me in order to create a year-by-year list:

  • Mitchell’s Newspaper Press Directory 1846 -1900, [1] ,
  • Layton’s Handy Newspaper List 1895-1900,
  • Hammond’s List of London and provincial Newspapers, Periodicals, &c (1850) and
  • ‘An Old Advertiser,’ Handbook for Advertisers and Guide to Advertising Containing all the Facts Necessary to Enable All Person to Advertise Most Efficiently (1854).

It will be clear that there are significant omissions, not least Sell’s Dictionary of the World’s Press and Deacon’s Newspaper Handbook and Advertiser’s Guide. Again this was a question of value for money: I had to balance completeness against the need to cover a wide time span and the time constraints of the projects. While I have used Sell’s to check the data culled from Mitchell’s and Layton’s, I did not have time to add data particular either to it or to Deacon’s.

To ensure accuracy, the data in the spreadsheet were cross checked with the Waterloo Directories of English, Scottish and Welsh Periodicals, the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism, Sell’s Dictionary of the World’s Press, the British Library and other catalogues, as I detail in “The Trade and Professional Press” in David Finkelstein, ed. The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, EUP, 2020. Several hundred of the periodicals were also consulted in paper format themselves.

The spreadsheet includes for each year not only new titles that appeared that year in the directories but also those that were still running. If a directory included them in some years but excluded them in others and evidence showed that the periodicals were being published in that year, entries were accordingly inserted into the appropriate spreadsheets. To maintain the practices of the directories and ensure consistency, entries were only made the year after periodicals were started. Thus, for example, the Colonial Trade Journal did not appear in Mitchell’s until 1884 even though it began to be published in 1879; entries were therefore included in the spreadsheets for 1880, 1881, 1882 and 1883 as well as from 1884. What this method was able to show (which a spreadsheet that only included, say, the starting and ending dates of periodicals) was the changing landscape of the press: it enabled the charting of different densities of kinds of periodicals, showing for the first time what the whole field looked like in any given year – from the viewpoint of the chosen press directories of course.

How it was that I chose to derive my data from the press directories is explained in the blog post on functional classification and in King 2020.

Before we get there, however, we need to think through the classificatory possibilities for periodicals, using the trade and professional press as examples. While many of us have been involved for many years describing periodicals, this is the first time to my knowledge that a theoretical overview of the possibilities for classification beyond the casually given and ad hoc categories (the “penny weekly”, the “shilling monthly” – the “trade press” and so on – has been attempted.

Classifying Periodicals

The taxonomy of periodicals is always difficult, and the case of “trade and professional periodicals” is no different. Previous attempts to grapple with the question have tended either to side step the issue, confuse the issue so as to offer a genealogy for selected academic interests or to address it through the abundant academic literature on the various sociologies of work . What is involved in even thinking of the label “trade and professional periodical”? That raises huge issues relevant right across the field for how we think. It is a problem related to the notion of “genre” in traditional literary studies, but here, as will be clear, “genre” is entirely inadequate as a descriptor.

Inspired partly by biological taxonomy, where classification as a theoretical principle is more thoroughly explored, It seems to me that there are four main methods of defining a periodical, each depending on where emphasis is placed. I propose that these four major ways be based on

  1. morphology,
  2. cladistics,
  3. ecosystem and
  4. function.

Subsequent posts will discuss and exemplify each.


[1] Note that Mitchell’s was not published 1848-50, 1852-5 inclusive, and that the following years were not available for consultation:  1859-61; 1876-7; 1879; 1882; 1887 . For more detail on Mitchell’s Press Directory, see Walter Wellsman, “The Newspaper Press Directory, Its History and Progress, 1846-1895” in Mitchell’s Newspaper Press Directory, (1895) 9-12; and two pieces by David Linton, ‘’Mr. Mitchell’s ‘National Work’” Journal of Advertising History 2 (January 1979), 29-31 and “Mitchell’s, May’s and Sell’s: Newspaper Directories of the Victorian Era.” Journal of Newspaper and Periodical History, 3.2 (1987) 20-28