This tab is devoted to material written for more specialist readers. While this whole site constitutes an intervention in the academic field, it can also be used for general purposes – even entertainment. This tab, however, is especially concerned with the research underlying BLT19: how it fits into the study of periodicals and how a once neglected set of media forms (for periodicals are surely more than one media form, as even the limited set on this site attests) has become central to Victorian studies, and indeed to English studies broadly speaking.
While the study of Victorian periodicals started in earnest in the 1960s and is now firmly established, still a limited cohort of periodicals concerned mainly with the leisure industries and leisure reading retains the dominant focus, supplemented with political party or political or aesthetic campaigning journals. Newspapers, on the other hand, due largely to ambitious national projects like the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), Welsh Newspapers, the Australian Trove, the New Zealand Papers Past, and Chronicling America, are much more broadly covered in the literature.
One of the keys for this focus is economic. Access to the digital newspaper archives is either free or (like the BNA) available for an annual fee affordable for the individual who as the spare cash. The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) lists at the head of its “Resources” page:
C19: The Nineteenth Century Index draws on the strength of established indexes such as the Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (NSTC), The Wellesley Index, Poole’s Index, Periodicals Index Online and the Cumulative Index to Niles’ Register 1811–1849 to create integrated bibliographic coverage of over 1.7 million books and official publications, 70,000 archival collections and 22.7 million articles published in over 2,500 journals, magazines and newspapers. C19 Index now provides integrated access to 13 bibliographic indexes, including more than three million records from British Periodicals Collections I and II, together with the expanded online edition of the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (DNCJ).
This is quite a wonderful offer, but alas, one can only access C19 through a hefty institutional subscription, and comparatively few universities think the cost-benefit ratio for subscription a positive one – there simply aren’t enough nineteenth-century scholars in the institution to make it worthwhile.
For historical and cost reasons, many more institutions do have access to at least some of the Gale offerings of digitised periodicals and newspapers: British Periodicals Online . There are no Victorian “Trade” periodicals (or rather, what Gale classifies as a “Trade” periodical) though they do have the Bookman (1890-1934), a key periodical for the publishing trade and inventor of the idea of the bestseller list.
This site therefore stems from an appreciation of the limitations of the research into media and literary history hitherto: the huge field of the business, labour, trade and temperance press – all four terms overlap – has been regarded as specialised and of only marginal interest. Yet as one of the articles under this tab explains, without periodicals such as those represented here, George Eliot, and almost all of fellow authors, would have found it very difficult to write, to publish or enjoy herself.
BLT19 is a signboard pointing towards the structures and processes that enable literature, art, politics and philosophy to fly.