Little Magazine Collection

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Subject Specialists

Introduction

The Little Magazines collection provides an important key to understanding modern literature. Characterized by their non-commercial attitudes and their penchant for the avant-garde and experimental, little magazines have continuously rebelled against established literary expression and theory by demonstrating an aggressive receptivity to new authors, new ideas, and new styles. Such publications usually have very small circulations, and are frequently short-lived; many die after publishing only one or two issues.

The Little Magazine Collection blog.

Contact: Susan Barribeau English Humanities Bibliographer

Collection Description

Little magazines offer social and political comment inextricably linked with literature, providing an indispensable context for studying modern poetry and fiction. Little magazines have sponsored or introduced all of this century's literary trends, social movements, and literary and artistic manifestations including:

  • Imagism
  • Socialism
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Marxism
  • Beat Generation
  • Dadaism
  • Surrealism
  • Symbolism

In our own age, esthetic challenges to the established artistic order have been replaced by political ones. Current magazines reflect and express the reality of feminism, multiculturalism, and the gay and lesbian experience.

Literary reviews and academic quarterlies are also represented in the collection. Prominence is given to poetry, but current trends such as short fiction are also reflected. Diverse formats such as broadsides, single-sheet issues, three-dimensional objects, full and tabloid sizes, and electronic publications, are present in the collection.

Collection History

Little Magazines originated from an English Pre-Raphaelite publication which ran for four issues from 1850. It exhibited two characteristics that remain to this day:

  • Its contributors were artists in search of a forum, and because commercial gain was not its main objective, it lost money.
  • Since the little magazines renaissance of 1910, the continuing fight for innovative literature not published by established journals has been grounded in Little Magazines. They were the first to publish the early work of a majority of important modern writers, artists, and critics.

The Little Magazines Collection began in Memorial Library in the late 1950s, when the collection of Marvin Sukov, a Minneapolis psychiatrist, was purchased. These early issues and complete runs of a large number of scarce titles laid the foundation for an extensive and comprehensive collection. It reflects the library's long-standing commitment to building exceptional research collections emphasizing innovative and experimental writing. The development of the collection was greatly influenced by the exceptional personality and reputation of Felix Pollak, Curator of Rare Books from 1959 to 1973.

In the forty years of its existence, the collection has grown to approximately 6,700 titles. The collection includes English language publications, many from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean area.

Using the Collection

The Little Magazines Collection is non-circulating. Patrons are required to use the materials in the Reading Room. The collection is partly accessible online in MadCat, and the Department of Special Collections maintains complete manual files. Some of the older or scarcer runs are also available in reprint or microfilm format. We recommend that visiting scholars and researchers write or call ahead for additional information about holdings.

Published reference works and secondary sources about Little Magazines are collected by Memorial Library and can be found in the General Reference collection, the stacks, or the Reference section of Special Collections. In addition, the Department of Special Collections has kept a file of interviews appearing in all issues received since 1975 (a yearly index is now published in Serials Review). Interviews contain valuable biographical and bibliographical information.

Magazine Collection Policy

Each title is examined individually and judged on its own merits. This is a subjective process with general guidelines.

Considered publications:

  1. Fluctuations in policy include student literary magazines sponsored by a college or a university.
  2. Little Magazines of political nature are important for research, and while these titles can present dilemmas, they often contain a mix of issue-oriented articles, reviews, occasional poems, and stories.
  3. Literary reviews and academic quarterlies: generally these are bought for the general collection, but the lines sometimes become blurred.

We do not collect underground newspapers, science fiction and zines, newsletters, underground comix, scholarly academic journals, slick commercial magazines, community magazines and small press magazines which publish only articles from a specific angle.

Little Magazine Interview Index

Using the currently received magazines, we produce a yearly index (now in its 27th iteration) of all the interviews we find in issues received. Many of these are not indexed elsewhere. This index represents interviews from print publications only at this time. The index is published yearly in the journal Serials Review.