The Illustrated London News

Victorian Life: The Joys of Primary Material

pictures of a large package with a book inside

Look what was waiting for me when I returned home yesterday evening!

There is something extremely satisfying about about receiving a large package containing a book (or more). The pleasure is even intensified when you’re a bit… eh… crazy about Victorian life & culture and you know that the book inside said package is a volume of a Victorian newspaper. In a recent blog post, Koenraad Claes draws attention to the importance of considering the material aspects of newspapers and magazines when studying Victorian periodicals. Thus, size, for example, is of great importance:

When you read the magazine in its excellent digitization by Adam Matthew Digital, it will of course always be as large as your screen. From this you cannot gauge how large or small this periodical actually was, and this is one of those rare cases where size does matter, because it not only affects the production costs, but also makes the magazine either look like its competitors or stand out amongst them.

But apart from such important considerations of the material side of Victorian periodicals, there is also the sheer joy and pleasure of leafing through a physical copy and studying the articles and ads and illustrations. When you’re working with digitized texts, you’re typically searching for specific things and only rarely do you look at an issue as a whole. When you’re leafing through a physical copy, by contrast, you get a much clearer picture of the curious conglomeration of various different topics that can be found in a large number of Victorian periodicals, especially those that are of a more general nature like the Illustrated London News.

The Illustrated London NewsThe aforementioned large package that was waiting for me when I returned home yesterday, contained a copy of the ILN from 1848, and as always I was enchanted when I leafed through the volume for the first time. The newspaper not only covered news from home and abroad…

"The Epitome of News"…London news…

20151125_084154…news about the Queen and the royal family…

"Court and Haut Ton"…theatre news, and information about the weather, the stock exchange, corn prices, etc., but it also contained sheet music, articles (and illustrations!) on design (see the little tea pot and candy spoon above), fashion plates…

Paris fashion for February 1848…puzzles and chess problems…

A chess problem…and even embroidery patterns (!!!).

embroidery pattern
But, of course, since this is 1848, the year of the revolutions in Europe, a lot of articles in the volume deal with the revolutions in France…

barricades in Paris

Barricades in Paris

…and Germany.

Barricades in Berlin

Barricades in Berlin

And I was tickled pink to find at the very end of the volume a picture of St. Paul’s in Frankfurt (my home town!), where the first German parliament met in 1848. 🙂

St. Paul's in Frankfurt