LM I (1770). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.
My research on the Lady’s Magazine began in the autumn of 2013 when I started to examine the fiction within eighteenth-century periodicals as part of my new book project. It was a completely digital effort: making use of the University of Kent’s subscription to the Portal to Newspapers and Periodicals c1685-1835 that has a mass of titles digitized by Adam Matthew – including the complete 62-year run of the Lady’s Magazine – provided me with more than enough material for the chapter at the click of a mouse. Downloading and reading the yearly volumes of the magazines felt very much like reading ‘the real thing’. The scanned pages retain any creases or stains or marks of age, and where the print is faded or blurred in the original, it is too in the digital copies.
I had seen and handled the magazine before I began my work on it, but only monthly issues rather than the bound, annual volume. After many months of reading the periodical in pdf format, I decided to purchase a volume of my very own.
Reading the material artifact after having spent so much time with the digital editions was slightly disorienting. Used to the large screen of the computer and zooming in until the font size was comfortable, the material text seemed at once smaller (the font) and bigger (there’s no overlooking in the physical copy the weighty heft of each year).
Taking out the book one night to show a friend what it is that I actually do (‘yes, I need to read 48 of these by next September’), she looked through the engravings and asked about the pattern.
That the pattern was set opposite a serial feature on Cleopatra seemed jarring, but it brought to mind a letter that had been written to one of the magazine’s regular columnists, Bob Short Jr., by a man who signed himself G. Rffy.
Dr Jenny DiPlacidi
University of Kent