February 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Little Magazines, Big Exhibit

The Grolier Club in New York City opened its new exhibit, American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print. A product of the 'Gay Nineties,' little magazines, with names like Yellow Book, Chap-Book, the Philistine, and the Echo, are associated with the avant-garde and the emerging modern art movement. Sometimes referred to as "ephemerals" or "fadazines," these publications were committed to maintaining aesthetic standards in popular print, and they were important vehicles for artists and designers like Aubrey Beardsley, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Sloan, and Will Bradley, as well as authors Stephen Crane, Kate Chopin, and Booth Tarkington, who contributed literary works. 

Grolier.jpg John Davidson. "The Ballad of an Artist's Wife," Chap-Book, volume 3, number 11, 15 October 1895. Decoration and illustration by Frank Hazenplug. Lent by: Kirsten MacLeod. Courtesy of the Grolier Club.

Curator Dr. Kirsten MacLeod has chosen to highlight more than 160 items--"the crème-de-la-crème of little magazines" and associated books, posters, manuscript material, and decorative objects from the libraries at Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of Delaware, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Delaware Art Museum, the Grolier Club, and various private collections. With a punch of visual appeal, the exhibit explores the artistic, social, and cultural currents of the fin-de-siecle and places these little magazines in context.

The Yellow Book: An Illustrated Quarterly, volume 1, April 1894. Courtesy of the Grolier Club.

American Little Magazines will be up through April 27, which means that those who are planning a trip to Manhattan for the book fairs in April will have the opportunity to see it. For those already in town, two related events are happening in March. On March 13, 6-7:30 pm, Philip R. Bishop, bookseller, rare books specialist, author, and expert on the Mosher Press, will talk about Thomas Mosher's importance in the little magazine movement. This will be followed by a Collectors' Forum featuring Philip R. Bishop, Mark Samuels Lasner, David W. Lowden, and Jean-François Vilain, lenders to the exhibition, who will discuss their collections and the place of little magazines of the 1890s within them. On March 28, 5-7 pm, there will be a symposium on American Little Magazines of the 1890s featuring talks by Johanna Drucker (UCLA), Brad Evans (Rutgers University), David Weir (Cooper Union), and Kirsten MacLeod (Newcastle University).