Lit Mag History
Danny Snelson and company have the most exciting ongoing digital archive project for literary magazines going on at Jacket2—titled, appropriately, Reissues. Reissues directly tackles the biggest problem in contemporary literary magazine readership and scholarship: historical access.
A big problem with 20th century (read: pre-internet) literary magazines is access. Literary magazines reasonably strive to be both timely and timeless—so that then, unlike novels, new issues are constantly eclipsing previous issues, which then disappear from public bookstores and many private bookshelves. Literary magazines are by definition in a constant state of self-replacement. And this “vanishing” problem is no doubt more dire in the independent, avant-garde periodical world, where magazines—and so their archives—lack the longevity offered from institutional support. And of course before literary publishing was common on the internet, there was almost certainly no digital life for these publications accessible online.
Enter the archivists. Literary magazine archiving of older publications is happening, though most of the work is being done by companies like JSTOR and Project Muse, which, perhaps understandably, keep their lit mag archives locked tightly behind a paywall. And the great open-access people at MJP, Pulp Mags, and elsewhere can only do so much, and—more importantly in the context of Reissues—work only with public domain publications, most if not all published before 1923.
All of which is why the Reissues project is so exciting: Reissues is creating an open-access digital archive of what seem to be all independent and avant-garde poetry periodicals from throughout the 20th century. (Only a tiny portion of one archive so far is obviously public domain material.) In other words, periodicals that might otherwise have been lost to the limited accessibility of print material and the cannibalizing nature of the periodical marketplace are finding a new readership. READ MORE >