The Irish Magazine Collection: Dolan, Pet Book Post 1

So far I have discovered 2 volumes, one from 1810 and the other from 1813, of The Irish Magazine or Monthly Asylum for Neglected Biography in Northeastern’s Special Collections Archives. Each volume contains all 12 editions, January through December, from their respective year of the magazine. From just an initial look at the two volumes, it is curious that, although only about 3 years separates the two, the 1810 volume displays far more wear and tear.  My assumption, because I believe 3 years difference wouldn’t equate to the respective degenerations, that for some still unapparent reason, the 1810 version was significantly more used. I look forward to exploring as to why this may be, whether the magazine underwent a major change in design, cost, audience, or content that made the 1810’s magazine subscription anthology more enticing to read, circulate and popularize.

Similarly, I am interested in the purpose of publishing a subscription volume such as the one by The Irish Magazine for in thought subscribers to the magazine would have received an edition every month. What was the motivation, expected purpose for or commercial gain from such a collection? Was this volume simply for archival purposes, or more involved matters such as circulation, scholarship or even research into the Magazine’s own mechanisms? The second part of the title, designating the main material as “neglected biographies” is peculiar in that it poses an interest to a wide spectrum of opposing audiences. First and foremost, the average reader may enjoy articles cataloguing lives not unlike their own, the day to day comings and goings of everyday people. On the other hand, the concept of “neglected” assumes that these stories are ones ignored by the masses that would prefer the fantastical. This idea leans towards research, scholarship, or even simply cataloging for the sake of cataloging; however, and this is dependent on more research, the very first biography outlined in the unnamed “Editor’s Address” of the 1810 volume is of the “Infamous Lieutenant Hepenstal?” a.k.a. the “Walking Gallows”.  The first description of him even assumes that no other man of his town was more “atrocious”.   He took pleasure in being an executioner, a characteristic that portrays him as a character far from “neglected”, but rather quite one that’s riveting. I begin to question the definition of neglected as used in this collection.  Throughout the semester I am quite intrigued to detail the very purpose of this word “neglected” as it pertains to the anthology of magazines.

The 1810 volume will initially serve as my foundation for this project, as it is both the elder text to date and appears the most unique.  The book is a deep brown hardcover with the initials “J.F” pressed in gold on the front cover rather than its title, which I believe points to some ownership whether that is by the printer or reader. A portion of the title, “The Irish Magazine” is posted about two inches from the top of the spine in gold although the latter portion of the text has fallen off completely. Ink appears to have seeped through to the cardboard though because the letters are legible in the open space. The top most layer of the cover has started to break away from the cardboard beneath, especially on the bottom left corner of the front cover.  There are also several splotches on the front face from both wear, fading, and contact with other substances, which at first glance seem to be an oil or paint. The seam is also quite worn on the front which leads me to believe the volume was opened frequently over a long period of time. There is a deep crease along the spine of the book, which presents itself in numerous veins, which led me to the same conclusion. The outward facing corners have also begun to curl downwards and inward towards the pages.

Opening the book the pages are extremely yellow and have a grainy residue that is transferred and remains on the fingers even as they are pulled away.  The pages have softened quite a bit and some have even begun to deteriorate along the edges. Even before the obvious attrition not all the pages were of the same size originally, but had slight deviations in length, width and slop throughout the collection. Despite the obvious wear, bumps and tears, none of the pages seem to be dog-eared or marked specifically for referencing purposes.  One interesting mark of wear I discovered was a spill on the fifth actual, not printed, page of what seems to be coffee, tea or another brown liquid. I lean towards coffee or tea because there is an unknown, raised substance stuck to the page that could be interpreted as grounds. Because the imprints do not lighten or smudge with touch I assume the substance was a liquid that stained the pages. This liquid seeped through several pages creating a parallel dot on 7 pages, all of which create a bump on the page of various densities. Another quirk to note is that there is some torn material just before the first printed page.  I believe this is either ripped material within the binding or there may have been a page, previous to the title page that was torn out.

I was initially interested in these volumes due to my work with Beacon Communications; one of their 5 publications was a magazine. Throughout my time with the organization I had the opportunity to write several spotlights on individuals, not wholly unlike a miniature biography.  I am excited to see how publications of these stories, both in content and format have changed over the centuries. I think it is important to note though, that this idea of “neglected biographies” of ordinary people for any one time period continues to persist. My hope is that throughout the semester I can find several more volumes, especially those of 1811 and 1812, to better view the change over time in the presentation of this magazine.

Kelcy Dolan

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