My goal for this blog is to document my experience as I delve into the world of fadazines and ephemeral bibelots through The Dilettante.
The Dilettante is a little magazine that was published in Spokane, Washington in April, 1898 and ended in 1901. Very little is known about this magazine. It was published on a fairly irregular basis and never lasted more than a few years. My primary job is to rescue this little magazine by digitizing and uploading scanned versions of The Dilettante to the Modernist Journals Project. My secondary job, is to learn as much as I can from this mysterious collection of literary history.
I started off my primary objective this week by converting the scanned PDFs of The Dilettante to readable pages. I tilted, cropped, edited, and split the files for the first two volumes. Keeping in mind specific book stitching and various design elements of the magazine, I had to be careful of what I edited. Does including the red page binding in the center of the page really matter to the reader’s understanding of the magazine? I was able to explore this idea further as I read up on the Modernist Journals Project’s guide on how to read magazines. Ultimately, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious, clear way to read magazines. Although there are many ways you can read a magazine, I think the beauty in magazines comes from the “no instructions required” aspect.
I also had the opportunity this week to read some articles concerning other little magazines that had really made a name for themselves years down the road. Published out of San Fransisco, Le Petit Journal de Refusées carved out a new style for print magazines. Although Le Petit only had one issue, not one magazine in that issue had the same design. The covers were printed on used wallpaper, creating unique and intricate designs on each issue. The page shapes were trapezoidal rather than rectangular, and the content was bizarre; it contained many inside jokes with their sister magazine The Lark.
Reading through these articles, I realized not only the importance of this era to the magazine publishing world, but I also learned how important magazines were to this era in history. The literary magazines published in the 1890s may have fueled the Modernism movement in an interesting way. In Le Petit’s case, it wasn’t the literary content that pushed modernism, but more so the blatant disregard for traditional publishing style. The literary works did not fall into the “critically acceptable traditions” of modern art, yet the magazine still pushed through new barriers in art. The page layout and design style were almost criticizing modernism itself.
As I continue my work with The Dilettante, I hope to get a better understanding of the world in which it was made. I think these little magazines reflect local culture better than any historical documentation can. Their work is created, chosen, and distributed by the members of their communities for members of their communities. I expect to be able to know more about The Dilettante by the end of this year than anyone alive today. As I continue my work this week, I excitingly approach the responsibility of cataloguing this forgotten magazine.