Our collection of British little magazines is among the greatest of its kind in the world.
The term "little magazine" can be applied to a range of different publications, but here it is used to suggest a literary magazine, usually produced without concern for immediate commercial gain, and with a guiding enthusiasm for contemporary literature, especially poetry. A little magazine may champion work by a very small number of authors, or a particular style, or attempt to provide a cross-section of what its editor sees as the contemporary scene.
Gorgon, Hilary Term 1961, Shelfmark: Cup.410.f.750. This issue was edited by Seamus Heaney. Later a Nobel Laureate, Heaney describes himself in the editorial as "an ex-poet". © The British Library Board
Often authors have their first publication in a little magazine. Some writers - T. S. Eliot and The Criterion, Gael Turnbull and Migrant, Dom Sylvester Houédard and Kroklok - express and form their opinions through their work as magazine editors. In Britain, the little magazine has been at the forefront of a number of literary movements. It is also true that figures who later become better known in a quite different area of public life, from architecture to politics to zoology, may have first written fiction or short stories and found early publication in a little magazine.
Despite their importance to the cultural life of the country, little magazines are seldom collected comprehensively by libraries, and even the Legal Deposit status of the British Library has not secured all of the magazines published. However, gaps in the Library's holdings of particular magazines are actively filled, titles entirely new to the collections are added, and periodical records on the British Library's catalogue are updated and clarified as new information comes to light.
The Library's Manuscripts Department also has an increasing number of works connected to little magazines, including archives relating to individual authors whose work was published in this way, such as Lawrence Durrell, as well as collections such as that of M.J. Tambimuttu, editor of Poetry London. American Little Magazines are also well represented in the Library.
Little magazines are entered individually by title in Explore the British Library. For further information about little magazines held by the Library please see individual entries in Miller and Price, British Poetry Magazines 1914-2000 (noted in the Select Bibliography below), where contextual information and holdings are given, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
B.C. Bloomfield, An Author Index to Selected British ‘Little Magazines’ 1930-1949 (London: Mansell, 1976)
Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (eds.), The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Vol. 1 Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 (Oxford: OUP, 2009)
Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips, A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing, 1960-1980 (New York: New York Public Library, 1998)
Tom Clyde, Irish Literary Magazines: An Outline History and Descriptive Bibliography (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003)
Wolfgang Görtschacher, Little Magazine Profiles: The Little Magazines in Great Britain, 1939-1993 (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1993)
Wolfgang Görtschacher, Contemporary Views on the Little Magazine Scene (Salzburg: Poetry Salzburg, 2000)
Frederick J. Hoffman, Charles Allen and Carolyn F. Ulrich, The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947)
David Miller and Richard Price, British Poetry Magazines 1914-2000: A History and Bibliography of ‘Little Magazines’ (London: British Library, 2006)
Marion Sader (ed.), Comprehensive Index to English Language Little Magazines, 1890-1970. Series 1 (Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus-Thomson, 1976)
Michael N. Stanton, English Literary Journals, 1900-1950: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research, 1982)
Alvin Sullivan (ed.), British Literary Magazines: The Modern Age, 1914-1984 (London: Greenwood, 1986)
A. T. Tolley, British Literary Periodicals of World War II & Aftermath : a critical history (Kemptville, Ontario: Golden Dog Press, 2007)
A. T. Tolley, The Poetry of the Thirties (London: Gollancz, 1975)
A. T. Tolley, The Poetry of the Forties (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985)
British Library Links
- English Literature: Reference Sources
- Little Magazines in the United States
- Manuscripts Collections
- Modern British and Irish Poetry Collections
British Library Exhibitions featuring Little Magazines
- Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant-Garde 1900-1937 2007 Exhibition
- In a Bloomsbury Square: T. S. Eliot the Publisher 2009 Exhibition
- Migrant Magazine (2007 Exhibition)