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The Cover-to-Cover Initiative at the Modernist Journals Project

The mission of the MJP is to digitize entire issues of modernist journals; this includes covers, preliminary matter and advertisements, which provide important evidence about readership, the commercial milieu of the time, and the interplay between graphic images and textual content. To date, the MJP—working with university libraries at Brown, Tulsa, Princeton, Chicago, and Wisconsin—has made cover-to-cover digital editions of magazines such as The New Age, Poetry, and Scribner's available for use by scholars and students everywhere.

However, in the course of our work we have discovered what we call the "hole in the archive": library catalogues often indicate that they have extensive runs of modernist periodicals, but what they actually have are bound copies without the advertising. In fact, library holdings of periodicals from this era typically lack the original paper covers and advertising pages, which were routinely discarded during binding, as Ellen Gruber Garvey noted in 1999 in The Serials Librarian (37.1 p. 83). This hole is especially commonplace with the large-circulation magazines, whose issues frequently included a hundred or more pages of advertisements; but it is often the case with the "little" magazines as well—and though they included fewer advertising pages, their loss is still dismaying. As the study of modernism has begun to emphasize the intricate relationship between art and the commodities that shaped the culture of the time, this lacuna in the historical record has become more critical and more damaging to scholarship. It also poses a special challenge to the MJP, given its commitment to reproducing cover-to-cover runs of magazines.

The Cover-to-Cover Initiative is an effort to address this problem by collecting information about which libraries have complete, cover-to-cover runs of original issues of modernist periodicals. Over time, we hope to amass cover-to-cover information about all of the magazines listed in our Periodicals Directory. But for the time being, we are collecting information about a core list of twenty journals that are critical to the study of modernism and of great interest to us.

Here's how you can help:

  1. Examine the attached list of twenty magazines the MJP is interested in, and check your institution's holdings of these titles.
  2. Physically survey your holdings to determine if they include covers, preliminary matter and advertisements. Library catalogues typically do not distinguish between cover-to-cover runs of magazines and those that have had advertisements stripped out. So without actually looking at the library holdings, in most cases, it is not possible to tell if they are complete.
  3. Then send your survey information to: MJP_Project_Manager@brown.edu, and we will add the information to our list.

When we have identified a full run of cover-to-cover issues for one of these magazines, we will move it to a second list on the page that will become the basis for our database. Please be advised that we are interested only in original magazines (not reprints) and magazines published before 1923.

2011 Update: In an attempt to track down original cover-to-cover issues of The Masses (1911-1917), the MJP has built a webpage that provides detailed information about the journal and lists the libraries in the U.S. with such holdings. We encourage people to visit this page and help us correct the information we have amassed so far.