by Laura Sonderman

Download PDF

In the introduction to the second volume of The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Andrew Thacker writes, "it is almost universally acknowledged that modernism in America took root first in periodical publication, and that without magazines from 291 to The Little Review, or Poetry to Pagany, the contours of American modernism, and indeed also the transnational character of modernism, would not be as we know it" (2). A nuanced examination of this broad claim requires, of course, the examination of such magazines, and such magazines were numerous: "Like the Washington Square bookshop in which they were displayed," write Suzanne W. Churchill and Adam McKible in their introduction to Little Magazines and Modernisms: New Approaches, "little magazines provided a small space for many writers, artists, and activists to meet and test out a seemingly limitless number of new ideas" (4). These magazines, especially ones with very small print runs and limited resources, have historically been hard to track down and, therefore, to study. A library in California might have access to one or two original issues from a magazine's run, while a library in North Carolina might contain a more substantive collection from the same magazine's run. Yet another magazine may no longer have issues available to examine, or such issues are gathering dust in a book collector's basement.

Two projects — one from the mid-twentieth century and one from the early twenty-first — allow us to see the way that modernist magazines have been maintained and supported through scholars and public intellectuals alike. For this paper, I will focus specifically on the way that The Dial has been re-envisioned through reprint and digitization. First, I will examine Hans Peter Kraus's and Fred Altman's establishment of the Kraus Reprint Corporation in 1957, under which they began reprinting little magazines, The Dial included. Then I will turn to the digitization efforts of the early 2000s, by examining two digitized reprints: the Pennsylvania State University's and University of Chicago's digitizations of The Dial, volume 68. In doing so, I will consider the value and limitations of reprint projects, while also looking toward the possibilities that digitization allows for literary magazines. Examining these specific projects, and considering them alongside digital humanities projects like Brown University and the University of Tulsa's Modernist Journals Project, and Suzanne W. Churchill's Index of Modernist Magazines, suggests a possible way forward for the study and scholarship surrounding little magazines and literary magazines more broadly.

Hans Peter Kraus was a Viennese book collector who emigrated to the United States in 1939. In Immigrant Publishers: The Impact of Expatriate Publishers in Britain and America in the Twentieth Century, Hendrik Edelman writes, "Kraus recognized the spectacular growth of American academic libraries and their collecting needs, established Kraus Periodicals in 1946," and, along with Fred Altman, "actively pursued the market for back issues and subscriptions" (204). Kraus Reprint was established in 1957 with the goal of reprinting "periodicals and books in a wide range of subjects" for the "international academic library markets" (204). With the founding of Kraus Reprint, the work of inexpensively reprinting "dozens of little magazines" began (Morrisson xv). In 1967, The New Republic ran an article by David Dempsey called "Life among the Littles." The introduction to this article announced the availability of Contempo "along with 26 other experimental magazines" (n.p.). "These [Contempo issues] have been photographed, bound and offered for sale" Dempsey writes, "— in all, 351 volumes, 126,000 pages. You can have the complete set for $5,454" (n.p.). This pricing immediately advertises its own audience--avid book collectors and libraries. Among the list of available magazines offered in the Kraus Reprints was one of The New Republic's early competitors: The Dial, an especially important modernist magazine.

The Dial was originally published from 1840 to 1844 as a four volume, sixteen issue Transcendentalist magazine. The editors were central figures in the U.S. literary tradition: Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Dial was then revived briefly in 1860 and again in 1880, after which it remained in print until 1929. With each editor, the Transcendentalist name remained, calling back toward and insisting on the existence of an open, experimental and American literary tradition.

Beginning in 1920, Scofield Thayer, along with Dr. James Sibley Watson, bought out the magazine, thus marking its shift from a periodical of cultural, political, and national assertion to a central force in the mainstreaming of the new, revolutionary, transnational modernist art and literature. Still, this assertion depended on and built upon the cultural capital of the earlier renditions, changing and mainstreaming the image of the experimental and transnational "salon" style of the little. Through the 1920s, The Dial grew from a print run of 6,000 to an estimated 14,000, "dwarfing that of most 'little magazines'" and "creat[ing] a public profile for modernism" (Britzolakis 86).1 The Dial, then, represents the tensions that arise when writers and editors of little magazines move into the the territory of the literary mainstream, which also often coincides with academic literary culture, with the attempt to create a historical and cultural tradition. In "Making Modernism Safe for Democracy," Christina Britzolakis argues that The Dial "prepared the path for the canonization of modernism" and worked "to extend its reach beyond the cultural economy of the coterie"(85, 86). The impulse of the 1920s editors of The Dial was similar to the impulse of many scholarly digitization projects now: to democratize art while working to create and maintain editorial and scholarly standards, to decode the exclusive in order to point toward an inclusive culture of literariness. Much like the digitization of the twenty-first century, the print magazine culture of the twentieth century illustrates the tensions that arise when trying to develop such a culture: in the assertion of one struggling magazine's aesthetics over another's, between competing views of editors and artists or editors and co-editors, between high and low culture, mainstream and academic, between the coterie or salon and the wide audience, between perceptions of quality competing with accessibility.

Clarence Major's essay "Looking at the Dial" gives a strong, though brief, overview of The Dial's run from 1880-1929. As he explains, a period of "upheaval and reorganization" preceded Thayer's and Watson's takeover of the magazine (142). From 1916 to 1919, The Dial underwent a series of shifts in tastes, editors, audience, and advertising, perhaps the most important when The Dial "absorbed The Seven Arts" in late 1917. The Seven Arts brought the reputation of such writers as "D.H. Lawrence, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, [and Randolph] Bourne" to The Dial's repertoire, and the attention The Dial paid to Bourne, in particular, inspired Thayer's vision for the magazine (Major 143). As Clarence Major explains, "the prestige The Seven Arts brought to The Dial was undeniable" (143). The reputation this absorption made for The Dial helped Thayer and Watson rebuild the magazine after they bought it out in November of 1919. As editor, Thayer's goal was to "push [Randolph] Bourne's theory of transnationalism," to "remain stern in its liberal progressive views," and to maintain a "commitment to aesthetic diversity" (144). One of the ways Thayer chose to do so was to insist that the focus of The Dial become less politically- and culturally-oriented and more exclusively literary. Still, his vision and desire competed with that of Watson's and with the expectations of the regular contributors to The Seven Arts and previous Dial issues. This tension proved lucrative for the magazine: under Thayer and Watson's tenure, the list of heavyweight modernist authors lengthened to include "Djuna Barnes, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, ... e.e. Cummings, Marianne Moore, ... William Carlos Williams, and William Butler Yeats" (144). The intense run of this decade leading up to the economic crash established The Dial as "a cultural institution, and for some, a work of art itself," solidifying its position, alongside Poetry, as the most successful of the modernist magazines, as the winner among the littles. By 1929, The Dial, like so many other magazines, "was forced to fold because of money problems" (146). Still, the unlimited funding that the magazine temporarily enjoyed due to Watson's investment and its idealist hope that the frustrations and exclusions of transnational modernist writers could be mainstreamed and to some extent, diluted, marks it as ideal for reading modernism's tensions as conversations among competing authors and competing visions. To read the 1920s issues of The Dial is to attempt to sift through the complex layers of a collective publishing endeavor, and the Kraus Reprints first allowed scholars from around the country and particularly from the growing spread of land-grant universities to read these issues in relatively cheap, handled reprints, from first issue to last.

In short, what the Kraus Reprints promised scholars was greater access for reading and for scholarship. Equally important, these reprints promised legitimacy for the study, not of the Greek and Latin classics, not of the British poets, but of a literature from the recent past, a literature both incomplete and transnationally American. The Kraus Reprints encouraged scholars who were creating a different kind of canon. When Kraus and Altman released the first reprints of modernist magazines, they also published The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. In this 440 page book, Frederick Hoffman, Charles A. Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich include bibliographic information on 540 "little" magazines of the first half of the early twentieth century, 134 of which were published outside of the United States. The scholars also write a narrative history, dividing the magazines into six parts: poetry, leftist, regional, critical, experimental, and eclectic, using chapters to describe and categorize for each "type." Such a massive work of bibliography, again, signaled the audience and intention of the reprints: an inexpensive but exhaustive resource for scholars and the budding scholarship of the recent literary past. To study the Kraus Reprints is to study the development of modernism as a respected academic period and the development of the little magazine phenomenon as a serious field of scholarship. The Kraus Reprints illustrate the struggles of canon formation.

The Kraus Reprints have their faults. Scholarly access is certainly not one of them: multiple university libraries store a variety of these or similarly bound volumes of The Dial, and the full run, from 1880 to the last issue in 1929 is still available through Periodicals Service Company in Hudson, New York for $7,540, or $95 per volume. With a basic layout and a heavy privileging of content, the Kraus Reprints are, as Mark Morrisson argues, "easily available to professors and graduate students who could never have tracked down, let alone purchased, complete runs of original magazines" (xv). Still, these reprints contain no critical introduction, no preface or afterword, not even a recognition of the project as a project. The limited information that the Kraus Reprint list includes: (1) information on the publishing company, location and reprint date included at the bottom of the title page, (2) reprint permissions and a note that "advertising has been omitted in this reprint edition," and (3) an index categorized by sections: prose, verse, art, books reviewed, the theatre, comment, and departments.

Reprint publishing information on first title page of Volume 6 of the Kraus reprint of The Dial. Original provided by University of California, digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

Permissions and note on advertising omission for Volume 6 of Kraus Reprint of The Dial. Original provided by University of California, digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

The omission of the front and back covers of each magazine issue also eliminates the following information: issue price, subscription price, names of editors, and contributors' notes.

Issue cover from Volume 69, Issue 1 of The Dial. Reprints of individual outside and inside covers, both front and back, are eliminated from Kraus Reprints. Digitized image courtesy of William Butler Yeats Collection, The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Inside front cover with contributors' notes and first page of advertising from Volume 69, Issue 1 of The Dial. Digitized image courtesy of William Butler Yeats Collection, The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

These reprints illustrate why the scholarship coming out of this earlier period "still tended to privilege the individual poems, stories, plays, and essays that appeared in each magazine's pages" (xv). Andrew Thacker highlights the wealth of other information that gets omitted from these volumes when he writes that:

in the manifestation best known to scholars of modernism (under the editorship of Scofield Thayer and then Marianne Moore) [...], each issue contain[ed] on average eighty-eight pages of content and ten pages of advertisements. That results in around 10,500 pages of text and 1,200 pages of adverts, [...] And that is without investigating the correspondence between editors and contributors, or any existent business accounts with advertisers or bookshops, or the magazine prior to the involvement of Thayer and Moore. (20)

As an example of what gets lost, included within these 1,200 pages of advertisements are interesting justifications specifically for just such advertisements. "In Advertisements," the July 1920 issue declares, "There is a distinct news value": readers of the magazine, this defensive reminder declares, receive "the benefit of advance information concerning the new books" of twenty-five prestigious publishers (xi). This one page illustrates the plea for economic feasibility, the tensions that arise when editors try to maintain the "insider" status of a little magazine while also making pragmatic decisions: there is the request that readers recognize the need for advertisements, the appeal to their intellect with a list of respectable publishers, the appeal to their ego with the promise of getting there first, of accessing the newest publications before the rest.

An advertisement regarding the value of advertisement. Digitized image courtesy of William Butler Yeats Collection, The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While the value gained from the Kraus Reprints was certainly immense, there is also still the elimination of these messier aspects of magazine publication. Morrisson suggests that in the 2000s:

modernism has undergone a reconceptualization — indeed, a recontextualization — that has re-energized the study of little magazines. Rather than interpreting little magazines simply as useful anthologies of modernist material, scholars have begun to frame the magazines themselves as primary texts. (xv)

This new way of framing the magazines depends on an orientation toward the sociology of a text, an orientation that the Kraus Reprints and reprints like them do not provide. In order for this reconceptualization to deepen and to reach a broader audience of scholars and students, the promise of digital editions should be considered.

Most libraries that carry reprints of The Dial from the 1920s have bound the Kraus Reprints or reissued bound volumes that are similarly laid out but have no identifiable publication information. These reprints consist of two volumes per year, the first from January to June, the second from July to December. HathiTrust's digitized catalog of issues reflects this trend. For volume 68, January to June 1920, HathiTrust stores facsimiles of three bound reprints, as well as one hybrid digitized reprint of "v.68-69 Mar.-Sep 1920." The three bound reprints that seem to follow the Kraus Reprint format were digitized through Google Books and are held in physical copies at the libraries of Pennsylvania State University, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University. The physical copy of the hybrid digitized issue is held at one of the University of California schools and was also digitized by Google Books.

The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) digital volume looks to be a Kraus Reprint or similar, though if it is a Kraus Reprint, the pages identifying it as such have been eliminated from the digitized version. This reprint includes a twelve-page index of entries. The index, numbered with Roman numerals I-XII, appears at the end of the volume, whereas Kraus Reprints include the index at the front. Each issue ends abruptly with one blank page separating it from the following issue, just like Kraus Reprints. There is one title page with basic information for the volume; Kraus Reprints include two title pages, one to identify the book as a Kraus Reprint, one to identify the original publication information of The Dial. (Original print subscriptions also maintain continuous page numbering for issues, but restart each issue's advertisement pages with roman numeral I). For the PSU digital reprint, individual issues do not have tables of contents or separate title pages. There are no advertisements or notes from editors. No publication information on HathiTrust or in the Pennsylvania State library catalog suggests that the bound volume is a reprint or is missing any portion of individual issues.

Last page of content for Volume 68, Issue 5 of PSU digitized version of The Dial. No advertisements follow. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

First page of Volume 68, Issue 6 in the PSU reprint version of The Dial. No advertisements or issue cover precede the content. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

Title page of Volume 68 of the PSU version of The Dial. No other publication information is included to mark this bounded volume as a reprint or as having any portions removed. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

The University of Chicago (UC) digital volume seems to operate with a base text in mind: it is an edited, rebound reprint similar to a Kraus Reprint. However the UC volume has all twenty-four pages of covers, front outside and inside and back inside and outside, re-inserted in the form of color pdf files. Again, no extra pages with publication information are included. The first blank page includes a University of Chicago bookplate in color followed by four blank pages. The sixth page presents a misplaced color copy of the outside front cover for volume 68, issue 1, with the seventh page showing the inside front cover.

Color copy of the first issue front cover for Volume 68 included in the digitized UC bound volume of The Dial. The front cover is inserted before the title page and index for the entire volume, instead of directly preceding the title page of Issue 1. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

Color copy of the first issue back cover for Volume 68 directly followed by title page for the entire volume, instead of directly preceding the title page of Issue 1. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

The eighth page of the UC digital volume offers the same overarching title page as the PSU digital volume ("Volume LXVIII / January to June, 1920 / The Dial Publishing Company / New York City"). However, the index that was placed at the back of the PSU digital volume directly follows the title page in the UC volume, following the direction of the Kraus Reprint. The index is followed by a blank page, after which the artwork and title page of Volume One appear. In a more chronologically collated volume, the color copy of the issue cover and inside front cover would immediately precede this title page.

First page of full index for UC's digitized volume of Volume 68 of The Dial. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

First page of artistic content in UC's digitized volume of Volume 68 of The Dial. For all other issues in this volume, the front outside and inside cover directly precede the first artistic content page of each issue. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

Advertisements in individually circulated issues of The Dial, though numbered, were always split nearly evenly, with the first half of the advertising pages directly following the front inside cover (printed with editor and contributor notes) and the second half preceding and including the back inside and outside cover. For example, Volume 68, Issue 1 included ten pages of advertising, including those on the inside and outside back cover.

Advertisements on last page and inside back cover from Volume 69, Issue 1 of The Dial. Digitized image courtesy of William Butler Yeats Collection, The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Unnumbered back cover advertisement from Volume 69, Issue 1 of The Dial. Digitized image courtesy of William Butler Yeats Collection, The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Advertisements included in the UC digital volume from the back inside and outside cover are relatively accurately placed. However, all other advertisements are added to the UC digital volume with no divisions between them. These forty pages of black and white advertisements precede the back cover of issue 6 (June 1920). Presumably these were collected and copied from available individual issues and reinserted: the thin grey line at the bottom of these pages suggests that these advertisements are not included in the physical UC copy but were uploaded as additions to the digitized volume of the text.

First page from the collection of advertisements wedged between last content page and back cover of Volume 68, Issue 6 (June 1920) in the UC digitized volume of Volume 68 of The Dial. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

The first four pages of these collected advertisements are numbered I-IV. Page five abruptly restarts numbering at I, presumably indicating that the first four advertisements (I-IV) are January 1920 advertisements, while pages five through ten (I-VI) are February 1920 advertisements. This pattern, if followed through logically to June 1920, would suggest that the next eight pages are advertisements from March 1920 (I-VIII), with three sets remaining for the last three months: April, May and June. However, there are only five sets of advertisements total: set four contains eight pages numbered I-VIII, set five contains fourteen pages numbered I-XIV, and the final set contains eight black and white pages, numbered I-VIII and followed by a full color page numbered IX, the inside back cover from the June 1920 issue.

Because this volume lacks more explicit editorial intervention, dates within the advertisements themselves are the only strong indicators of placement for each issue. That page II from the first set of advertisements includes the heading "For January Publication" in the full page advertisement suggests that the first set does match up with the first issue, January 1920. Page VI of the second set includes a "February Book Sale" advertisement for McDevitt-Wilson's, Inc.; this set can be aligned, with relative assurance, with the February 1920 issue.

The third set of advertisements, however, includes a full-page advertisement on page III, which reads as follows:


It is quite likely that the compilers of the advertisements or of this volume read this page III advertisement for the bi-monthly Unpartizan Review as a suggestion that The Dial had only one issue for the combined months of March and April of 1920. The content pages of the UC volume, however, prove otherwise.

Possible advertisement confusion in the UC digitized volume: The bi-monthly Unpartizan Review being advertised in the monthly publication, The Dial. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

The reasoning of the compiler's mistake, though, holds weight: the fourth set of advertisements (pages I-XIV for May 1920), includes "OUT MAY 1st" in page VIII's full page advertisement, while the final set of advertisements includes a full-page, self-congratulatory advertisement for The Dial itself on page II: "the first six months have been rather a triumph."

The Dial congratulates itself. Digitized image courtesy of HathiTrust.

The triumphant pride of Thayer and Watson becomes an amusing boast placed as it is in the patchwork of this UC digitized volume. This advertisement, with its pride at having succeeded in six months of production, in six months of trying to bring together under a common goal disparate artists, advertisers, and editors with a variety of tastes, commitments, and interests, can remind attentive readers of the tenuousness of such productions. The Dial as individual issues, The Dial as hardbound reprints, The Dial of the digitized volumes illustrate the compromised and compromising determination that editors build around the precariousness of artistic production. Small, material forts of writing.

This insertion of issue covers and of advertisements into the UC digitized volume, collected without full attention to chronology, registers an important attempt on the part of the anonymous editors to view magazines as volumes that can be clearly distinguished from one another. Consider these insertions in contrast to the Kraus Reprint and the PSU digital volumes, which omit or partially omit covers, contributors' notes and advertisements. These omissions inadvertently help to uphold The Dial as a magazine with "tables of contents [that] now read like the standard syllabus of Modern Masters" (Richard Sieburth qtd. in Golding 68-9), as finished projects, bound and affirmed, erasing the collective or sociological aspect of magazines that scholars like Churchill, Golding, and Thacker wish to emphasize.

While the UC volume works toward a copy-text, it certainly still leaves opportunities for scholars to re-envision and re-make critical editions of The Dial. A more careful attempt at digitizing, an attempt that keeps an eye toward Churchill, Golding, and Thacker's emphasis on the magazine itself as an object of study, might work toward re-ordering these advertisements, toward recreating the splitting of advertisement between the front and back of each issue. One could also imagine a persuasive digitized critical edition that includes "the correspondence between editors and contributors, or any existent business accounts with advertisers or bookshops" that Thacker mentions (20), a bibliographic companion, or even a forward that gives an overview of the editor's goals and practices. Perhaps such attention could invite new generations of writers and thinkers to re-envision their own cultures of little magazines, of digitized engagement.

Still, the promise and accomplishments of the Kraus Reprints, and of the digitized volumes on HathiTrust, should be appreciated: much of the scholarship of the twentieth and early twenty-first century has depended on these volumes. These reprints, even as they may move toward canonization, reveal their own cracks, and thus reveal an American modernism troubled by its own vibrancy: this modernism is not a static list of canonical authors, but a community of writers attempting to respond to cultural and intellectual battles, to engage and refute the struggles of their time through artistic production.

The Dial, specifically, attempted to give a larger audience access to experimental writing and to harness print culture in order to create larger networks of writers. The Kraus Reprints followed this troubled impulse: these volumes ensured that a base text of multiple little magazines would be available to a new generation of scholars in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. In this way, the Kraus Reprints of The Dial re-perform The Dial's own optimistic idealism, its own hope for a progressive, transnational literature. The cracks are revealed, but the hope is maintained: that art could be democratized.


[1] These figures differ depending on sources. Listed above are Britzolakis's figures. Alan Golding gives a more detailed analysis of the complexities of The Dial's circulation numbers in "The Dial, The Little Review, and the Dialogics of Modernism."

Works Cited

Britzolakis, Christina. "Making Modernism Safe for Democracy: The Dial 1920-9." Brooker and Thacker 85-102.

Brooker, Peter and Andrew Thacker, eds. The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012.

Churchill, Suzanne W. and Adam McKible, eds. Little Magazines and Modernism: New Approaches. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2007.

Churchill, Suzanne W. and Adam McKible. "Introduction." Churchill and McKible 1-18.

Dempsey, David. "Life among the Littles." The New Republic 157.2 (1967): 22.

Edelman, Hendrick. "Other Immigrant Publishers of Note in America." Immigrant Publishers: The Impact of Expatriate Publishers in Britain and America in the 20th Century. Eds. Richard Abel and William Gordon Graham. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2009. 197-206.

Golding, Alan. "The Dial, The Little Review, and the Dialogics of Modernism." Churchill and McKible 67-81.

Hoffman, Frederick J, Charles A. Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. New York: Kraus Reprint Corp., 1947.

Major, Clarence. "Looking at The Dial." Necessary Distance: Essays and Criticism. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2001.139-46.

Morrisson, Mark. "Preface." Churchill and McKible xv-xvii.

Thacker, Andrew. "General Introduction: Magazines! Magazines! Magazines!" Brooker and Thacker 1-30.

Thayer, Scofield, Stewart Mitchell and Gilbert Seldes, eds. The Dial 69.1 (1920). Original, Wilson Library Rare Books Collection, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.