Preserving Knowledge Through Popular Victorian Periodicals: An Examination of The Penny Magazine and the Illustrated London News, 1842–1843


Preserving Knowledge Through Popular Victorian Periodicals: An Examination of The Penny Magazine and
the Illustrated London News, 1842–1843

Toni Weller (City University, London and De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)

LIBRARY HISTORY, Vol. 24 No. 3, September, 2008, 200–207  

Abstract

For the Victorians, just as for us, information and knowledge were being used and manipulated in a complex series of ways to sell, to inform, and to represent a culturally fluid and dynamic information society. Based upon a detailed empirical study of every weekly issue of the British Penny Magazine and the Illustrated London News (ILN) for a period of twelve months between May 1842 and May 1843, this paper argues that there was a strong contemporary awareness of this dynamism. Both The Penny Magazine and the ILN embraced the idea of preserving knowledge by themselves becoming part of the process of preservation, in a conscious effort to become objects of reference and of the historical record. In contrast to the notion that such publications were largely ephemeral products of the Victorian publishing world, it is suggested in this paper that The Penny Magazine and the ILN contributed to, and reflected the desire to see, knowledge popularly preserved and referenced as well as popularly disseminated, and that they had a substantial and significant degree of success in their editorial efforts.



For the Victorians, just as for us, information and knowledge were being used and manipulated in a complex series of ways to sell, to inform, and to represent a culturally fluid and dynamic information society.

This paper argues that the British Penny Magazine and the Illustrated London News (ILN) of the early 1840s embraced the idea of preserving knowledge by them- selves becoming part of the process of preservation, in a conscious effort to become objects of reference and of the historical record. There was a contemporary awareness of the dynamism of information in nineteenth century society, which was stronger than may have been previously assumed by scholars. In so arguing, the paper also offers a more sophisticated argument for the use of Victorian periodicals than the traditional notions of simply being an illustrated record of the time.

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