Victoria Research Web

Open Access 19th-century Periodicals

Here is a preliminary attempt at creating a working list of 19th-century British periodicals that are accessible online for free, as distinct from the much larger number of titles to be found behind the subscription paywalls of the commercial Gale and ProQuest collections. The core of the list is based on the list of serials assembled by John Mark Ockerbloom and his team at Penn, as part of their Online Books pages, with additions from various other sources,

Many of these titles are partial runs, and most are linked to the copy found in HathiTrust, which imposes a very useful bibliographical order onto scans by Google Books (and others) and provides an elegant reader interface.  HathiTrust has two grave drawbacks, however:  (1) some titles are not accessible, in whole or in part, outside of the U.S., and (2) most titles, although they can be searched and read online and a few individual pages copied, cannot be wholly downloaded unless you are affiliated with a university that is a member.  Luckily, a downloadable copy of a periodical listed only from HathiTrust can usually be found using the "Find in Google Books" link (under the "Get this item" tab at left) on the HathiTrust page for the item. 

The difficulties posed by HathiTrust are not found in Internet Archive, although the IA has disadvantages of its own: volumes often show up separately rather than as a set, searching for titles from scratch can be difficult, it is not nearly as sophisticated about metadata, and sometimes its scans are lousy.  And yet its advantages are great, as well, particularly since a 2018 donation led to the creation of the Serials in Microfilm collection of some 14,000 periodical titles, including such Victorian mainstays as Punch and the Illustrated London News. Unlike HathiTrust, IA highlights results when searching across volumes, and enables bulk downloads. Ignore the IA page headings for these serials, however, which invariably claim that the periodicals listed were published in the U.S.

A few of these links are to open-access curated collections like The Yellow Nineties, BLT19, Nineteenth Century Serials Edition, the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Women's Rights Collection at LSE.  Where the link is to Google Books alone (rather than from the Online Books page) it is to the earliest available volume; to see more volumes, if any, of that title, scroll down and click on "Other editions" or "More editions." Titles not listed here may well be locatable through the Advanced Search feature of Google Books.  Similarly, using the "Search metadata" function within IA's serials collection can often help locate individual titles. An alternative to both of these that may be worth exploring is the German periodical database Zeitschriftendatenbank (ZDB). Applying various filters (date-span, language, "free of charge," etc.) can yield a number of open-access 19th-c. titles that have been digitized by German libraries, and these scans are not infrequently superior to ones made by Google or IA. My thanks to book historian Nora Ramtke for the tip.

The periodical press of 19th-century Britain was incomprehensibly large and varied.  John North has estimated that over 70,000 titles of magazines and newspapers were published over that period.  Any list like this one can only begin to suggest that variety.  Yet you will find here some of the most important examples of the vastly influential organs of middle-class opinion alongside serial reports of learned societies, comic papers, professional and trade papers, hobbyist magazines, journals published by and for women, literary magazines, the religious press, and much else.  Happy browsing!

Compiled by Patrick Leary

Summer 2024 edition

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