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Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature Fourth Supplement

This fourth five-year supplement closes a period of twenty years since the publication in 1882 of the main volume. In that volume and the four supplements 427 different periodicals have been indexed, with a total of 10,881 volumes. The five volumes contain 3,677 pages, with references to about 520,000 articles.

The present supplement, it will be observed, includes 170 different periodicals out of the 427 which have been indexed from first to last. The rest have ceased to be. The following tabular statement is interesting as showing the vicissitudes of the life of periodicals: -

Sets numberedStarted inPresent survivors
1-1001802-4515
101-2001845-7025
201-3001871-8542
301-4001886-9563
401-4271895-190120

The Chronological Conspectus prefixed to each volume furnishes interesting and suggestive details.

To correct misapprehensions as to the plan and method of this Index it seems advisable to reprint here the following passage from the Preface to the 1882 editions:-

The work is an index to subjects and not to writers, except when writers are treated as subjects. The contributions of Lord Macaulay to the Edinburgh Review do not appear under his name, but under the subjects upon which he wrote, as Bacon, Church and State, Clive, Machiavelli, etc. His name, however, appears with many references; but they are subject-references, which treat of him as a man, a writer, a historian, and a statesman. Critical articles on poetry, the drama, and prose fiction appear under the name of the writer whose work or work are criticised. A review of “Enoch Arden” will be found under Tennyson, and of “Ivanhoe” under Scott; but a review of Froude’s History of England will appear only under England, as England is the subject. A poem, a play, a story, or a sketch which can be said to have no subject appears under its own title. The name of the writer when known is given with parentheses. Hawthorne’s “Celestial Railroad” first appeared in a periodical, and is indexed “Celestial Railroad (N. Hawthorne).” A review of the same, by a writer who is known, would be indexed, “Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Celestial Railroad (J. Smith).” By this method all criticisms of Hawthorne’s imaginative writings are brought together under his name; but the review of a biographical work of his is placed under the subject of the biography.

It has always seemed very desirable that the Index should contain entries under the names of the writers of the articles. This feature is included in the Annual Literary Index, whose successive issues furnish the material from which these supplements are principally made up. But such entries added to those now included would nearly double the amount of matter and the consequent size and cost of the volumes, which consideration is simply prohibitive from a commercial point of view, as the sales but little more than cover the cost of printing as it is. If this were not so, there would be grave questions as to keeping the work, with its bulk so increased, within due limits of convenience and handiness of use.

Another paragraph from the Preface to the 1882 volume seems worth reprinting after a score of years: -

Another difficulty which required heroic treatment has grown out of the absurd practice in many periodicals of breaking the continuity in the numbering of volumes by starting new series. The Eclectic Review has seven more new series, and these series are not numbered. The St. James’s Magazine began with numbering consecutively twenty-one volumes; then occurred a new series of fourteen volumes; then a second new series of four volumes; then consecutive numbering from the beginning was adopted, and the next volume numbered thirty-one when it should have been forty, - leaving out nine volumes. In cases like these, what appears on the title-pages has been wholly ignored, and the volumes have been numbered consecutively from the beginning. As a general rule, series have not been regarded, and sets have been numbered consecutively; although in a few instances, and for special reasons, the rule has been varied from.

The difficulty here referred to has not abated since these words were printed, and “modern instances” as grievous as those cited above might be given. In fact, under the present well-recognized tendency of periodical publishing, as of book-publishing too, to trim sails constantly to catch every possible fickle breeze of public favor (“raising the wind” being after all the most prominent object in view), the changes in form, style, frequency of publication, arrangement of volumes, and other important particulars, are such as to be fairly distracting to those who attempt either to make or to use such a guide as this Index aims to be.

The makers find no way to bring anything like good order out of this confusion, and the users must do the best they can, biding their time until the publishers shall catch something of the temper of steadiness and dignity which characterizes such periodicals as the Edinburgh Review, which has rounded out a full century of issue without a change, even the color of the cover remaining the same all the time; or our own Atlantic Monthly, facile princeps among American Periodicals, whose forty-five years of publication have been marked by no aberration from such a straight course as that of the Edinburgh Review, except the very pardonable one of having a cut of the United States flag on its front cover during the Civil War! Honorable mention might be made of other notable exceptions to the rule of disorder, but these must suffice to point out moral.

Great as are the sins of periodical makers, it remains true that, in the language of still another citation from the Preface of 1882, -

Every question in literature, religion, politics, social science, political economy, and in many other lines of human progress, finds it latest and freshest interpretation in the current periodicals. No one can thoroughly investigate any of these questions without knowing what the periodicals have said and are saying concerning them.

In these words, which give the raison d’etre of Poole’s Index as conceived by its founder, we have a hint of its usefulness in the past, the continuance of which, depending so largely as it does on the work being kept up to date, furnishes the occasion for the present issue and at the same time the sufficient reward of its compiler and their collaborators.

William I. Fletcher

Mary Poole

Amherst College Library, November 26, 1902

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