Saturday, May 16, 2009

Subscription Survivors -- A few of our longest-running titles

Although we work hard here at the library to bring you the latest in online content, it's sometimes very rewarding to step back, take a deep breath, and look at the collection that our forbears have gathered over the years. And what a collection it is, particularly considering that library workers had to start from scratch after the 1906 earthquake and fire. Over the years, we've managed to acquire many titles reaching back well into the 19th century, a few of which we continue to subscribe to today. This was the inspiration for a very cursory survey of some of our longest-running titles here at the Magazines and Newspapers Center. Here are some of our favorite old-timers:

Time, Life, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report are perennial favorites, and we have a long run of each of these titles. These are, in fact, such popular titles that we make an exception in our shelving procedures for these: rather than shelving volumes from before 1990 in closed (behind-the-scenes) storage, we keep several decades worth of each of these titles out in the public area. That means that you can go to the shelves and find, for instance, the issue of Life from the week that you were born, provided you were born during or after 1936. (If you were born before 1936, you can find your birth issue upstairs in our special collections.

Sunset Magazine is a lifestyle magazine that probably predates the term "lifestyle magazine." Originally published by the Southern Pacific Railroad as a way of promoting the West Coast -- at the time, the company was the largest landowner in California, and they wanted to combat the Wild West image so that people would want to buy land from them -- Sunset has since become the property of Time, Inc., and circulates well over a million copies. Sunset has a reputation for publishing striking images, which the enthusiast might find are best viewed in person. We've got a full run available for paging at the Fifth Floor Page Desk.

Harper's (a.k.a. Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Magazine, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, the International Miscellany of Literature, Art and Science) and the Atlantic are both roughly 150 years old, and thus stand out as great American monthly magazines. Many literary greats, influential journalists, and public figures of just about every stripe have contributed words to these magazines over the years, and we have long runs of each available to anyone who comes by. How long? The Atlantic's run -- from 1857 to the present -- is impressive, but Harper's has them beat by seven years, and we have 1850 to the present available for paging. Navigating all of the title changes in our library catalog can be a bit difficult, so don't be shy about asking us about a particular issue!

Scientific American may win the prize for magazine published for the longest time without a title change. (Librarians notice these things.) You can find a record for this title in our library catalog that goes back to 1846! Think of some of the scientific advances made since then -- Pasteur, Darwin, Bell, Freud, Curie, Heisenberg, Einstein, Russel, Sagan, and Watson are only a few of the scientific greats that have worked during this publication's life. One of the most endearing traits of this title is that it has been continuously written for a lay audience, meaning that its writers work to demystify some of the most complicated, but nonetheless most significant discoveries in the various fields of science. We have a full run, so stop by and have a look at the last century and a half of scientific discovery.

Unlike the features in Scientific American, this survey of long-running subscriptions was in no way scientific. The method was pretty simple -- I mostly looked down the rows of shelves in the closed stacks and looked for the largest blocks of like-colored volumes. So, if there are any long-running titles that you would like to point out, please let us know in the comments section below. We know you old-magazine-lovers are out there!

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