Skip to Main Content

Little Magazines at UW-Madison : History

A guide to Little Magazines in the UW-Madison collection and the many print and online resources available for further research.

History of Little Magazines

The origin of the Little Magazines “spirit” (as Felix Pollak, former Curator of Rare Books at UW-Madison, dubbed the essence of Little Magazines and their visionaries), is often traced to England and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of the mid-1800s, a group of seven like-minded young artists who rebelled against the conventional modes of painting taught by the Royal Academy schools where they had each studied. This group included William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais, all of whom would later be celebrated for their art, their poetry, or both. Deciding to follow an ethos in art that occurred before the period in which the painter Raphael worked, they founded a short-lived literary journal, The Germ, where they experimented with their ideal of art and poetry coming together to nurture creativity. The Germ ran for only four issues, but it set a precedent for generations to come.

The Little Magazines ideology that was to follow had many adherents in the United States, and by the turn of the century, their publications represented the avant-garde in poetry, prose, and literary criticism—they are also a window into the many literary, artistic, social, and political movements often engendered by writers and artists working on the edges of mainstream literary culture. The work of these writers in the early to mid-20th century formed the modernist literary period.

Today Little Magazines continue to flourish in many languages, and they appear in multiple formats. Over the years, print formats have run the gamut of production techniques, from mimeograph and staples to professionally printed editions. Some Little Magazines publishing today are being produced in a physical format, some only online, and some in both formats. In addition to literary content and social message, the mediating influence of materials and production methods used is a primary avenue to explore when studying Little Magazines.

Little Magazines at UW-Madison

The Little Magazines Collection at UW-Madison began in Memorial Library in the late 1950s, when UW-Madison acquired the approximately 700-title collection of Marvin Sukov, a Minneapolis psychiatrist. These early issues and complete runs of a large number of scarce titles laid the foundation for an extensive and comprehensive collection. It reflects the library's long-standing commitment to building noteworthy research collections emphasizing innovative and experimental writing. The development of the collection was greatly influenced by the exceptional personality and reputation of Felix Pollak, who was Curator of Rare Books at UW-Madison from 1959 to 1973, as well as an accomplished poet and translator.

In the more than 40 years of its existence, this English-language collection has grown to include many newer titles as well, including publications from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean.

In 2013, the Little Magazine Collection blog was launched by Susan Barribeau and Oliver Bendorf. The blog regularly highlights new arrivals, titles of interest from the collection, interviews, news relating to little magazines, and other features. Visit the Little Magazine Collection Blog here:

English Language Humanities Librarian/Bibliographer

Profile Photo
Robin Rider
Department of Special Collections
990 Memorial Library
728 State St
608-262-2809 (office)