Introduction

This website presents a student-curated online exhibit featuring materials from the Beinecke. It is the original work of four undergraduates who produced it as part of an independent study entitled “Print Culture at the Fin de Siècle.” One of the students, Max Abelson, became interested in the collection after a visit to the library during a Fin de Siècle literature class I taught in Fall 2005, and proposed a study focused on it: three other students, Garrett Morrison, Kari Rittenbach, and Helen Vera, joined the class with him. Over the course of the semester, the group read a series of secondary readings on the diversity, innovation, and proliferation of various forms of publishing in the period while also studying primary materials—including periodicals, illustrated books, pamphlets, and posters—on site at the Beinecke and British Art Center. We explored the relationship between fin de siècle aesthetic and political theories, and between literary, artistic, and journalistic culture and paid particular attention to the role of the visual in the media of the period. The final goal of the study was to introduce the public to little-known materials in the Beinecke’s collection and for each student to develop their own area of expertise.

In order to take advantage of the web format, and because illustration is such an important component of fin de siècle print culture, each project highlights visual aspects of the topic in question. Max Abelson’s project, “Black and White and Dominant” examines the various ways in which a prominent journal of the period positions itself as part of the political and literary establishment from its first issue onwards; Garrett Morrison’s “British Comics at the Fin de Siècle” argues that the kind of word-image relationship central to the meaning of comics today first became influential at the turn of the century; Kari Rittenbach, in “Boys of the Empire: Defining Masculinity at the Fin de Siècle,” investigates the relationship between gender and national and imperial politics in periodicals targeted at children; and Helen Vera’s exhibit, “Walter Crane’s Children’s Illustrations for the Cause,” focuses on the overlapping aesthetics of Crane’s children’s illustrations and his socialist cartoons.

While each project has its own separate section which can be navigated linearly following the sequence of the scrolling image bar at the bottom of the project's home page, visitors may follow links within each site to get to related material in other sections. Many of the smaller images can be expanded for easier viewing: move your mouse over each image to see if it can be enlarged. All bibliographic references are linked to a shared bibliography (which also lists the reading the class did as a group) and a web resources section lists other sites related to the course. We hope you enjoy the exhibits!

Max Abelson, Garrett Morrison, Kari Rittenbach, Helen Vera and I would like to thank the Beinecke Library for its generous support of this endeavor, and in particular Timothy Young for sharing his knowledge, energy, and boundless enthusiasm for archival research. This project could not have happened without him. We are also extremely grateful for the talent, good humor, and patience of Pam Patterson, who designed this wonderful site, and for the expertise of Elisabeth Fairman and Kevin Repp.

Tanya Agathocleous