Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics

I have been aware of Rudolph Ackermann’s journal The Repository of the Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics since I first began reading Regency romance novels a good many years ago. I have long wanted to hold one in my hands, read it as the folk of the Regency read the magazine, see for myself if it was interesting or charming or entertaining.

There are no major libraries near where I live holding such a periodical. To purchase an edition of the journal could cost anywhere from five hundred and five thousand dollars. For years, I was stymied—always hearing of The Repository, never able to see it.

But thanks to my friends at Google Books, I am now reading a copy of The Repository of Arts, Literature, etc. They have an entire year—1815—available and I downloaded the document immediately upon finding it.

The magazine is terrific. I can see why the ladies and gentlemen of the Regency enjoyed it from 1809 to 1829, and why it influenced public opinion. It has everything—just the sort of newsmagazine we enjoy nowadays. It compares very favourably I think to Time and Macleans. It has more meat to it than Us and People and enough variety to be enjoyed by every adult in the family.

For example, in the Intelligence (the word is used in the sense of 'news') column one can find book reviews, notices of publication, and advertisements for upcoming lectures.

“Mr. Singer will commence a course of Lectures on Electricity and
Electro-Chemistry, at the Russell Institution, on Monday, January 16, 1815 at eight o’clock in the evening. These lectures will include all the recent electro-chemical discoveries, and are to be illustrated by Mr. Singer’s powerful and exgtensive apparatus, which includes a series of electric columns, containing 50,000 zinc and silver plates.”

There is a Medical Report:

“As usual at this season, coughs and various affections of the lungs are prevalent. Some severe cases of small-pox have occurred, and the prejudice against inoculation with either vaccine or variolous matter, has proved fatal to many poor children.”
For those interested in fashion, there were both illustrations and descriptions, and in some issues of the magazine, swatches of the latest fabrics.
“Evening Dress (illustrated) – Light pink satin gown, trimmed round the bottom with a lace flounce, laid on richly, worked and beaded with tufts of the same; short full sleeve, trimmed with lace. A shell lace tippet. White kid gloves, drawn over the elbow. An Indian fan of carved ivory. Slippers of white kid, Full crop head-dress, ornamented with flowers.”

There are articles on the Congress of Vienna and the politics of each of the countries involved in it. Agricultural reports are followed by market reports, stock quotes, and meteorological (weather) reports.

The latest in fashionable furniture is discussed and illustrated –
as with this 'French cottage bed'.

And Musical Reviews are extensive. One article on the piano-forte discusses the great advances made in forty years of piano-forte development and suggests that more and more amateurs will become proficient with the instrument in the following years.
A short science article (I have read one on spiders and one on canines so far) is usually part of the contents, a biography might be included, an opinion piece Italic(On the Marriages of Minors sprang to my notice) and letters to the editor were sometimes printed. A short story or historical article is often included in an issue. Occasionally notable buildings of London are pictured and their history recounted. This is St. Luke's Lunatic Hospital which replaced the Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam). Each issue of The Repository was sixty-two pages packed full of information. It is a privilege to gain this insight into the world of the Regency which I love. Now if only I could visit Mr. Ackermann’s shop, also called Repository of Arts, and located at 101 Strand, I should be perfectly happy. According to the illustration I have seen, he handled a complete line of drawings, pictures, silhouettes, books, journals, and some sculpture and stationery. All the things I love best...

It is two hundred years since Mr. Ackermann’s journal first rolled off the presses. Have you seen a copy of The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics? Or are you like me, only now able to experience what Regency folk knew two hundred years ago?
'Til next time,

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