Today’s history lesson comes courtesy of Luna Park, a fine site devoted to literary magazines. Editor Travis Kurowski has republished Some Notes on the History of the Literary Magazine, a timeline originally printed in Mississippi Review. Given the abundance of both paper and electronic litmags these days, it doesn’t hurt to have a general picture of where they come from.
The first acknowledged journal devoted to literature was Nouvelles de la République des Lettres (News from the Republic of Letters), published in 1684. It was comprised largely of book reviews, but the fact that its focus was wholly belletristic gives it rights of first place. The oldest magazine currently published in the U.S., North American Review, was started in Boston in 1815. Granta originated in Oxford as The Granta in 1889, The SewaneeReview in 1892, and Poetry in 1912; fallen by the wayside are The Dial, The Masses, The Little Review, and more recent losses like New American Review (1967-77) and Blackwoods (1817-1980).
The timeline, published in 2008, only brings us up to McSweeney’s and n+1. There’s a whole world of upstarts and whippersnappers not yet mentioned, and it’s worth checking in with Luna Park regularly to see what’s new and interesting in the world of little magazines. The sidebar alone is a good place to start exploring, and their features—thoughtful and extra-readable, in playing-card colors—are always good. Nearly three months later, I’m still considering their query as to the Best Single Issue of a literary journal ever, and thinking that a printout of the suggestions mentioned might just be a good thing to have on hand as yard sale season approaches.