The Dial and its Obsession with Art

What really fascinated me about The Dial as a little magazine, is the incredible attention to detail. Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts had an incredible interest in art and completely submerging in the experience of creating art. Their view of their magazine as a document meant that everything had meaning and signified something but each individual artistic decision did not necessarily work together towards a single meaning.  This made the cover of volume 2 especially interesting as it was full of symbols. It was interesting to see how they incorporated their namesake, a sun dial, and how the name represented how the magazine was different from other periodicals of the time. There was no deadline for release placed on the creators involved. Even The Evergreen attempted to follow the pattern of the seasons, although that was unconventional, but The Dial chose to completely avoid any rhyme and reason that dictated when each volume should be published. They only published when inspiration struck them.

I also found it very interesting the way that The Dial both compared and contrasted to The Yellow Book. Both magazines were concerned with good art and maintaining quality. For this reason, The Yellow Book separated the art from the literary contents so that it would be appreciated for its own merit. The Dial chooses to include ornaments but they are not just for decoration. The images were painstakingly detailed and full of references.

One obvious difference is the length between the two magazines, but there is also a major difference in how each magazine approached their audience. The Yellow Book had vested interests in popularity and marketing to a large audience. It was published by John Lane of The Bodley Head, and The Dial was an independent project. For The Yellow Book, this meant that the issues did not compromise quality but also tried to include the emerging middle class, unlike The Dial. Both with the price hike and its content, The Dial boasted exclusivity. It did not accept new writers like The Yellow Book, instead only allowing close friends to contribute to the magazine. The references would not be completely accessible to the newly literate audience but The Dial did not care to include them as their intended audience. Instead the little magazine made references to Icarus and The Thinker on their cover, deliberately excluding those who were not educated enough to identify or understand the symbolism. The Dial was more interested in completely immersing in the experience of creating art and this made commerciality largely a non-concern.


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