My campus paper was called The Strand, and it was a wholly absorbing endeavour. While my job at the newspaper involved many responsibilities, I worked most laboriously on layout, design, and curating illustrative materials like artwork or photographs. It just so happens that uniting text and image for a campus paper named The Strand turned out to be very convenient preparation for the study of image and text in fin-de-siècle periodicals.
Reading fin-de-siècle periodicals engaged me in thought about the relationship between image and text, with particular regard to the ways in which the composition and layout of a text function as an image in and of itself. When our eyes scan a page of a newspaper or magazine, we read the entire page as an image consisting of textual information that contains visual cues about meaning, audience, and the valuing of certain words over others.
The wide margins in The Yellow Book, for example, or the high quality paper of The Evergreen enhance the publication’s textual significance because the ways in which the physical materiality of the publication abides by preconceived notions of literary layout. Crowded pages that economize their space with advertisements and integrate text and image, conversely, generate feelings of consumption and casual entertainment.
What’s more, the challenge of reading these periodicals in 2015 turns the reader to remediated digital texts that provide wide access at the cost of separating the physical manifestation of the publication from its digital version.
Certain elements of digitization, however, can replicate the material object. Using full-colour scans takes into account the off-white colour of the physical paper. Ghost hands or fingers from the archivists also remind the reader of the gap between on-screen image and the (sometimes distant) archived publication.
This page itself acts as a digitized version of a historically print-based form.
Visual and textual material co-exist without their original physical forms, much like periodicals relied on laborious methods of visual reproduction in order to repeat an image for mass-production. What remains, then, is the physical body of the periodical and the ways in which we can trace its material existence and engagement in the digital age.