Here at the Bioscope, when highlighting digitised resources, we tend to go for those that are freely available to all. However, it is worth pointing out some of those which are restricted to subscribers, institutions or educational users, either because you the reader may fall into such categories, or they may be resources that you can find (or request that they be subscribed to) at your local library.
Which leads us to 19th Century UK Periodicals. This new resource describes itself as “a major new multi-part series which covers the events, lives, values and themes that shaped the 19th century world.” It’s being published in stages, and Series 1, on New Readerships, provides access to close to 100 periodicals, mainly based on the collections of the British Library and the National Library of Scotland. Five series are planned, across 600 journals, the others being Empire, Culture, Working Life and Knowledge.
New Readerships is dedicated to the changes and influences in political and rural life, children’s literature and leisure, and includes such varied journals as The Northern Star, The Satirist, British Women’s Temperance Journal, The Boy’s Own Paper, Country Gentlemen, Pick-Me-Up, Little Wide Awake, Fun, Ladies Fashionable Repository, Bailey’s Monthly Magazine of Sport, and Punch.
And there is plenty there for the early film researcher. Using our trustworthy test search term of Kinetoscope, we get 115 hits, starting with The Sporting Times facetiously noting the appearance of “Mr Edison’s latest little toy” in its edition of 20 October 1894, through to The Turf, on 13 October 1900, noting that the racehorse Kinetoscope would be running at the two mile Handicap Hurlde Race at Sandown on Saturday. I’m sure there’s an interesting paper to be written on the undistinguished racing career of Kinetoscope, whose naming after a contemporary technology anticipates Sanyo Music Centre and others of that ilk by several decades.
Other terms such as Cinematograph (215 hits), American Biograph (175 hits), Mutoscope (31 hits), Animatograph (11 hits) or Bioscope (6 hits) bring up results that are fascinating not only for the incidental bits of concrete information they provide (particularly through advertisements), but also for they way they demonstrate how the idea of the medium swiftly became pervasive. You knew about the moving pictures through your light reading, before you might have had any chance to see them.
As an example of what can be find, he’s an intriguing little insight into perceptions and expectations of the medium. The Country Gentleman (27 January 1900, p. 103) is commenting on films at the time of the Anglo-Boer War:
Though several of our variety theatres announce exhibitions of war pictures, they are in reality nothing of the sort, but merely cinematograph pictures of the combatants preparing for the fight, or places of special interest at the present time, such as Pretoria, Kimberley, Mafeking, etc. Sightseers who believe they are going to witness an actual battle have hitherto been disappointed. But in the future this is likely to be altered, for the Warwick Trading Company, through their assistants at the front, have just received a consignment of films representing actual battles, skirmishes, etc., and these photographs are now being rapidly developed. Within a few days, therefore, all of us will doubtless have an opportunity of seeing what an actual battle looks like, and gain some idea of the horrors of warfare.
Fascinating to see that desire for the horrors of warfare to be served up as entertainment in the variety theatres, and the use of term ‘sightseers’ to describe proto-cinemagoers.
You can find out more about 19th Century UK Periodicals from the publishers, Gale. It’s not freely available, and do note these sorts of resources are aimed at (and priced at) institutions, not individuals. So go seek out your local institution.