Between the pages. Thoughts on materials found in Der Monat

When considering the materiality of the magazines we’re working with, aspects like preservation, paper quality and its supply or even changes in its format come into focus. But during the process of entering the different periodicals into our database, another aspect of materiality stood out to me. Especially while flipping through Der Monat, I came across a surprising amount of paper that was laid in between the pages of the magazines and I began to think about the information that these materials hold.

Nearly all of our issues of Der Monat were donated to the project by the same family. Thus, the material found in the individual issues can give us insight into the ways in which and the circumstances under which the magazines were read or for what else they might have been used. For the most part, the materials found in Der Monat belong to one of four main categories, and each of the four categories indicates a different function the magazines held for their readers.

The most prominent of these categories is material which was (most likely) simply used as bookmarks. These various scraps of paper – and in one case one actual leaf – seem to fulfil no other purpose than to mark a spot for future rereadings. In our collection of Der Monat, most of these bookmarks are stationery belonging to a member of the donors’ family. As such, they primarily identify the reader of the magazines. Even if we didn’t have any inside information on the previous owners of the donated magazines, the amount of stationery would enable us to assume that the previous owner either was close to the person or was himself the person named on the stationery. Additionally, the bookmarks transfer information about the previous owner of the magazines: the letterhead on the papers and envelope found in the magazines mentions not only a name and an address but they also inform us that the previous owner of the magazines worked at one point as a “Handlungsagent” (sales representative) and at another point for a company that produced “Feuerfeste Erzeugnisse” (fireproof products). As bookmarks, these materials point towards the most obvious function of the magazines: simply to be read and reread, to inform and to entertain.

The second most prominent category of materials found in the magazines is that of official inserts. These are mostly flyers or leaflets advertising publishers or special issues of an author’s work. Comparing these inlaid materials with the credit page of the corresponding issue of Der Monat allows us to track which leaflets were taken out from between the pages and which remained. Whether the remaining leaflets were also used as bookmarks or whether they were deemed important enough to be preserved alongside the magazines themselves must remain speculation. In either case, their existence in our issues of Der Monat indicates how the magazines themselves can function, as the etymology of the word ‘magazine’ (warehouse/ store) suggests, as archives.

Aside from these official leaflets, another category of inlaid materials is newspaper articles correlating to articles in the magazine. For example, in an issue of Der Monat from 1953 a review of Henry James’ Bildnis einer Dame (German title for The Portrait of a Lady) is inlaid into an issue which features another review of James’ work. Articles like this one indicate not only the network of magazines and newspapers existing at the same time and covering the same material, the same book launches and historical events, but also the position of the reader as a link between periodicals. Having read the review on James’ work in Der Monat, the magazine’s reader either remembered or later on came across a corresponding article in another periodical and decided that both should be kept in proximity to each other. Thus, the magazine functioned as a rudimentary version of an intellectual scrapbook.

And, finally, belonging to a category all on its own: some of the most interesting material found in the pages of Der Monat is fictional writing. These pages (one handwritten, one typed) have neither a title nor an author credit. They begin in the middle of a description and don’t relate to each other. And yet, even with no context clues, they serve as evidence for another function magazines like Der Monat fulfilled for their readers: inspiration.

Dana Steglich

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