24 September 2013

Looking in on St. Nicholas

If I were in Manhattan Friday afternoon, instead of getting ready for MICE, I’d try to attend this lecture at the New York Public Library: “St. Nicholas Magazine: a Portable Art Museum”:
In November 1873, American publisher Scribner and Company published the first issue of a new illustrated monthly magazine for children, St. Nicholas Magazine: Scribner’s Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys. Contributing to its success was the editorial vision of its first and most influential editor, Mary Mapes Dodge, who was to create a new kind of magazine for children, one in which illustration and art education were important foci.

The greatest expression of St. Nicholas’ art education program is seen in its many reproductions of fine art and architecture from Antiquity, the Old Masters, and contemporary academic artists. These reproductions accompanied art historical information, illustrated fictional stories, or stood alone for the reader to contemplate.

St. Nicholas also contained the work of trade illustrators who would become famous through the distribution of illustrated magazines, including Howard Pyle, Jessie McDermott and Reginald Birch. Contained between the two heavy, matte paper covers were innovative and artistic layouts, typography, and decorative designs that consciously paralleled the styles of the predominate artistic movements, such as those associated with the American Renaissance and English Aestheticism, that were popular among elite, genteel Victorian Americas.
The speaker is Mary F. Zawadzi, an art historian and writer in residence in the Library’s Wertheim Study.

The picture above, courtesy of The Oz Enthusiast, is a poster advertising the publication of L. Frank Baum’s fantasy originally called “The Magic Cloak,” a titled that gradually changed into Queen Zixi of Ix. It probably underwent more rigorous editing at St. Nicholas than any other Baum fantasy; he usually worked with small publishers where he was a big fish and got a fair amount of deference. As a result, it’s one of his best.

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