Hello again. Candice Hern here, two days late but ready with Part 3 of my history lesson on ladies magazines of the Regency period. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here . As always, you can click on any of the images to see a larger version.
Last time I gave specifics about two of the most popular magazines during the Regency, The Lady's Magazine and The Lady's Monthly Museum, both of which were reasonably inexpensive and aimed at the middle class. Today I want to discuss two of the more upscale magazines, La Belle Assemblée and Ackermann's Repository of Arts. If you read a lot of Regency romances, you will have heard of these publications, as our heroines often reference them for the latest in fashion.
La Belle Asemblée "or Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine addressed particularly to the Ladies" began publication in 1806 and continued through 1839. The publisher was John Bell, the original publisher of the Morning Post newspaper and many other books and periodicals. (An interesting note: His newspapers were the first to abandon the long s, ie the "s" that looks like an "f".) Each monthly issue sold for 3 shilling 6 pence – more than 3 times the price of The Lady's Magazine – and was approximately 48 pages long. Typical contents in each issue included biographical and historical essays; short or serialized fiction; reviews of new books; reports of new plays and musical performances; two hand-colored fashion prints with detailed descriptions; fashion commentary; sheet music; poetry; and various articles on subjects of interest to women, eg needlework, painting, cookery, deportment, good manners, beauty treatments, etc. All content was aimed specifically at the female reader, ie it was not a general interest magazine.
La Belle Assemblée was, in fact, the ancestor of today's glossy fashion magazines. In comparison to other periodicals of varied content, eg the Lady's Magazine, it offered far more fashion coverage, and established quality fashion illustrations and detailed advice on dress as crucial elements of a lady's magazine. The plate descriptions were lengthy and detailed, and were followed by several pages of "General Observations on Fashion and Dress." These columns reported on new trends seen in public, without mentioning names (eg "a lady of rank"), but editorializing on successful vs unsuccessful styles. In January and June the Observations included accounts of the royal drawing rooms, honoring the Queen's and King's birthdays, with detailed fashion reports, citing various noble ladies and describing their court dresses. Most issues also included a section entitled "Cabinet of Taste: or Monthly Compendium of Foreign Costume" which primarily highlighted Parisian fashions, but occasionally German and Italian fashions as well. For those of you interested in Regency fashion, there is no better source than the fashion pages of LBA. You can find several volumes online at Googlebooks.
LBA's fashion prints were offered only in black and white until December 1806, when the magazine was offered in two editions – one with plain plates, one with colored plates. The quality of design and engraving was inconsistent in the early years, though many were quite beautiful, some even drawn and engraved by famous artists of the day. The print from June 1806, shown on the left (one of my favorites of the black-and-white period) was drawn by Royal Academician Arthur Devis. By 1810 only one edition was issued, in color, and the quality of the engravings and hand-coloring improved. By 1813 the fashion plates in LBA were consistently among the finest available. Besides being beautifully engraved and precisely painted, they often included more interesting and detailed backgrounds than those of its competitors.
From 1810-1820, the fashion pages were dominated by Mrs. Mary Ann
Bell. (Though there is certainly some relation between Mrs. Bell and the publisher, John Bell, the exact relationship is unknown. Most scholars suggest that she was the publisher's daughter-in-law.) All fashions depicted in the plates, and described in gushing detail, are credited as the "invention of Mrs. Bell" and readers are frequently directed to her showroom, the Magazin de Modes. Any dress or accessory mentioned in the "General Observations" or "Cabinet of Taste" sections were said to be obtainable from Mrs. Bell. The print on the right, from August 1815, shows a "Seaside Bathing Dress invented by Mrs. Bell."
A singular innovation of LBA was the advertising supplement. These were bound separately in bright orange wrappers, and provided with each monthly issue of the magazine. There were generally 8 pages of advertisements per month, including such products as fashions, fabrics, jewelry, beauty treatments, health aids, home furnishings, and stationery. One advertiser, a seller of lace and other notions, included bits of real lace tipped into the ad, fashioned as tiny curtains in the windows of the pictured shop. I encourage you to click on the advertising page shown here and check out some of the products advertised. (Alas, no lace curtains, but pretty interesting reading.)
Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufacture,
Fashions, and Politics
(generally shortened to Ackermann's Repository, or Repository of Arts) was published by Rudolf Ackermann between 1809 and 1829. It was a very expensive publication, each monthly issue selling for 4 shillings – prohibitive for all but the upper classes. These issues, of approximately 62 pages, included various historical and biographical essays; travelogues; reviews of new music; reviews of art exhibitions; book reviews; poetry; political new; an agricultural report; stock prices; meteorological reports; needlework pattern; and 4-6 hand-colored engravings, including two fashion prints (the others were generally of home furnishings, stately homes, scenic country views, London squares, and various other subjects, with accompanying articles). During the earlier years, there were occasional plates of "Patterns of British Manufacture" to which were affixed four small swatches of fashionable textiles (perhaps inspired by the lace seller who advertised in La Belle Asemblée). The circulation was approximately 2000 copies per month. Imagine tipping in 8000 tiny fabric samples in each issue! One assumes an advertiser paid to have it done, since the accompanying text mentioned where the textiles could be obtained. Click on the Table of Contents page shown here, from July 1812, to see a typical offering of prints and articles.
Rudolf Ackermann was born in Germany, where he trained as an engraver.
He moved to England and by 1796 had founded a print shop, which by 1809 was the largest in London. Shown on the right in a print from the inaugural issue of his magazine, the print shop was also called Ackermann's Repository. The Repository magazine was a general interest magazine meant to appeal to both men and women. The prints, not surprising considering Ackermann's background, were of the highest quality.
From its inaugural issue in January 1809, the Repository provided some of the most beautiful fashion plates ever seen, which is why they are still so sought after today. The quality of the engraving was high, and the hand-coloring delicate, as seen in the plate on the left showing a "Morning Dress" from February 1813. Within a few years, however, La Belle Asemblée would match it in quality of fashion prints, though it never offered the other high-quality prints for which Ackermann was famous. The Repository almost always included one print per issue of home furnishings or décor, and one of specific areas or buildings in London, each with accompanying articles. These prints were of the same high quality as the fashion prints, and are as collectible today.
Fashion prints from both LBA and Ackermann's Repository show up on eBay fairly regularly, if any of you are interested in acquiring them.
So, there you have the Big Four of ladies' magazines of the Regency period: The Lady's Magazine, the Lady's Monthly Museum, La Belle Asemblée, and Ackermann's Repository. These were the most important publications for women, and had the largest circulations, but there were several others that our Regency heroines might have read. The Gallery of Fashion, published by Niklaus Heideloff from 1794 to 1803, was mentioned in Part1 as the most expensive of them all, with a very exclusive subscriber list that included the Queen. Le Beau Monde was published from 1806 to 1810 by John Browne Bell, the estranged son of the publisher of La Belle Asemblée. In fact, the beautiful hand-colored fashion prints in Le Beau Monde are thought to have encouraged John Bell to abandon his black-and-white prints and offer only colored versions. La Miroir de la Mode was a short-lived, expensive, and large quarto-sized magazine published only from 1803 to 1804, clearly a failed attempt to follow in the footsteps of the defunct Gallery of Fashion, which was also quarto size. The publisher was the famous modiste, Madame Lanchester, who later wrote fashion descriptions and commentary for Ackermann's Repository. (The black-and-white print from LBA shown above features dresses designed by Madame Lanchester.) The Magazine of the Female Fashions of London and Paris was the second magazine (after the Gallery of Fashion) devoted entirely to fashion. Published only between 1799 and 1806, its prints are very distinctive and often feature real women, eg Lady Hamilton and Madame Récamier.
A final note on magazines of the period:
If you decided to submit an article or poem or story for potential publication in your favorite periodical, you had to be prepared for public rejection. All of the ladies' magazines of the period invited submissions from readers. Their acceptance or rejection of a piece was public, printed in each issue in Notes to Correspondents, and was sometimes rather scathing:
"The Verses to Belinda, entitled The Enjoyment, cannot be inserted. Their indelicacy would wound the Feelings of the Fair Sex."
– Lady's Magazine, December 1790
"We must take the liberty of hinting to C. T. that mere rhyming does not constitute the main essential of poetry. Our fair readers have too much taste to be satisfied with a few jingling words, such as will and still or dear and tear, when unconnected by common sense or grammatical accuracy. 'The Nightingale' must therefore sing a different strain, to use the author's words, before it can 'Teach us what we else should never know.'"
– Lady's Monthly Museum, May 1806.
"The Editor will thank Mr. C to be somewhat more careful in the preparing of his copy as it gives the Printer, as well as himself, a great deal of trouble, and is the occasion of many gross errors and violations of grammar."
– Lady's Monthly Museum, October 1811
"In answer to A. B. who enquires why his verses (as HE calls them) were not inserted, we beg to say that such STUFF will not suit us."
– Lady's Monthly Museum, December 1811
"We apprehend that the insertion of the Lines on Miss Stevens and the Ode for the Birth-Day of the Princess Charlotte would afford little gratification to any except the writers."
– Ackermann's Repository of Arts, January 1815.
So, that's it. I hope you have found the information useful or at least interesting. If you have any questions, ask away. And many thanks to the Wenches for allowing me to pontificate for three blogs!