Thursday, April 12, 2012

Royal Female Magazine Acquired

Very seldom do we have the opportunity to add to our 18th-century periodicals. Many are already on our shelves, the Library Company having acquired them when they were first issued. The titles not on our shelves are notably scarce today. Thus, we were particularly pleased to get nine issues of this very short-lived London periodical for women, which we purchased through the Davida Deutsch Fund for acquisitions in early women’s history in honor of Lisa Baskin. Some of the articles in these issues of the The Royal Female Magazine, or, The Ladies General Repository of Pleasure and Improvement suggest that the editor, Robert Lloyd working under the pseudonym “Charles Honeycombe, Esq.,” believed his readers would be interested in things American. One issue, for example, has a hand-colored map entitled “The World According to the Latest Discoveries,” which prominently depicts Baffin Bay with no hint of a Northwest Passage across North America. 

As shown here, in the May 1760 issue, Lloyd included an invented fantasy entitled “An Indian Gazette,” which presents a text in pictographs, supposedly by American Indians, together with a “translation.” The accompanying article compares the pictographs to Egyptian hieroglyphics. Our good friend David Szewczyk suggests that this text is actually a mishmash of elements combining Mexican and European sources.  By this date, North American Indians were largely using the roman alphabet for both English and native languages. The editor of The Royal Female Magazine likely expected this curious type of proto-literacy to appeal to his readers. He published it with a claim of absolute authenticity, which, one suspects, may have tipped dubious readers off that it was fraudulent. As indeed it was. 

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