The Yellow Nineties
The Yellow Nineties archive site is an open access, peer reviewed electronic resource for The Yellow Book and other avant-garde aesthetic periodicals that flourished in Great Britain in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It is edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra from Ryerson University. It contains facsimile editions that are available in flipbook, html, xml, and pdf. Their editions are available to be read on line, searched and are downloadable. Completed editions are; The Yellow Book (13 volumes), The Pagan Review (1 volume), and The Evergreen (4 volumes being marked). While these editions are marked and searchable, there are other periodicals that are currently in preparation including The Dial, The Quatro, and The Savoy.
Being part of the NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth Century Electronic Scholarship), the Yellow Nineties has an easy to use format that allows even the most amateur of computer users to research nineteenth century periodical literature. The home page is set up to easily allow the user to access full editions of the periodicals or to search for authors and artists. With the initial Welcome Page, a user can navigate the site. Choosing from Biographies to the actual editions of The Yellow Pages, the user can be immersed in nineteenth century aesthetic literature almost immediately.
To learn more about the Yellow Nineties site you need only to “click” on the About heading to learn what the site is all about. This tab includes an introduction to The Yellow Nineties, which I learned was the time period of the 1890’s and was named after a store front window that was entirely “dressed” in The Yellow Book, and had such a glow that it could be seen for blocks away. (The introduction section within this tab has the complete story). The aesthetic and often decadent literature that was produced during this time period made the era known as The Yellow Nineties. Also on this tab you will find the editorial principles, essays on the progress of the site, guidelines for submissions, site members, credits, and contact information. I especially liked the story of The Yellow Nineties in the introduction and recommend that you check this out when you visit the site. This tab gives you a comprehensive look at what The Yellow Nineties Online is all about .
Next in line is the tab titled The Yellow Book. With this tab you will have the opportunity to read, search, and/or download editions of The Yellow Book, see 1890’s reviews of The Yellow Book, promotional materials, and scholarly commentary on the editions. This is were you go to see facsimile’s of the original volumes. Just remember that these volumes are available in multiple formats and can be read on line or downloaded to read at a later time. There are also marked up and searchable so if you are looking for a particular author or artist you can easily find which edition they are in. With the search tab you can also search for an artist or use a artist and/or literary work title at the same time.
I think my favorite part of this site is the Biographies tab. With this tab you can get the facts on your favorite author or artist as well a pictures. During my Victorian Era Literature class we were reading works by Oscar Wilde, when I looked up his biography I was excited to see so much information in one place about him. Using the search tab and asking for Oscar Wilde I found that The Yellow Book was dubbed by the American periodical The Critic, “the Oscar Wilde of periodicals”, I believe this comment was made based on the scandalous reputation both Wilde and The Yellow Book had. Making this even more interesting is the fact that The Yellow Book never published any of Wilde’s work. Lorraine Janzen Kooistra comments in a scholarly commentary during 2012 that “Traditional analysis of The Yellow Book’s contents has divided the print run into an avant-garde and daring period before the arrest and trial of Oscar Wilde in the spring of 1895 and a more conservative, less adventurous phase thereafter.” This comment is part of a larger commentary she makes that is available under the scholarly commentary section of The Yellow Book tab.
Even with the Yellow Book never having published any of Wilde’s works, Wilde himself used the Yellow Book in his story of Dorian Gray. Lord Henry sends Dorian a copy of the Yellow Book after his fiance Sibyl kills herself. The book is describes as, “the strangest book that he had ever read. It seemed to him that in exquisite rainment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him. One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some medieval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner. It was a poisonous book.” (Wilde 91-92) In Wilde’s story, Dorian Gray was fascinated with the book, Dorian “procured from Paris no less than nine large-paper copies of the first edition, and had them bound in different colours, so that they might suit his various moods and the changing fancies of a nature over which he seemed, at times, to have almost entirely lost control.”(Wilde 93) I find it interesting that Wilde who was himself an aesthetic follower and published his works during the yellow nineties, used this current decadent publication to describe the obsession that his character Dorian Gray was succumbing to.
I’m not sure that this type of publicity Wilde gave the Yellow Book was what the publishers were looking for. You can see when you navigate through the Yellow Book tab that the publishers prospectus for The Yellow Book insisted that “It will be a book—a book to be read, and placed upon one’s shelves, and read again; a book in form, a book in substance; a book beautiful to see and convenient to handle; a book with style, a book with finish; a book that every book-lover will love at first sight; a book that will make book-lovers of many who are now indifferent to books.” The prospective also placed the price of the periodical at 5s, making it well within the budget of middle class buyers, costing more that other monthly periodicals but less than a one-volume novel. The Yellow Book also refused to publish serialized fiction that had become a staple in other contemporary periodicals. The artistic works published within their volumes were without page or word limits or censor. This is just a small teaser piece of information about the Yellow Book that this site has to offer. While still a work in progress this site is certainly an exciting place to visit for anyone that has an interest in Victorian Literature, especially the aesthetic period of satire and avant-garde.
Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray.(London 1891), Dover Publications.New York. 1993. print.
The Yellow Nineties Online, http://www.1890s.ca