The Colonial Newspapers and Magazines Project

(Status : Public)
Coordinated by CNMP Editors
  • About

    The Colonial Newspapers and Magazines Project (CNMP) focuses on the literary content of periodicals published during Australia's colonial era (1788–1900 inclusive) and the literary culture of the colonial period. The project has been underway since 2009 with indexing contributions being drawn from AustLit team members at UNSW Canberra, The University of Sydney and The University of Queensland.

    During 2013, in a new phase of the CNMP, the AustLit team at UNSW Canberra comprehensively identified Australian newspapers and magazines published in the years 1838, 1868 and 1888. (These dates represent 50 and 100 years after the arrival of the First Fleet, and a mid-point – 1868 – in the colonial era.) This research uncovered 38 titles for 1838, 223 for 1868 and 527 for 1888. In-depth indexing began on selected titles from this list in late 2013. A list of all titles indexed for the CNMP is available here.

    At the close of 2014, the CNMP had recorded nearly 60,000 works and almost 9,000 people and organisations associated with Australia’s colonial era; the AustLit record for each work, person and organisation associated with the project displays the CNMP logo.

    Of this total, about 800 works and over 400 people and organisations are international in origin; the records ‘tagged’ international will progressively carry information explaining the reason for their inclusion in AustLit.

    AustLit team members at UNSW Canberra prepared a manual for use with the CNMP. For further information, contact: info-austlit@austlit.edu.au.

  • Colonial Literature at UNSW Canberra

    At UNSW Canberra there is a strong history of research projects in colonial Australian literature going back to the 1970s, including the Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, AUSTLIT (launched online in 1988), one of the predecessor projects of the current AustLit database, the Oxford Literary History of Australia (1998), and two series of scholarly editions: the Colonial Texts Series (1988–2004) and the Academy Editions of Australian Literature (1996–2007). ARC Discovery grants for scholarly editions of Henry Lawson’s While the Billy Boils and the complete poetry of Charles Harpur (1813–1868) relied on AustLit indexing to open up and map bibliographically the colonial literary culture.

    The Colonial Newspapers and Magazines Project continues 1990s projects such as the indexing of the Bulletin. Prior to 2013, the indexing approach was vertical: a magazine or newspaper of known relevance for its literary content was chosen and indexed over the course of its entire run. Although an impressive amount of colonial-era indexing was completed, this approach inevitably limited the number of titles that could be indexed.

  • Rationale for a new approach

    The vertical approach was extremely valuable but did not permit reliable quantitative estimates about the period as a whole, or the changing role and significance of literature within it. A new approach was needed to answer research questions of a kind and a reach that we have not been in a position to address to date. A populated literary 'map' of the colonial period could achieve more rigorous methodologies of literary research than previously possible.

    The map depends crucially on AustLit's indexing of colonial newspapers and magazines. Newspapers and magazines were the principal patrons of literary endeavour in the colonial period until and even after royalty-paying publishing was put onto a proper footing in the mid-1890s.


    The new methodology

    In order to define the contours of the colonial map precisely and to get a more secure grip on the extent and nature of its literary expressions, four individual years were selected as the focus for concentrated indexing: 1838, 1868, 1888 and 1900.

    The aim of the new horizontal approach for the Colonial Newspapers and Magazines Project, trialled during 2013 and implemented during 2014, is to index all extant newspapers, and literary and general magazines published in these years. A list of all newspapers and magazines published in 1838, 1868 and 1888 was prepared during 2013 and a 'parent' record added to AustLit for each title. (Titles for 1900 are pending.) The indexing of each of the publications for the chosen years is being undertaken, one by one. Some titles for 1838 and 1868 were indexed during 2013–2014. 1888 and 1900 are being left for later in the project when the earlier years will, given sufficient resources, also be completed.


    Reading habits

    One highly valuable new aspect of this approach is the inclusion in AustLit of data revealing the broader literary reading habits of colonial audiences by indexing the presence of international (i.e. overseas) writers and literature published or advertised within 19th century Australian newspapers and magazines. This data highlights emerging research directions in print culture. New methods of displaying and analysing such data within AustLit – that will simultaneously ensure the reliability of returns for purely Australian literature – were devised and tested during 2013, and implementation began in 2014.

  • Searching the CNMP

    To search within the CNMP see the How to Search AustLit page.

    Searches tailored towards CNMP, including searches on international works, are in development (November 2014).

    The following is a handy list of subject terms used in the indexing of advertisements and columns in Australian colonial newspaper and magazines:

    Auctions & auctioneers; Australian literature - Funding & patronage; Book prices & book imports; Books; Bookshops; Circulating libraries; Compositors; Editing; Editorial policy; Freedom of speech [use for Press freedom]; Journalism; Journalists; Lending libraries; Libraries; Literary associations; Literary readings; National literatures (e.g. Irish Literature & Writers); Newspaper editors; Newspaper proprietors; Paper; Penny readings; Poetry readings & recitals; Printers [the occupation not the printing press]; Printing; Printing presses & plant; Printing trades; Public lectures; Public subscriptions; Publishers; Reading; Remaindering; Schools of arts [use for Mechanics' institutes, Mechanics' schools of arts]; Theatre performance; Theatres; Theatrical life

    For further subject terms browse the AustLit Thesaurus from the link on the Advanced Search screen.

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