appeared quarterly between August 1929 and August 1939. It was produced from Preece's Bookshop in Adelaide's King William Street by John Preece
and his brother Edgar, who split their time between their responsibilities as bookshop managers and magazine editors. The bookshop had been founded in 1907 by their father, F. W. Preece
, who died in 1928 just before the magazine was launched. According to Geoffrey Dutton
, the bookshop, which also ran a circulating library, was 'a centre of literary and artistic culture in Adelaide'.
John Preece took an active part in literary life, in Adelaide and beyond. By the time he started editing the magazine, he was already in contact with the Lindsays, who contributed to the first issue of Desiderata
. The front cover of the magazine's first issue featured a woodcut by Lionel Lindsay
of a white cockatoo devouring a book. In that same issue Norman Lindsay
reviewed M. Barnard Eldershaw
's A House is Built
. Jack Lindsay
further contributed to the project in his role as an agent of the Preeces in London.
According to David Carter, 'Desiderata
was intensely interested in the state of contemporary modern arts and letters. While anything but revolutionary in its aims, Desiderata
constantly sought to know what the present looked like, to assess the 'spirit of the times', and, increasingly, to judge just where Australian literature might sit on the scale of modernity.' The magazine mainly published reviews of 'current literature,' both Australian and British, with an emphasis on the latter: the first issue reviewed the work of authors such as T. F. Powys, Eugene O'Neill
, and Virginia Woolf
, which had been published the previous year.
Carter notes that 'even though the magazine did not take an openly nationalist stance, it was always well-disposed towards new developments in Australian writing', discussing Australian literature from the start: Coonardo
was reviewed shortly after its release, for example. Reviews were supplemented by occasional essays, and by February 1932 Desiderata
had a regular section entitled 'The Australian Contribution.' Subsequent numbers had a dedicated section where new and forthcoming Australian publications were discussed.
Contributors to Desiderata included D. P. McGuire, an innovative poet, successful crime novelist, and later Australia's Ambassador to Italy, and I. M Foster, 'a woman who deserves to be remembered', as Dutton writes, 'as she wrote enlightened reviews, especially of Australian books, in Adelaide for more than thirty years'. In its final years, Desiderata began to notice new poets, reviewing Douglas Stewart and R. D. Fitzgerald. In 1938, Rex Ingamells's Conditional Culture and the Jindyworobak Anthology appeared under the F. W. Preece imprint, which also published the Jindy magazine Venture in 1939-40.
David Carter compares the editorial line of Desiderata to publications such as All About Books and Art in Australia. These publications' 'modest goals can be fairly aligned with those of "middlebrow" culture understood in its historically specific form; to the "and important books" among current literature, although it would also distinguish its own tastes from those it considered "highbrow" or "ultra-modernist."'
(The source for this abstract is a yet unpublished article by David Carter called 'Modernising Anglocentrism: Desiderata and Literary Time' [January 2012].