Years ago (yes, years!) Jennifer asked if I’d like to write up a brief intro to The Yellow Nineties Online, a site dedicated to a fin-de-siècle periodicals, the project on which I cut my digital and project-management teeth. My pearly whites have been in for quite a while now and so it is with a smile of pleasure that I write about the project.
The Yellow Nineties‘ editors, Lorraine Janzen Kooistra and Dennis Denisoff, are among the Victorianists who have embraced the potential of both digital texts and online resources. They belong to a fine tradition: digital editing expanded through the 1980s as the result of what Matthew Kirschenbaum calls “the pitch-perfect convergence between the intense conversations around editorial theory and method … and the widespread means to implement electronic archives and editions.” As a result, students and scholars are blessed with the Victorian Web (which, having just celebrated its 25th year, pre-dates the commercial internet) and the many sites (among others) federated by Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship (NINES).
Lorraine Janzen Kooistra and Dennis Denisoff originally conceived of The Yellow Nineties Online as a cross between a digital edition and a hypermedia archive. Having watched their editorial work, I’m inclined to think of the site as a fin-de-siècle periodical research environment, an edition wreathed in critical apparatuses: its houses facsimile editions of late 19thc aesthetic periodicals, text, period reviews, peer-reviewed essays by Victorian Studies scholars, scholarly introductions to each periodical and issue, and biographies of the authors, artists, publishers, and engravers behind the periodicals — all marked up in the archival XML specification of the digital humanities, TEI. The site, which has been peer reviewed by NINES, continues to grow. The team is currently marking up The Evergreen for publication after the completion of The Yellow Book.
The Yellow Nineties Online brings the editorial culture of the 1890s to life. It houses the most scathing reviews of The Pagan Review, whose entire and sole volume was edited and filled pseudonymously by William Sharp (from The Saturday Review, “A certain canniness presides over the Pagan Review, which requests ‘subscriptions in advance,’ and a certain honesty may be admired, as the Pagan Review, if it dies very young, will remit ‘unexhausted subscriptions'” and from Lippincott’s, “‘The Pagan Review’ is the alarming title of a new British magazine, which entered on its career of devastation in September”). It offers the first account that I’ve seen of John Lane and Ella Darcy‘s hasty efforts to remove traces of Aubrey Beardsley‘s work from the fifth volume following Oscar Wilde‘s arrest. With John Lane and Richard Le Gallienne in New York “the skeleton staff [who were] left to deal with the crisis neglected to replace Beardsley’s pre-formatted designs for the spine and back cover, so the issue went to press branded with the art editor’s signature style after all. Inside the covers, trace evidence of association remained as well. One of Dauphin Meunier’s poems, ‘Chapelle Dissident,’ was dedicated ‘Pour Mr. Aubrey Beardsley’ (102), and his name appeared frequently in the advertising supplement at the back of the volume, in both John Lane’s Belles Lettres list, and, of course, in the advertised contents of the four previous Yellow Book volumes.” Every editor and publisher knows what it is to carefully prepare only to scramble in the days before publication, whether it be at the hands of scandal, late contributions, or server meltdowns.
I am now off on my own editorial and encoding adventures. I hope never to have to duck and cover as Lane and Le Gallienne did, but if I do, I will be sure to leave a trail behind. As I review my work, I can see the evidence of Dennis and Lorraine’s editorial principles — traces of their pitch-perfect blend of theory and method.