In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Indexing Periodical Poetry:First Steps in Building a Digital Bibliographic Project
  • Lindsy Lawrence (bio)

Indices, bibliographies, catalogues, and codices are standard scholarly tools that enable researchers to locate text and information. As James Mussell suggests, there have been many attempts "to address the … bibliographic complexity" of the field of periodical studies through these tools.1 Grand collaborative endeavors such as The Wellesley Index, the Waterloo Directory of Victorian Periodicals, and Poole's Index have tried to make sense of the enormous amount of material published in nineteenth-century periodicals, but until recently only modest attempts have been made to index poetry. In 1990 George J. Worth published in Victorian Periodicals Review a "mini-index" of twelve poets whose verse appeared in Macmillan's Monthly Magazine.2 In a 1999 article, Eileen Curran indexed poetry in the first thirty-six volumes of Bentley's Miscellany, which was later updated for the static web and PDF versions of The Curran Index in 2015 with additions by Richard Ford and Gary Simons.3 In 2007 Linda K. Hughes called attention to the need for more study of periodical poetry in terms of author-publisher relationships, cultural history, and bibliography, and since then there has been a surge of work on periodical poetry, including a special issue of Victorian Poetry in 2014 devoted to essays on poetry in nineteenth-century periodicals.4 The Periodical Poetry Index emerged out of this climate to provide a bibliographic guide to the wealth of poetry published in nineteenth-century periodicals. In this essay, I define how a digital bibliographic project differs from a static index in both conception and design. In so doing, I examine how the periodical page influences our indexing methodologies and how the bibliographic codes on the page shape our iterative indexing process.

When we began the Periodical Poetry Index in 2010, we considered several different project names. All of these titles included the word "index," as we envisioned the project in the tradition of scholarly periodical studies [End Page 608] enterprises attempting to make sense of the wealth of text produced by nineteenth-century print culture. Yet this is perhaps a misnomer given that the digital tools available make our work different from a static index meant to be published in a volume (as was the initial design of The Wellesley Index) or a web page merely providing a list of bibliographic citations. According to Nan Badgett, professional indices such as those commonly found in monographs or finding aids are designed "to indicate topics or features of documents in order to facilitate retrieval of documents or parts of documents."5 In this regard, Periodical Poetry functions as a finding aid much like The Wellesley Index, directing users to locate a poem in a specific issue and volume of a nineteenth-century periodical. But Houghton specifically designed The Wellesley Index as two static bibliographic indices: one that lists articles and attributions and one that lists the works of individual authors across periodical titles.6 In contrast, the breadth of bibliographic information we collect about each poem makes our project less an index and more a catalogue.

According to the definitions laid out by Andrea Crestadoro in his 1856 work The Art of Making Catalogues of Libraries, catalogues and indices are lists with different functions: "The first [the catalogue] is a list of the goods; its direct object is to make an inventory of the property by recording a full and exact description of each and every article. The second [the index] is but a table of the contents of the first, a hand to show the way how readily to find any of the articles as actually entered in the inventory."7 In the Periodical Poetry Index, the item detail view for each poem provides a catalogue description of the poem's material context and bibliographic codes including poem length, page design features, illustration, poem type, epigraph, and notes on musical cues and explanatory headnotes. Designed as a digital relational database rather than a static list published online, the Periodical Poetry Index is best described as a digital bibliographic project because its digital format changes the function of a scholarly index. Locating the poem in...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 608-617
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.