Having spent much of the past two weeks reading through countless issues of several Victorian periodicals, I found myself remembering just how important The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900 has been to my research, and how thankful historians of the period should be that it is now online.
The Wellesley Index identifies the names of reviewers, authors, and other contributors to 45 British periodicals that were published between 1824 and 1900. Most articles written for periodicals in this period were written anonymously, although contemporaries may have known who some of the authors were or were able to identify them through their use of pseudonyms and initials. The University of Toronto Press originally published the index in 5 volumes between 1965 and 1988. The online version now incorporates more recent findings and corrections from the Curran Index.
What you’ll find:
The Index contains names of publications and the authors who contributed to these publications. It also provides brief, referenced biographical information on each author where available and direct links to the author’s articles. Note that you will need an account, typically through a library or university, to access the Index.
How to use it:
The Wellesley Index is fairly straight-forward in its design. The home page provides you with a very brief overview of the index’s contents with a link to an About page to find out more about the origins and contents. You then have a number of options: Search, Browse, My Archive, Information Resources, and Help. I will focus on two of these here.
Search allows you to search using one or more of the following: Keyword, Contributor, Years, Pseudonym, Article Title, Periodical Title, Periodical Subject, Periodical Date, Editor, and Display. Within the search page are a number of adjustable features. This is most useful if you already know the name of an author or article that you want to look at.
Browse takes you to a page with four options. Browse Contributors takes you to a alphabetical list of names from which you can choose and then find biographical information and pieces that they have authored. Browse Pseudonyms provides an alphabetical list of pseudonyms and an associated list of articles under each such name. Browse the Curran Index to Periodical Literature takes you to the corrections and additions that also link back to the original Wellesley article and associated records. Browse Periodicals leads to a complete list of the periodicals.
The listing for each periodical provides information on origins and background, editors, and the volumes and articles that have been included in the Wellesley Index. From here, you can click on an article and will hopefully find a “Full Text” link to an online digitised copy of the article.
The ability to search through the contents of 45 periodicals via the Index, click on a relevant article to see who wrote it, find out more about the author and see what else they wrote in any of the 45 periodicals, and then visit the sites that hold full-text versions of the article in a practically seamless fashion is of course timesaving, but it also allows for more consistent results and a much broader understanding of each author’s contributions overall to the genre. You can see who was writing and when, what subjects were they particularly interested in, whether they wrote for only one periodical or several and which ones they were featured in, or even whether they wrote regularly or if the article you were interested in was a one-off.
The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals contains a tremendous amount of useful information for historians of the 19th century. It shows its age, being about 7-10 years old, and I think that the Browse Periodicals option should be much more prominent as I believe that it is probably the most useful element of the site. Of course, the biggest thing that I would change is that I would make it accessible to everyone, not just people with access to academic libraries. Overall, I think its biggest strength is its cross-referencing of authors, pseudonyms, and publications, and then that it offers direct links to full text versions of what you’ve found.