A few years ago we purchased a collection that contained a sizable number of mimeograph and literary magazines. We naturally did what any good bookseller would do. We pulled out the books and ignored the rest. Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Certainly a few of the magazines were cataloged but most were placed on shelves to be taken care of at a later time. That time came when I showed some interest and was promoted to “Head of the Mimeos.” (Don’t be too impressed, in the last week alone I’ve been promoted to “Head of Wrestling Photos,” “Head of Reference Guides” and, my favorite, “Head of Children’s Books About Ducks.”) The result is our first catalog dedicated to the mimeograph revolution.
I immediately took to the mimeographs and the closely related literary magazines, first for their anything-goes aesthetic, but also because of the genuine sense of discovery they stirred. Many of these magazines and their contents have yet to be fully documented. They contain little-known first published appearances, overlooked poems and stories, and covers both achingly beautiful and wonderfully wretched.
The do-it-yourself nature of mimeographs meant they could be produced by anyone, anywhere with varying levels of sophistication, from a professional-looking magazine with established writers to a cheaply produced booklet filled with contributions from the aspiring and unpublished. What’s more, many of these mimeos are next to impossible to find, with print runs that exist in the low hundreds, making complete sets next to impossible to assemble.
For the sake of this catalogue the mimeos and literary magazines were divided into three periods for easier reference. The dates below may seem arbitrary, but I believe movements have a way of defining themselves. They are:
- 1929 – 1957 – Starting with Ivor Winters’ The Gyroscope published at Stanford in 1929.
- 1958 – 1970: Beginning with the publication of both Yugen and the suppressed issue of the Chicago Review (later reprinted as Big Table #1).
- 1971 – 1985: Following the deaths of Jack Kerouac and Charles Olson less than three months apart.
Finally, it’s important to note that these magazines can be frustrating to catalog thoroughly because they often featured dozens of contributors. The usual method involves listing a few of the most popular writers then placing “and many others” after the last name on the list. While the new catalog follows that time-honored practice for the sake of space (and boredom) but our website description for each item includes a complete list of all contributors no matter how obscure or how numerous, with only a few exceptions. So if you’re looking for that poem your friend claims to have “published” in college, you would do well to search their name on our website.