Editing Modernism in Canada


June 5, 2011

Editing Le Nigog, Part Two: Advertisements

One of the primary goals of our Nigog periodical project is to re-socialize the text in its original context via a digital edition.  Periodicals have often been divorced from their context through the binding process, where the original advertisements were disregarded, leaving only the articles in libraries across the world.  Advertisements, often printed on newsprint with separated numbering, could easily be torn out before the magazines were bound into volumes.  This “hole in the archive”, as framed by Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman, removes the important interplay between two sides of modernist periodical production.  On one page, the little avant-garde magazines make manifestos and demand a critical rethinking of art and culture, but on the next there could be an advertisement for cigarettes, clothing or other luxury middle-to-upper class goods. Many magazines depended on advertising revenue to stay afloat.  The consumer messages of the advertisements, in part, create the space and conditions for the rest of the content. By placing the content back in its social situation by recovering these important pages, we make great strides in understanding the broader intertexts that shape the magazine’s diverse reading publics.

At Congress last week, Matt Huculak and I presented some preliminary research on Le Nigog focused on its advertisements.  It is these issues that I want to briefly touch on here.  Le Nigog’s advertisements are integral to properly socializing the text within the Montreal reading public it actively established and served. In the first ten issues, there are over 300 advertisements, with an average of ten pages of ads per issue. Though the advertisements are integral to our understanding of the text’s materiality, no reprint of the text to date has included them, and thus their role in establishing Le Nigog as a part of larger social and economic networks in Montreal has not yet been examined.

First and foremost, the advertisements of the Nigog offer us important data about readership demographics: not only what they were buying, but also what else they were reading, the kinds of cultural activities they may have pursued and the simple geographic area they were likely affiliated with. Most of the advertisers are clustered largely in downtown Montreal, where the meetings took place and where the editors could be reached by mail. I created a basic visual map to loosely plot the advertisers based on the addresses provided, which I will post after DHSI in Victoria.

The blue/purple marker on the map is the home of Robert Laroque de Roquebrune, the editorial headquarters of the magazine. Clustered around it, in red, are the business addresses. When the digital edition is created, the map will be corrected to match with 1918 landmarks and street
numbers, and we will be able to provide more data on the individual businesses and their products, as well as the frequency with which they appeared in the magazine. Many of these markers actually represent multiple businesses within the same building, something that will also be more clearly differentiated in the final edition.

A large portion of the advertisements are for Montreal libraries of different sorts: bookstores specializing in multiple languages, rare books, and magazines, as well as multi-purpose bookshops where you could also have embroidery work done, buy specialized stationary, bind your books, or even have some printing done. Librairie C. Déom, for example, features prominently in each issue of the magazine on the first page. This bookstore is touted as the dispensary of the Nigog. As the ad promises, the books featured in each issue were stocked alongside the magazine, marking the Nigog’s place within a larger, international print culture. Instead of simply accepting what was read within the magazine, the reading public of the Nigog is asked to actively engage in the discussion and contribute to the articles. A page long advertisement at the end of the first issue pointedly affiliates itself with established magazines and journals, creating an intellectual “to-read” list. Like the manifesto of the journal itself, the advertisers are invested in building up print culture in Canada, and here rely on expanding the existing framework to
include more focused, specialized discussions of the arts for middle-brow readers.

Ideally, our advertising database will also be able to demarcate and extend the multiple links between the advertisers and contributors. For example, of the five musicians offering lessons in the magazine, two are contributors: Leo-Pol Morin and Rodolphe Mathieu. While their articles attempt to extend the discussion of modern music and establish their critical authority, their advertisements are quite traditional: Mathieu offers lessons in musical theory, harmony and counterpoint, while Morin offers piano lessons. These specialists use their criticism to sell their services, and also to generate an audience for their own recitals and public performances. Morin in particular also uses the advertisements in this way, with three issues advertising a performance in April, two of which include a full program. Morin’s agent, Henry Michaud, also advertises within the first few issues of the magazine, offering the middlebrow music-for-hire at parties and events of various sizes. This advertisement uses several markers to establish authority in the field: Michaud is affiliated with “the Standard Booking Office” in New York, and his clients include two artists with signed record deals from Columbia Records.

The avant-garde artists, writers and architects in Montreal that contribute to the magazine exist in a tightly knit social web.  As we begin to read the advertisements in relation to the content, new and complex relationships are brought to light.  We are not only able to read Canadian modernism in new ways, but we are also able to more fully historicize and socialize what we read in the diverse culture milieu that brought it into being.

See Also:

Editing Le Nigog Part One

In Search of a DH Repository

One Response to “Editing Le Nigog, Part Two: Advertisements”

  1. Hannah says:

    This is fantastically interesting, Emily, and clearly points to the radical change in editorial practice possible with digital editions. I would love to hear/read more about the technical details of this project as you proceed with mark-up of magazine pages and advertisements, mapping, and other ways of visualizing the complex web of networks you’ve outlined here.

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