Collecting something for a hobby is a path to a number of undoubted pleasures. Whether it’s baseball cards, books or tea cozies, there’s the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of acquiring a unique item. On the other hand, there’s the feeling that you never have enough money to fuel your habit and the unending delight of putting your fellow creatures into a stupor as you expound the wonders of your collection.
When it comes to collecting the works of the late English author Roald Dahl, I can put a soporific spell that could hobble a charging rhino at a hundred paces. I gained the expertise and ability to do so through years of collecting and researching his books. I wrote articles on how to identify his first editions as I collected every first edition, first print of every book that Dahl ever published. When I finished amassing all the books, I branched out into the many magazines that published all manner of Dahl’s works from short stories and articles to reviews and interviews.
I’m astonished at how many magazines are readily available fifty or sixty years after their publication. There are cumulatively millions of copies of these magazines: ‘Saturday Evening Post’, ‘Ladies Home Journal’, ‘Colliers’, ‘The Atlantic Monthly’, ‘The New Yorker’, ‘Cosmopolitan’, ‘Woman’s Day’ and many others floating around on the used market. A number of these titles are still published. ‘Woman’s Day’, for instance, averaged 3,793,000 copies per issue in 1951 and is still in the top 10 for magazine circulation today.
There’s an added pleasure in collecting old magazines and no, it’s not the smell, which can be mustier than King Tut’s tomb on occasion. The June 21, 1952 issue of the ‘New Yorker’ I’m currently browsing is a good example. Where else can you find the first publication of Roald Dahl’s short story ‘My Lady Love, My Dove’ nestled with things like: an advertisement for a quality 6 place setting of silver plate dinner ware for only $11.50, a discussion of how General MacArthur might be a compromise presidential candidate at the Republican national convention if there’s no clear winner between General Eisenhower and Senator Taft, a lengthy history of the making of MGM’s film ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ with a dissection of why it was a commercial flop, notice that John Huston was in Africa with Bogart and Hepburn filming ‘The African Queen’ and a collection of cartoons that aren’t quite as plentiful as the ads for liquor. Talk about a thirst for the past.
Old magazines? There’s history in those pages.