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In publications, magazines encompass part of the flexible, open conceptual area between newspapers and books, along with other such periodicals such as academic journals and broadside ballads. They are also somewhat difficult to define due to their open conceptual nature, especially when tracking the history of their development. The following resources are provided to help guide one's learning about the history of magazines.

Origin and Development of Magazines


Johann von Rist, creator of Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen

There is some contention about what publication was the first true magazine. Some argue that a publication must have been referred to as a magazine in order to be one. Others say that it must only have been published periodically, but less often than newspapers.

Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen, created by Johann von Rist in 1663, is often cited to be the first magazine. The publication was aimed towards an intellectual audience, and it included articles written by scholars and summaries of new books[1]. However, it lacked being called a "magazine" or any linguistic variation thereof, and it did not largely influence the further development of later, more "typical" pulp-like magazine publications. However, similar publications were started in France (the Journal des Sçavans in 1665 by Denis de Sallo), in England (the Philosophical Transactions in 1665 by the Royal Society), and in Italy (the Giornale de' letterati in 1668 by Francesco Nazzari)[2].


The lighter type of publication more associated with magazines first begun to arise with Le Mercure Galant in 1672. This publication focused upon the gossip centered around the French court of the time, and it was published until 1724. Le Mercure Galant influenced a later publication: the Gentleman's Magazine. The first publication to use the word "magazine" to describe itself was the Gentleman's Magazine, first published in 1731[3]. Gentleman's Magazine was additionally influenced by another predecessor of a publication, the Gentleman's Journal published from 1692-94.

The increase of literacy in the 18th century, especially that of women, was the main drive behind the rise of the magazine. Women, through their newfound widespread literacy, changed the field of the magazine to be one that catered primarily to their readers' entertainment rather than education [4]. This development of the magazine through women's interests and desires is the primary reason why the magazine has developed into what it is today.

Magazine Databases

Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive

The Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive is a magazine archival research resource by ProQuest to which numerous educational institutions have access. It broadly contains magazines, mainly from the United States and the United Kingdom, spanning the entertainment industries at large, including theater, music, film, and broadcasting. It includes two separate archival collections: Archive Collection I includes 15 magazines that cover music, radio, and the stage from the years 1880-2000; and Archive Collection II includes 10 magazines spanning the topics of cinema, film, and television from the years 1905-2000. The archive's magazines are scanned in full high-resolution color, sparing no detail, including advertisements and reviews alike.

Women's Magazine Archive

An example of the front cover and a random page from Good Housekeeping.

The Women's Magazine Archive is another ProQuest archival research resource, spanning a vast number of magazines that have been marketed towards women, currently up to the year of 2005. It contains two separate collections, Women's Magazine I and Women's Magazine II, and it is set to publish Women's Magazine III in 2021. The first collection contains publications such as Better Homes & Gardens (1922 to 2005), Good Housekeeping (1885 to 2005), and Redbook (1903 to 2005), while the second collection includes but is not limited to Essence (1970 to 2005), Town and Country (1846 to 2005), and Cosmopolitan (1886 to 2005). The third collection is set to contain publications such as the UK edition of Good Housekeeping (1922 to 2005), She (1955 to 2003), and Company (1978 to 2005).


MagazinePlus is a resource (accessible to non-Penn-affiliated persons through this link) that provides access to articles from magazines in Japan, from the Meiji period to the present age.

Music Magazine Archive

The Music Magazine Archive is a digital collection of magazines from the 20th and 21st centuries that focus on musical genres such as Rock, Folk, and Hip-Hop & Rap. All publications contained in the database are fully searchable and are in full high-resolution color.

Further Reading

Mott, Frank Luther. A history of American magazines, 1741-1930, Vol. 1. Harvard College: 1958.


  1. Magazines. "The History of Magazines." 'Magazines,' n.d.,
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. "History of publishing: Magazine publishing," Encyclopedia Brittanica,
  3. Andrew King. “Magazines, History of,” The International Encyclopedia of Communication, ed. Wolfgang Donsbach. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. vol. VI: 2748-2752.
  4. History of Magazine Publishing, University of Minnesota,. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from