Serials are often imagined as neat series of issues, unfolding in a linear fashion and gathered into volumes at fixed intervals. This impression is reinforced by the way in which many serials survive in library archives: however, often material bound into volumes hints at a different publishing history. On this page you can read more about such material and what it means for the print culture of both the six titles in ncse and nineteenth-century print culture more broadly.

Multiple Editions

Two of our six publications published more than one edition per issue. The presence of multiples editions reminds us that although individual issues were marked with a date and an issue number, there might be more than one edition of them. This means that although the issues seem to indicate that they be placed in a series, with one issue per date of publication, to create such a series would involve a decision to choose one particular edition over another to represent that issue. Often the runs that appear as bound volumes (or indeed in digital editions) are composites, consisting of different editions with their differences effaced. In ncse we have tried to maintain the distinction between editions and, although we have had to privilege one edition in our resource, we have made all the editions that we have located available to users. For more information on multiple editions, click here.


ncse contains a range of material that is supplementary to the dated and numbered issues that make up the majority of the runs of our six titles. These supplements include ‘extra’ issues, promotional material, coverage of special projects or, in some cases, whole new publications. Although the issue numbers and dates on individual issues indicate their primacy in the series, suggesting that they are the main constituents of a title, the presence of this other published material reminds us that the identity of a particular serial does not end with the dated and numbered issues. Rather, although supplements – as supplements – are in addition to the dated and numbered issues, they still remain constitutive parts of the content of the title: indeed, often they are explicitly extensions of it, permitting the text to extend beyond the boundaries of the single issue. Supplements may be gratis or priced. The impetus for their issue is varied, perhaps celebrating an internal anniversary (their first year), or a public event (the death of Wellington or the repeal of the Newspaper Tax) or a consumer/advertising opportunity, eg Christmas Books.

The economy that underpins serial production is one of space. Proprietors are selling printed paper, and the contents of these pages determines their financial return either by attracting readers or advertisers. The space available in a single issue of a serial was predicated on the size of the sheet of paper on which it was printed. If there was more content than space, after smaller fonts, editing, and layout had been tried, then another sheet would have to be used. This recourse was only open to papers that could afford it; the titles in ncse mainly worked to a pre-determined length, and held back copy that could not be accommodated for the following issue. As paper was a major expense in any publishing enterprise, attracting tax until 1861, it was in the interests of publishers to keep waste to a minimum. In the Monthly Repository we have supplements from volume three onwards, with none appearing between volume six and volume thirteen. However, we know from other runs than the British Library’s that there were supplements for these volumes. The most complete run of the Monthly Repository that we found during our research was the one held at the Bodleian, but even this had ‘To be preserved’ written in pencil above most of supplements, suggesting that some content may have been excised from it.

The Monthly Repository’s supplements were increasingly used to contain reports of the Unitarian Association. In February 1832 the main sections of the journal dealing directly with Unitarian affairs were published separately as the Unitarian Chronicle. In the very first article within the Unitarian Chronicle , the links between the two titles were stressed: ‘The Editor has endeavoured to provide for preserving the continuity of this holy chain unbroken’, the editor writes, ‘The “Unitarian Chronicle” will also be the “Companion to the Monthly Repository”, uniform in its size, form, type, and paper, so as to preserve uniformity of general appearance.’ This would permit readers to ‘bind them up together’ if they so desired but, ‘Others will prefer collecting the intelligence by itself into volumes.’ There were benefits, therefore, in supplementarity: some readers might choose to consider the Unitarian Chronicle an extension of the Monthly Repository, others to treat them as distinct titles.

The Unitarian Chronicle also published supplements. In June 1832 they published a 16pp supplement for 3d, i.e. the same size and price of the regular issues. In July the cover price of the regular issue was doubled, and a 16pp supplement provided for ‘free’. These supplements were treated by the editor as extensions of the main issues, as you can see here, the first article in both begins mid sentence! The issue for July 1832 attempts to regularize the situation, calling itself a ‘double number’ and begging the readers for forgiveness. However, the Unitarian Chronicle continues as a 32pp, 6d monthly from that issue onwards.

The Northern Star, as a weekly newspaper, did not publish many supplements. However, we do have an ‘Extraordinary’ number of the Northern Star published immediately after the West Riding Meeting on Hartshead Moor on Monday 15 October 1838. As the Star published its multiple editions over a couple of days, it could respond in a fairly timely fashion to passing events, and incorporate any new material that it received. Issues of the Northern Star were dated on a Saturday, but (at least in 1840) publishing began on Wednesday and ended on Friday. Rather than wait until the next issue, which – if their publishing routine was the same in 1838 – would go to press only two days after the meeting, they instead rushed out a 2pp extra number in the afternoon of the meeting in order to make Monday night’s mail.

This is the only example of this we have in Northern Star, suggesting that the publication opted to use its editions to keep abreast of developments rather than rush out supplementary numbers that might not reach all its readers. However, the Northern Star did adopt a policy of issuing supplement portraits to entice readers to subscribe. These portraits were the subject of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from August 2006 to January 2007. We were aware of these portraits from our reading of the Northern Star but, as they were issued separately, they had not been preserved along with the run at the British Library. We took advantage of the exhibition to attempt to find as many of the portraits as possible and, with the co-operation of Rab MacGibbon, Malcolm Chase and Dorothy Thompson, succeeded in including fifteen portraits in our edition. However, before we could do this, we had to work out how to incorporate them. As they were not printed as part of the Northern Star and were not intended to be bound within volumes of the newspaper, we did not think we could treat them like the other supplements in ncse. Although the portraits were announced with considerable fanfare in the paper, as they were steel engravings they were produced at a much slower rate than the paper itself. This meant that distribution of a particular portrait actually spanned several issues as it was distributed to different regions of the title’s readership. We could have included them in a ‘supplements’ folder, associating them with a volume rather than a particular issue, but we decided in the end to keep them separate from the Olive components of the resource. This allowed us to use zoomify, permitting users to better appreciate their detail. For more about the portraits, and to view them, click here.

The Leader published at least two supplements over its run. The first, a single, 12 page, gratis supplement dated 16 June 1855, was to accommodate book and theatre reviews. The reasons that prompted it are unstated, although it might have been one or some combination of the following: a response to the repeal of the Stamp Duty in May; and / or an attempt to foreground its claim to Literature on the occasion of its addition of a sub-title the following week, ‘A Political and Literary Review’. This acknowledgement of the increasing attractions of the literary market for serial publishers is similarly marked by Chambers’s Journal, another weekly, which changed its title in 1854 to signal its allocation of more space for serialised fiction, embraced in its subtitle’s reference to ‘Popular Literature’. The second, dated 14 April 1860, has a more explicit purpose. It was written in response to the controversy prompted by a pamphlet accusing life assurance companies of shady practices. What is notable about both of these supplements is the lack of textual evidence for them within the regular issue that they supposedly supplement. Without such evidence, it is difficult to state whether these two supplements are the only ones published in the Leader, or whether others were issued that we do not have.

Although the supplements discussed so far were issued on an occasional basis with regular issues, two of our supplements were published annually. The English Catalogue of Books is a list of all books published for the previous year, giving details of author, title, price, size and publisher. It also gives the month in which the book was published, allowing readers to cross reference the English Catalogue with the Publishers’ Circular to find out more information about its publication. The English Catalogue, then, functions as an index to the Publishers’ Circular. At 5s, it was only a shilling less than a year’s subscription to the Publishers’ Circular but, as the Publishers’ Circular did not publish an index, it was an invaluable resource for navigating its often bulky volumes. This supplement reflects the trade paper genre of the Publishers’ Circular, as the Catalogue functioned practically within the book trade, as well as an Index to its parent publication.

The other annual supplements that appear within ncse are the Tomahawk almanacks. These were based upon Punch’s almanacks, published in the December of each year since 1846. Like Punch’s almanacks, Tomahawk’s were a separate publication published in December. They cost 3d – a penny more than regular issues of the title – but contained five colour cartoons and many other engravings. It seems that the first almanack was more difficult to produce than Á Beckett realized: advertisements for the almanack began to appear from the beginning of November onwards; in issue number 30 (30 November 1867) they give 5 December as a publication date; but the almanack itself did not appear until the 12 December.

Although some supplements were linked to the appearance of regular issues, the extraordinary issue of the Northern Star and the annual supplements of Tomahawk and Publishers’ Circular complicate the publishing rhythms of their respective titles. Publications like the almanacks and the English Catalogue are like front and end matter, components that appear annually, punctuating the weekly series of regular issues. Such supplements demand that we reconsider what actually constitutes the titles. Supplements such as those to the June and July 1832 issues of the Unitarian Chronicle seem to suggest that it is the regular dated and numbered issues that are the actual contents of the journal. However, the Unitarian Chronicle itself is a supplement to the Monthly Repository, positing an identity with it even while being issued separately from it. Finally, of course, there are the annual supplements whose appearance marks another manifestation of the serial: the volume. For further comments on how the different forms of serial texts guided our editorial strategy, click here.


Most publications in the nineteenth century carried advertisements. However, advertisements were pejoratively connected with the material world of trade and commerce, and editors frequently grouped them together in order to separate them from other types of implicitly more elevated content. The most effective way of doing this was to print advertisements on an advertising wrapper that, because it consisted of pages outside the paginated letterpress that contained the content, was easily identifiable as separate from the ‘real’ issue itself. Moreover, wrappers physically protected the content inside them from damage during distribution. Such publishing strategies legitimated the practice of those archivists who habitually stripped publications of advertising material prior to binding them for preservation in libraries and archives. Publishers themselves stripped them out for their annual or bi-annual publication of periodicals in volume form. Thinner copy reduced binding expenses and cover price. Yet wrappers, carrying the bulk of the advertising material so important for financing a publication, are crucial parts of the economy of serial publication. Arguably, for the original readers, information in advertising wrappers made up part of the news and interest of issues. Moreover, publishers and editors themselves often used wrappers to publish Addresses or Notes to their readers. The wrappers, therefore, contain vital historical information about the role of the serials in nineteenth-century commodity culture.

In ncse we are lucky in that we have some of the wrappers for two of our weeklies, Publishers’ Circular and Tomahawk. The Leader also chooses to rearrange its advertising department into a wrapper in July 1858. In the issue for 17 July 1858 the editors insist that this move has been at the request of readers but note that such a move will make ‘the volume more convenient for binding’ while also ‘offering additional advantages to advertisers.’ Yet the layout of the wrapper in the Leader is different than the wrappers in Tomahawk or Publishers’ Circular. In both of those titles the wrapper has its own pagination and so doesn’t interfere with the page sequence that runs through all the regular issues in a volume. Equally, both titles make clear with a prominent masthead where the issue ‘proper’ begins. As you can see by clicking here neither of these features are taken up in the Leader and, to make matters more complicated, its closing wrapper covers three pages while the opening – as one would expect – only covers two. This makes the Leader wrapper more like two sections of advertisements that open and close the issue, rather than a form of content that represents itself as being supplementary to it. To read more about how we incorporated wrappers within the edition click here.