‘Runs’ refer to the successive numbers of a title which appear regularly, and have usually survived in bound volumes in library collections. However, it is common that the span of a serial’s life has a variety of markers which punctuate it, and characterise it formally at particular tranches of its duration. For example, titles are often divided into Series, described either by numbers (eg 1st Series, 2nd Series, 3rd Series) or by the term New Series (often abbreviated ns). Runs sometimes have vertical additions to the succession of regular numbers; these include supplements and/or multiple editions as are seen in this edition in the Northern Star and the Leader (which have both), or in the Monthly Repository, which allows a new title (the Unitarian Chronicle) to piggy-back on its monthly issues.

Readers of serials that have survived in volume form should be aware that volumes do not necessarily reflect the run as it was initially published. If serial volumes are compiled and bound by their original publishers, it is likely that covers, advertising supplements or wrappers, and some other paratextual materials are removed and/or excluded. Multiple editions of single issues do not normally appear in such bound volumes. Other materials found in Volumes, such as Volume title pages, Volume Tables of Content and/or Indexes are often additional or optional to periodical issued over the year.

If runs are bound by libraries or individuals from single issues collected over the run, then the contents of volumes may be more inclusive and variable. For example, the British Library volumes of the Northern Star include multiple editions, but in no clear or designated order; this is also the case with the multiple editions of the Leader we include in ncse, in which case it can be seen how unsystematic the inclusion of two editions is. Apart from a short period of just over two years, when the Leader had clearly designated Town and Country editions, it is often difficult to know which edition is bound first. With respect to the Monthly Repository its Supplement, the Unitarian Chronicle, was bound separately, and appears in the British Library catalogue and on the shelves as an independent title, perhaps because it did eventually break free of its host publication into independent status. As it is, we are unclear whether the Unitarian Chronicle was ever sewn into its host when they were originally circulated, or whether it was simply slipped in. Moreover, binders in libraries or private persons sometimes place Tables of Contents, illustrations and Indices in the wrong order in volumes, or attach them to the wrong issues. We need to be aware that the representation of runs in bound volumes represents convention, in the case of the publishers’ volumes, and to a certain extent haphazard selection and order in the case of volumes bound individually by libraries or readers.

Some specific positions in runs tend to be most informative about the nature of titles and changes within them; these include the beginning of runs, when manifestos are often reprinted (having appeared before launches as separate publications or as announcements in other serials), and self-assessments are in evidence; often new journals publish feedback in the form of snippets from reviews, attached to adverts for the new title as quotations, or correspondence about the new publication. Such reflexive material may also appear at the ends of runs, at anniversaries of the launch, at the start of volumes or years, at the commencement of new series or on the occasion of a change of title, both of which may themselves signal a change of proprietor, editor and/or publisher.

Changes of title in runs of serials are commonplace, and often represent changes of editorial policy and/or attempts to attract a different or broader readership. In ncse in order to represent this dual state of change within continuity, we have opted for a generic title (eg, the Leader or the Northern Star) to designate the complete run of each serial, and the specific, historical titles that attach to individual issues, which record accurately as they occur any changes in title. These are also signalled and discussed in head notes.