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Front page of The Gentleman's Magazine, May 1759
The Gentleman's Magazine was a monthly magazine founded in London, England, by Edward Cave in January 1731. It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, until 1922. It was the first to use the term magazine (from the Frenchmagazine, meaning "storehouse") for a periodical.Samuel Johnson's first regular employment as a writer was with The Gentleman's Magazine.
The original complete title was The Gentleman's Magazine: or, Trader's monthly intelligencer. Cave's innovation was to create a monthly digest of news and commentary on any topic the educated public might be interested in, from commodity prices to Latin poetry. It carried original content from a stable of regular contributors, as well as extensive quotations and extracts from other periodicals and books. Cave, who edited The Gentleman's Magazine under the pen name "Sylvanus Urban", was the first to use the term magazine (meaning "storehouse") for a periodical. Contributions to the magazine frequently took the form of letters, addressed to "Mr. Urban". The iconic illustration of St. John's Gate on the front of each issue (occasionally updated over the years) depicted Cave's home, in effect, the magazine's "office".
Before the founding of The Gentleman's Magazine, there were specialized journals, but no such wide-ranging publications (although there had been attempts, such as The Gentleman's Journal, which was edited by Peter Motteux and ran from 1692 to 1694).
Samuel Johnson's first regular employment as a writer was with The Gentleman's Magazine. During a time when parliamentary reporting was banned, Johnson regularly contributed parliamentary reports as "Debates of the Senate of Magna Lilliputia". Though they reflected the positions of the participants, the words of the debates were mostly Johnson's own. The name "Columbia", a poetic name for America coined by Johnson, first appears in a 1738 weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament in the magazine.
A skilled businessman, Edward Cave developed an extensive distribution system for The Gentleman's Magazine. It was read throughout the English-speaking world and continued to flourish through the 18th century and much of the 19th century under a series of different editors and publishers. It went into decline towards the end of the 19th century and finally ceased general publication in September 1907. However, issues consisting of four pages each were printed in very small editions between late 1907 and 1922 in order to keep the title formally "in print".
Top half of Volume One, Issue One, published January 1731
1731-1735 The Gentleman's Magazine or Monthly Intelligencer
1736-1833 The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle
1834-1856 (June) New Series: The Gentleman's Magazine
1856 (July)-1868 (May) New Series: The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review
1868 (June)-1922 Entirely New Series: The Gentleman's Magazine
In addition to an index for each year of The Gentleman's Magazine, which was usually published with the December issue of the magazine, a full index was compiled by the College of Arms and typed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. This 75-volume index, covering the years 1731-1850, gives the full name and an abbreviated reference to the date, event, and any other person(s) in each entry. The index is available at the Family History Library (FHL) under the call number 942 B2g Index, and is also available on microfilm (#599738-#599761) or microfiche (#6026701). In addition to the index, the FHL also has the magazine itself available in various formats.
An abstract of the "chief contents of The Gentleman's Magazine from 1731 to 1868" was published by George L. Gomme in 1891. He describes it as "excerpts from the original publications containing local history and information, topographical details, and family history are presented here, organized into volumes by county". Gomme's work has been digitized and indexed by Ancestry.com and is available online to Ancestry subscribers or at subscribing libraries.
A four-volume set of indexes was compiled by Samuel Ayscough (Assistant Librarian of the British Museum) with some assistance or later editing by John Nichols and by Gabriel Richard. The contents of these indexes are given as:
Volume 1 - 1731 - 1786 (published by Samuel Ayscough)
Index to the essays, dissertations and historical passages (494 pp.)
Index to poetry (62 pp.)
Index to names (239 pp.)
Index to plates (10 pp.)
Index to books (118 pp.)
Volume 2 - 1787 - 1818 (published by John Nichols)
Index to the essays, dissertations and historical passages (486 pp.)
Index to poetry (57 pp.)
Index to names (519 pp.)
Index to plates (17 pp.)
Index to books (103 pp.)
Index to books announced (13 pp.)
Index to musical publications (3 pp.)
Volume 3 - 1731 - 1818 (published by John Nichols)
Index to plates (239 pp.)
Volume 4 - 1731 - 1780 (published by the British Record Society)
Index to names and surnames (687 pp.)
Volume 2 includes an "Index of Names to the Marriages, Births, Deaths, Promotions, &c." covering 1731-1786, and volume 4 contains an "Index of Names of Persons" covering 1731-1818. The indexes are by surname only and are available online for free through Google Books:
Ayscough, Samuel; Nichols, John. "General Index to the Gentleman's Magazine" Nichols, 1789. Vol. 2. Free digital version at Google Books (follow link to page 64, which is followed by the index, which is numbered as page 1). Indexes names from Vol. 1 "To the End of the LVIth Volume of the Gentleman's Magazine" and covers 1731-1786.
Ayscough, Samuel; Nichols, John. (sometimes Richard, Gabriel) "General Index to the Gentleman's Magazine 1787-1818" Nichols, 1821. Vol. 3. Free digital version at Google Books
David Dobson gleaned references to American births, marriages, and deaths from The Gentleman's Magazine and published it as American Vital Records from the Gentleman's Magazine, 1731-1868 (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987).
A few partial indexes to genealogical events in The Gentleman's Magazine are also available:
Fry, Edward Alexander. "Index to the Marriages in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1731-1768" (London:[s.n.], 1922)
Fry, Edward Alexander. "Index to the Biographical and Obituary Notices in Gentleman's Magazine, 1731-1780" (London: British Records Society, 1891)
Marriages from The Gentleman's Magazine for the years 1731 to 1768 were included in Boyd's Marriage Index.
Obituaries were included in Musgrave's Obituaries.
Joseph Foster's index to marriages includes marriages from this periodical, as well as from The Times (1865-1880 only) and the Historical Register; but covers surname beginning Aa-Alexander only.
Bodleian Library's Internet Library of Early Journals offers an online subject search tool for the years 1731-1750.
Bond, Donald. "Review: The Gentleman's Magazine" Modern Philology (1940) 38#1 pp. 85-100 in JSTOR.
Carlson, C. Lennart. The First Magazine. A History of the Gentleman's Magazine, with an Account of Dr. Johnson's Editorial Activity and of the Notice Given America in the Magazine (Brown University Press, 1938), 281pp