Participating in Victorian Science through the Illustrated Periodical

Geoffrey Belknap
University of Leicester

The practice of illustrating Victorian scientific periodicals was
widespread throughout the century. Yet the value, meaning and intent
of these illustrations as objects of scientific evidence within an
essential site of scientific communication is not widely understood.
Focusing on the particular genre of the natural history journal
between 1840-1890, this talk will evaluate the role of illustrations
in offering an access point for the amateur naturalist to participate
in the knowledge community of the Victorian periodical. A key aspect
in this analysis will be to differentiate between authors and readers
of competing periodicals in order to evaluate whether there is an
overlap between contributors and consumers of the Victorian
periodical. This paper will also highlight two methodological
approaches for investigating the role of illustrations – a
qualitative case study analysis of a single illustration – or
related set of illustrations – alongside a quantitative analysis of
all illustrations across a broad range of natural history periodicals.
The latter of these methodologies will highlight the use of
crowd-sourced researchers to aid historical research though the use of
a ‘citizen science’ platform In this way, this
paper will pay particular attention to the category of the
non-professional – in both the 19th and 21st centuries – in order to
better understand the role of the periodical in giving a wide audience
access to the sites of production and reproduction of
nineteenth-century natural history. The focus of the paper – which
will analyse the context, organisation and construction of the images
within the pages of a periodical while also providing an understanding
of its readership – means that it will fall under the thematic
categories of illustration and readership. Moreover, it is the aim of
the paper to establish that to understand the role of illustrations,
historians of the periodical need to simultaneously read the images
themselves, analyse how they were reproduced, and investigate the
various authorial positions of the author, illustrator and engraver.

Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900