What to call this collection of information is problematic. The most commonly used name for the small periodical publications that I have the most direct cultural connection to is "zines". I, however, have never had much enthusiasm for the term because in its beginnings, as I recall, it was considered to be a shortening of "fanzines" (which, of course, was a specialty term shortening of "fan magazines").
I didn't like having "zines" connected to "fanzines" because I thought that "fan" is a term that puts the "fan" lower in a hierarchy in relation to what they're fans of - especially if what they're fans of is celebrity. SO, I've decided to provisionally use the term "(maga)zines" to call attention to the "maga" root instead of the "fan" one.
What even constitutes a "zine" is somewhat ambiguous. Perhaps they're commonly considered to be small edition independent press periodicals published with minimal finances & targetted at subcultures rather than society-at-large.
However, what constitutes much of the above is relative. What's a small edition? No larger than 300? Ok, I accept that as small but I doubt that anyone would challenge that my own "DDC#040.002" #3 qualifies as a zine & I printed that in an edition of 968 (I was aiming for 1,000 but I ran out of some of the materials & never finished the remaining 32). Thanks to such a 'large' edition I still have copies left 31 years later but such an edition would be considered almost unmentionably small by mass media publishers.
Minimal finances? I printed most of "DDC#040.002" #3 myself using a Gestetner mimeograph press. Because of that, each page cost me something like 1 or 2¢ apiece. I had to do a substantial amount of work myself: I was the editor, the designer, the printer, the collator, the binder. The covers were recycled leatherette National Geographic box-set wrappings that I got hundreds of for probably $10 or less.
But other people seem to think they're running on low finances if they only have MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to work with. I disagree with them but the point is that one person's idea of incredible wealth is another person's idea of 'just getting by frugally'.
Despite the apparent categorical emphasis on "zines" here I'll be including newspapers, mainstream magazines, newsletters, journals, & one-offs (publications that aren't periodicals because they only exist in one issue but aren't quite books either). These "one-offs" might fall into the category of "artist's books" or they might not. Again, the definitions are vague & the boundaries are just as vague or vaguer.
Since I'm basically just interested in publications in general I'm organizing here with "(maga)zines" as a very broad umbrella term. I find something like "The Medical Brief" interesting - but the issue I have is from July, 1882 &, therefore, predates the use of the term "zine". Furthermore, it's a journal - it's aimed at a particular subculture, ie: the subculture of medical professionals & fellow travelers, but it's the professional aspect of journals that tends to distinguish them from "zines" in the sense the term is most often used today.
I'm also interested in "The Popular Educator" which is very general in its diversity of subject matter & isn't, therefore, a journal - it's more of an encyclopedia that came in installments but it's not really that either. As "An Authoritative Program of Self-Education", as its cover proclaims, it might be said to be in a spirit similar to a possible value of "zines" as they're currently conceived of.
Then there's "Big Table"? Where does that fit in? It was founded by editors of the "Chicago Review" in 1959 when an issue of that was suppressed because of the nature of the writing. "Big Table" was created to publish what had been banned from the "Chicago Review". It's not a "zine" but its concern with freedom of speech issues is certainly central to many zinster's philosophies.
Zines are said to've grown largely out of mimeographed publications initially made in the 1920s & 1930s by fans of science fiction. But these same fans were often people who went on to fame as SF writers, publishers, & editors. Certainly it's not too far off-track to connect those fanzines with pulp magazines like "Amazing".
It seems to me that one of the values of "zines" is akin to the value of journals insofar as both can offer specialized information that wouldn't appeal to a mass market. Take "The Star", eg, whose purpose was to provide "Training and Education in Hansen's Disease" (ie: leprosy). That's not so far off from David Greenberger's "Duplex Planet" which centered around residents of an old age home.
I even include periodicals just for the sake of their international value. "The Iran Times" was "An Independent Newspaper for the Persian-Speaking Community in the United States and Canada". The issue pictured above is from November 8, 1974, before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, & shows the US-backed Iranian ruler of the time, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, shaking hands with Henry Kissinger, the US National Security Council head. For those of us interested in international political relations such a publication has the potential of being a very interesting source document.
Or then there's the CNT's newspaper ( the "Organo de la Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo" - the "Publication of the National Union of Workers") from June, 1977. The CNT is a very large confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions founded in 1910. After Generalissimo Franco won the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the CNT was outlawed. When Franco died in 1975 & his reign as dictator was finally over, the CNT could resurface. Hence this issue of their Organo would've been one of the earlier ones of their new revival. Again, it's not a "zine" in its current common usage but there are many anarchist zines & the CNT's publication would certainly be an inspiration.
What about allen fisher's series of publications done under the name "spanner"? The above is the cover of the "January 1981 : A Painting" issue. It's part poetry magazine, part artist's book, part Mail Art. Most importantly, perhaps, is that it's a lovingly done publication with content from such mostly English luminaries as cris cheek, Bob Cobbing, Robin Crozier, & Clive Fencott - all active figures in small press publishing.
The publications that I've had work published in are, naturally, the ones I feel a close personal connection to. Take, eg, Nenad Bogdanovic's "Second Manifesto" from July 1985 & made in Yugoslavia. It was a Samizdat publication which is a less vague term than "zine" insofar as it applies specifically to publications that must be produced in secret because of the illegality of their content. Nonetheless, many would probably lump it under the "zines" umbrella these days because of its DIY nature.
Not surprisingly, what's ultimately the most important to me are my own publications such as the "Mike Film Distribution Forms" aka the "Mike Film Form Letters" that I started in 1978 to give away in person & for mailing to people who might do something interesting with the individual frames of super-8mm film that were enclosed as part of each issue. My networking as Mike Film was important enough to me that I even kept a list of who the 1st 78 copies of the 1st Form Letter went to:
Note that I gave Mike Film to people who were either friendly to me or whose work I knew about & was interested in. That included Mail Artists whose addresses I'd gotten from a list such as Anna Banana; creative people whose work I knew of such as Mark Boyle & John Cage; people who I eventually became friends with such as writer Alan Davies; members of the theater group "Plan K"; etc, etc..
The ultimate point here is that I'm less interested in whether (maga)zines or just "zines" is a good umbrella term & more interested in the actual publications that're valuable to me as primary source material - regardless of how they're categorized.
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