Venus' Miscellany • Rich, Rare and Racy Reading

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venus_misc003.jpg Sunday, April 5th’s New York Times Book Review includes a notice of the following by Professor Donna Dennis of Rutgers School of Law — Newark:

Licentious Gotham: Erotic Publishing and Its Prosecution in Nineteenth-Century New York (Harvard University Press, 2009). [See announcement and excerpt (pdf)]

In preparing her study, Professor Dennis used the Library’s copy of Venus’ Miscellany.
New-York : J. Ramerio & Co., [alias for George Akarman]
“A weekly journal of wit, love and humor.”
Editors: Ramerio & Clarke, <1857>.
Library has issues for May 9, 16, 23, 30,
June 6, 20, 27, July 4 and 11, 1857.
Location: Rare Books (Ex) Call number: Dulles drawer E2
Electronic access (pdf, large file)

“By the mid-1850s, working out of a series of offices in the vicinity of Nassau Street, [George] Akarman was well on his way to becoming one of the century’s largest producers of pornography, second only to a legendary publisher of bawdy books named William Haines.” (p. 5)

“In 1856, for instance, Akarman decided to launch a new venture, a highly risky, innovative periodical called Venus’ Miscellany. Calculating that he could not sell the magazine in New York without triggering prosecution for obscenity, Akarman planned to market it solely to an upscale audience of out-of-town subscribers, the sort of people who possessed the financial resources and sophistication to negotiate mail-order subscriptions and purchases.” (p.6-7) He told his readers he intended to put the paper “entirely into a subscription circulation, which will insure it to those who want it, and keep it from who do not want it.” (Venus’ Miscellany, Jan. 31, 1857, p. 3)

The index to Licentious Gotham gives the following entries for this ‘weekly journal’: Venus’ Miscellany (magazine), 6, 7, 109, 170-182, 197, 207; contraceptives advertised in, 171-172; “flash” weeklies compared with, 187-188; letters from female readers, 175-179; mail-order sale of, 182-190, 198; prosecutions involving, 190-192, 194; “racy” reading materials advertised in, 173, 174; story excerpts from, 259

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