Science in the 19th Century Periodical

The Academy. A Monthly Record of Literature, Learning, Science and Art, 1869–1916


Volumes 1–2, 1869–71


Charles Edward Cutts Birch Appleton, 1869–79


John Murray, 1869–70
Charles Edward Cutts Birch Appleton, 1870–73


William Clowes and Son, 1869–73


6d (1869)


Demy 4to.


30 (1869), 28 (1870), 20 (1871)


Monthly (1869), Fortnightly (1871)


15,000 (1869), 3,000 (1871)


All volumes


Sheffield University Library (vols. 1–2)


Titlepage of the Academy, volume 1 (1869-70).  Reproduced by kind permission of Leeds University Library.

    Prompted in part by the academic reforms demanded by Matthew Arnold and Mark Pattison, the Academy's founding editor Charles Appleton (1841–79) aimed to supply Britain with the same standards of intellectual authority that had long been provided on the Continent by national institutions like the Académie Française. While such Continental academies received generous state funding, Appleton proposed instead to concentrate the nation's intellectual forces 'by means of a periodical subjected, after the English manner, to the economic conditions of supply and demand' (Appleton 1873, p. 462). The actual difficulty of returning a profit from such an uncompromisingly highbrow publication, however, would soon sour Appleton's relations with the Academy's more practically-minded publisher John Murray (1808–92), who relinquished control of the loss-making journal after only a year in protest at Appleton's principled, but morally and commercially questionable, neutrality on theological matters. The utilitarian constraints of a competitive periodical marketplace, moreover, would continue to hamper Appleton's ambitious plans to establish the Academy, of which he was the sole proprietor for the next three years, at the very centre of British, and even European, intellectual life. With the circulation of the sixpenny monthly plummeting from an initial sale of 15,000 copies in October 1869 to just 3,000 copies by January 1871, the Academy was largely dependent on the income generated by advertisements, which occupied twenty pages in the opening number and led to complaints from scholarly readers inconvenienced by this 'overwhelming mass of advertisements' (quoted in Paston 1932, p. 214). Murray's acrimonious departure, as well as the Academy's continuing failure to attract sufficient readers from beyond the academic community, squeezed even the revenue received from advertisers, and Appleton's self-proclaimed flagship of intellectual higher journalism relied on occasional subsidies from sympathetic subscribers and struggled to remain financially afloat throughout its existence.

Academy 1 (1869-70), 13.  Reproduced by kind permission of Leeds University Library.

    Appleton himself was a reform-minded Oxford don who had been imbued with an inclusive Hegelian approach to knowledge whilst studying in Heidelberg and Berlin, and the journal that he began shortly after returning to England was organized according to the German concept of Wissenschaft, grouping together information on the latest researches in various scholarly fields within the Academy's crowded double-column pages. At the same time, the division of the journal into separate disciplinary sections such as 'Science and Philosophy' and 'Classical and Modern Philology', as well as the stipulation that signed reviews should be by known experts in the particular field, nevertheless helped contribute to the increasingly specialized nature of academic research in this period. Defining itself in opposition to the shallow society gossip allegedly featured in the Athenaeum, the Academy sought to combine the formats of the French Revue Critique and the German Centralblatt für Deutschland and provide British readers with both long reviews as well as pithy reports, abstracts and news items that would be equally distinguished by their seriousness, accuracy, and, above all, cosmopolitan awareness of international developments in the particular subject. Notably, the Academy initially defined itself as 'A Record' rather than a review (this rather forbidding term was dropped, along with the journal's Latin motto, in May 1874), and even as eminent a reader as Charles Darwin found its 'splendid' notices of the contents of 'foreign journals and transactions' so useful and informative that he expressed a wish that the journal could 'come out fortnightly' (Darwin 1903, vol. 1, p. 317). This was in fact precisely the mode of publication that Appleton adopted once he took over all aspects of the Academy's management in January 1871, offering readers twenty pages every other week rather than the previous twenty-eight pages a month, although the price of each number remained at sixpence.

Academy 1 (1869-70), 16.  Reproduced by kind permission of Leeds University Library.

    With his wide-ranging scholarly interests and extensive contacts both at Oxford and the fashionable Savile Club in London, Appleton was able to recruit many eminent contributors to the Academy, and the opening number featured signed reviews by Arnold, Pattison, T. H. Huxley, J. B. Lightfoot and Sir John Lubbock. The imprimatur of the pick of Victorian Britain's intellectual luminaries, who were remunerated generously at the rate of one pound per page, certainly helped sanction the Academy's bold claim, made on the front page of each new number, that the 'mention of New Books, Articles, etc., in our lists is intended as a guarantee of their importance'. However, despite such high calibre contributors, as well as the informative reports and notes that were so appreciated by specialist readers like Darwin, Appleton's aspiration of providing an authoritative organ that could ensure the maintenance of national standards of intellect and taste was never likely to appeal to a sufficiently broad audience, while the emergence of more specialized scientific journals like Nature (1869) and Mind (1876) provided still greater competition not only for scarce readers but also for much coveted contributors. Later in the 1870s, the Academy would make various minor concessions to the demands of the market, most notably increasing its general arts and literature coverage and also becoming a fourpenny weekly in 1874, but Appleton, who continued to serve as editor until his death from pulmonary disease in 1879, remained largely oblivious to the interests of the general reading public and endeavoured to maintain the same exclusive standards of taste and intellect embodied in the journal's original high-minded motto: 'Inter silvas academi quaerere verum [Truth is to be found among the woods of the academy]'.

Notes on Indexing

Academy 1 (1869-70), 73.  Reproduced by kind permission of Leeds University Library.

    The format of the Academy was modified continuously during the two year period covered by the initial two volumes, most notably in moving from a monthly to a fortnightly schedule of publication, but also in the regular re-categorization of the subjects included in the journal's different disciplinary sections, with comparative philology, for instance, at times falling within the remit of the 'Science and Philosophy' department and on other occasions appearing in a specific section on 'Oriental and Comparative Philology'. While, of course, most of the material in the Academy relating to science, technology and medicine was confined to the 'Science and Philosophy' section, which was truncated to 'Physical Science' or occasionally just 'Science' when the journal went fortnightly in January 1871, it is nevertheless important to recognize what Gillian Beer has described as the Academy's 'wonderfully inclusive ideal of free intellectual movement between disciplinary forms' (Beer 2004, p. 182). Scientific references and allusions in every one of the Academy's numerous and constantly shifting disciplinary sections have therefore been included in the SciPer Index, revealing, for instance, the discussion of subjects like the 'incongruity of a Jayasthalian Guru being described as "a physiologico-philosophico-psychologico-materialist"' in fiction reviews in the 'General Literature and Art' department, as well as the earnest consideration of the evolutionary origins of language in the 'Oriental and Comparative Philology' section. Given the extraordinary quantity and density of the scientific material which the Academy published in the early 1870s, it is tempting to restrict attention to merely those sections of the journal explicitly concerned with science, but the inclusive indexing of each department, no matter how apparently unpromising, sheds light on the often messy and arbitrary boundaries that were being drawn between different disciplines in this period, as well as the central role of the Academy in this hugely significant process in Victorian intellectual life. Inevitably, such inclusive indexing is extremely labour intensive, and the Index covers only the first two years of the Academy's existence, although the eventful period of 1869 to 1871 does give a sense of how the journal would continue to treat scientific subjects for much of the following decade and even beyond.

    While the Academy was divided into separate disciplinary departments, each of these sections was, in turn, sub-divided between one or two lengthy signed reviews, often written by eminent intellectual celebrities, and several columns of brief anonymous notes, abstracts and reports, which were generally compiled by younger, less well-known contributors. In indexing these divergent forms of scientific content, it has proved necessary to provide interpretative summaries of many, though not all, of the longer reviews, while merely providing an outline of which subjects were mentioned in the regular, and often immensely detailed, news-digests of subjects like botany in the 'Scientific Notes' sub-section. Additionally, details of persons, institutions and publications mentioned in these scientific news-digests have been included in the Index only when they are either especially prominent in the particular item, or are relevant to issues and topics discussed elsewhere in the journal or to the wider scientific concerns of the period.


    [Appleton, Charles] 1873. 'To the Reader', Academy, 4, 461–62

    Beer, Gillian 2004. 'The Academy: Europe in England', in Science Serialized: Representations of the Sciences in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, ed. by Sally Shuttleworth and Geoffrey Cantor, Dibner Institute Studies in the History of Science and Technology, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 181–98

    Brake, Laurel 1994. 'From Critic to Literary Critic: The Case of The Academy, 1869', in Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender and Literature in the Nineteenth Century, London: Macmillan, 36–50

    Darwin, Francis, ed. 1903. More Letters of Charles Darwin, 2 vols, London: John Murray

    Heyck, T. W. 1982. The Transformation of Intellectual Life in Victorian England, London: Croom Helm

    Paston, George 1932. At John Murray's: Records of a Literary Circle, 1843–1892, London: John Murray

    Roll-Hansen, Diderik 1957. The Academy 1869–1879: Victorian Intellectuals in Revolt, Anglistica, 8, Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger

Gowan Dawson