Maria Damkjær – University of Copenhagen


Page fillers and hidden advertising in nineteenth-century British periodicals and literature

Project description:

The history of product placement begins in the nineteenth century. Editors of the new mass-distributed British periodicals had to fill their pages, and they often had other publications to flog as well. Some well-known periodicals were initially launched with the primary aim of circulating the publisher’s book list. As a result, it was sometimes difficult to tell where the periodical ended and the advertisements began. This project examines the cross-fertilization between advertisements, periodicals texts and literary fiction in British print culture between 1830 and 1860. In this period, the periodical market expanded dramatically, and the project shows how editors, in order to fill their pages and sell their copies, engaged in plagarism, mimicry and sheer deviousness, mixing up genres and promoting hidden agendas. Similarly, advertising began to talk advantage of the possibilities of print technology to mimic other genres: the image above is an 1852 advertisment for Lloyd’s London Newspaper which mimics the well-known painting ‘Waiting for the Times’ (1831) by Benjamin Robert Haydon. Advertisements could, themselves, become desirable by increasing their artistic value or by jokingly referring to well-known visual or semantic tropes.

The project examines:

  • Page fillers in popular periodicals
  • Hidden advertising
  • Advertisments which mimicked ‘high-status’ genres
  • Literary fiction which mixes advertising within its pages