Monday, June 9, 2008

The Fabulous Pulps 1890's - 1950's











The Pulp Magazine era spanned from the late 1890's to the mid 1950's, bridging the gap in periodical fiction between the story papers and dime novels on one end and the comics and slick magazines on the other, when American thirst for cheap sensational reading matter was tempered to some degree by the new media of television.

Pulps are printed on cheap paper, hence the name, and usually have an alluring glossy cover. They continued some genres- western, adventure. mystery, sports, romance, war and pioneered others like aviation, science fiction and and hard-boiled detective fiction, the latter introducing and nurturing such esteemed writers as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.


The fragile nature of these magazines puts a premium on condition and only a tiny percentage of the original runs have survived. Many also fell victim to the paper drives during the two world wars fought during their heydey.


Until recently, bibliographic information has been sparse. Checklists by Adventure House in Maryland (http://www.adventurehouse.com/) and Bookery Fantasy in Ohio, as well as ongoing annual conventions of a small but devoted following of collectors and dealers have been extremely helpful, and pulps are consistently among the highest priced magazines on eBay. A magnificent coffee-table book "Pulp Culture"by Frank Robinson and Lawrence Davidson provides a wonderful and graphic overview.


Perhaps the most valuable example, and the most valuable single issue of any twentieth-century magazines is the first appearance of Tarzan in All-Story in 1912. Rare and desireable issues of other pulps often fetch thousands of dollars.



The universe of pulps is about 1000 titles. This writer's ten-year zealous quest to obtain the first issue of each and every one has now reached over 800 titles, though the prospects for completion are dim. Illustrated above are but a few of the most interesting, rare and graphic examples.