Pre-search: The spreadsheet

In this post I turn more specifically to the matter which prompted this series of posts: the cataloguing of the Dirk Bogarde Collection. I always like to start a project with a spreadsheet since this allows for data to be recorded systematically, legibly, and to be reorganised according to various categories if desired. It would also be the neatest may to share information on the collection with the BFI.  I got cracking on this even before the collection came. I began by thinking about which categories were necessary for the BFI. Their concern is to have accurate information on each magazine as a whole, including its condition. These aspects have not played much of a role in my previous magazine research, since it has been more content-based.  This was also my focus here, particularly in relation to Bogarde, though seeing the magazines in full gives a good opportunity to judge them for recurring features and broad similarities and difference between magazines.  Such insights can help us form a bigger picture of the magazine industry.


I also consulted Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman’s work on periodicals: Modernism in the Magazines (2010). Despite its focus on a specific type of magazine, the book’s chapter on ‘How to Study a Modern Magazine’ covers more broadly applicable concerns like the implied reader, circulation, regular contributors, contents, editor, format, history  (pp. 146-148). This led me to decide to include a number of categories.  For the BFI I especially wanted to note aspects which would help in identifying a specific magazine, because not all magazine titles are unique: sometimes we have to use other information to pin down exactly which publication we are dealing with so that the BFI could compare it to its current holdings.  The other essential matter was the condition of the material. If there is duplication between the BFI’s holding and the Dirk Bogarde Collection they need to be able to judge whether the magazine in the latter was in better shape and could therefore replace the one currently held at the BFI.

The categories which I thought would be especially helpful to the BFI (though of course many of these were also essential, or at least helpful, to me) comprise: Magazine Title; Date; Volume; Number; Type of Material (I thought not all the material would be magazines as it could include newspapers,  and even if they were magazines I could note whether it was a film magazine (perhaps more specifically a fan magazine), women’s, fashion, lifestyle, men’s etc); Frequency (e.g. weekly, monthly etc); Publisher; Country; Language; Number of Pages; Condition (a grading of 1 at worst to 5 at best); Condition Notes (this allows more detail of the previous category, such as noting if pages were missing, stuck, together, stained, if the binding was intact, any pen marks and cut outs etc).

I supplemented the spreadsheet with several categories for my own purposes. Since I am also interested in the magazine industry I thought that it would be good to note the price of publications. This means we can see how prices varied between different publications at the same time. In broad terms we can judge which were at the ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ ends of the market – and whether these were ‘in reach’ for much of the public (i.e. not too expensive). We can also see the difference between the types of magazines (were men’s magazines generally dearer than women’s?) and how prices for the market as a whole, and in relation to specific titles, changed over time.  Most of the categories I added related to Bogarde. These included the specific pages on which he appeared; the type of this coverage (e.g. a cover, article, portrait, film advertisement, film review etc); the coverage title (although this was not always present); the coverage author (if available). I also thought it best to include a ‘Notes’ category for anything relating to the magazine, or Bogarde, which was worth recording but did not fit the other categories.

Before the collection was due to arrive, I was able to partially trial the categories I had decided on by referring to the wonderful Dirk Bogarde website. In the magazines section photographs of the cover of a magazine and Dirk-related material are provided, with the text also transcribed. (While the context of an entire magazine is helpful, the handiness of the website for Bogarde fans and scholars means can get straight to the mot pertinent coverage.) This is arranged by year, and so I addressed the magazines by date. There would of course be gaps (most obviously the number of pages and the condition) but these could be added later.  While I am presuming there will be a certain amount of overlap between the website and the physical collection I decided to add a category noting if the magazine was on the website.  This means that any magazines appearing in addition, or indeed any not present in the collection but on the website, could be noted.

Do leave a comment, or email me, Sarah Polley, on if you’d like to engage in debate – especially regarding spreadsheets and cataloguing.

(by Dr Sarah Polley)

In the next instalment: the collection arrives….

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