The last time I volunteered with the book conservators working at Calke Abbey, we stumbled upon the first volume of this wonderful monthly periodical. Rudolph Ackermann’s The repository of the arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, or Ackermann’s Repository for short, was published in 40 volumes between 1809 and 1829. It’s aim was to provide information not only about the latest fashions, but also about current affairs, law, agriculture, medicine, sports, furniture etc. Each volume included copious colour illustrations and even fabric samples. The cover price in 1817 was 4s.; according to Rachel Knowles, this was the equivalent of £11 in 2010. The periodical was intended to be a one-stop shop for the dedicated followers of fashion during the Regency era (1795-1834), and it’s perhaps not a surprise that it was dedicated to George, Prince of Wales (1762-1830), known for his patronage of the arts.
The colour of the illustrations in the Calke volume was still pretty amazing and the majority of fabric samples, displayed on slightly ostentatious allegorical woodcuts, were still present. The samples were included to advertise British manufacturers – textile production was one of the main sectors expanding rapidly during the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. The introduction of manufacturing on a truly industrial scale also brought about social and political change: alongside the ‘old’ wealth of the aristocracy, this period saw a rise in ‘new’ wealth among enterprising industrialists and merchants. Rudolph Ackermann, a German saddler and coach-builder who’d set up as a printer and publisher in London in 1795, spotted the opportunity for publishing a periodical that would inform the aspiring nouveau riche of the latest trends in fashion and society at large, and that celebrated these industrialists’ achievements.
The fact that some of these periodicals also turn up among the collections of established upper class families such as the Crewes at Calke suggests that even the gentry considered it a useful publication for staying up to date.