Great news for Benchley addicts! Google has begun to scan and display the contents of vintage magazines, including Liberty, where a lot of Mr. Benchley’s articles appeared. They're available at the Google books web site (books.google.com) a wonderful, but still relatively little-known, online resource. (In fact, the Liberty articles are taken not from the original 1930s issues, but rather from 1970s reprints, so called "Nostalgia" Liberty magazines featuring the best of past issues. Not all of the original Benchley Liberty articles are available yet.)
For example, Benchley’s article, Defying the Conventions, from the June 4th, 1932 issue of Liberty, appears with its original illustration and interesting period ads.
To see the magazine hits, just do a simple search at books.google.com, and you’ll get relevant magazine hits listed among the book hits. But better yet, you can isolate just the magazine hits by first going to “advanced search” and clicking on “magazines.” (I got 77 magazine hits for “Robert Benchley”).
I also did an advanced search for “Dorothy Parker” and discovered, among the 146 hits, her August 16th, 1924 Liberty article, Every Woman an Interior Decorator. Again, this scan is from a 1970s reprint.
The Google magazine scanning program is brand new (it began in December, 2008), so many more magazine issues will undoubtedly be added to the list over the coming months. Currently you can search back issues of such titles as Liberty, ("nostalgia" reprints only, so far),Popular Mechanics, New York, Jet, and The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. (Now there’s an interesting combination of titles!)
The magazine article scanning program is part of a major copyright agreement that Google recently reached with publishers to make information from out-of-print books and old magazines available online. The Google blog site has an article about the agreement: Search and find magazines on Google Book Search. By the way, Google notes on their site that they have received copyright permission to display these scanned articles.
Speaking of Google, Gordon Ernst informs me that there is a great set of Life magazine photographs of Robert Benchley performing in a radio show. You can see them here. Thanks, Gordon!
- Chris Morgan