Like many teenagers, James Hyman loved magazines. And growing up in the early ‘90s — before widespread internet use — he used them as valuable sources of information for his job as an MTV Europe scriptwriter. From there, his collection of periodicals continued to grow — and grow.
Twenty-five years later — his collection having outgrown his bedroom, spare bedroom, and external storage space — Hyman moved the magazines to a warehouse in southeast London. Today, a collection that started on a young man’s bookshelf consists of more than 5,000 titles and more than 120,000 individual issues. And, according to Guinness World Records, Hyman’s has the distinction of being the largest magazine collection in the world.
“What’s amazing is that this whole thing has just come from one guy who really loved magazines,” said Hyman Curator and Archivist Tory Turk, according to an AnOther article.
The theme of the Hyman Archive, as it is now called, is “popular culture in print,” and it is virtually a museum highlighting changes in pop culture over the years. In fact, the collection contains issues dating from 1850 to the present, and although it started as one young man’s obsession, the archive now accepts donations from publishers and other enthusiasts.
But Hyman insists he’s not interested in making money from the archive. “It’s about a cultural legacy,” he explained, according to the AnOther article.
As the collection continues to grow, archivists are undergoing efforts to bring the archive to those who can’t make the trip to London, alphabetizing the collection prior to digitally archiving the issues. Nonetheless, the collection is a valuable resource that will eventually be available online, indexed, and correctly credited, as a subscription service. “There’s so much inside a magazine which can never be echoed by the videos or by the web,” said Danny Posner, founder of the Vintage Magazine Company, according to The Atlantic.
As a magazine publisher, you may also be well-positioned to begin your own magazine collection. Perhaps you’ve already started. How does your collection stack up to this archive a young man created simply out of his love for the printed word and the culture behind it?
As Hyman has proven, it’s never too early to start. But it’s also never too late, although you might have quite a ways to go to catch up.