From Pen to Feather: The Transformation of La Plume into a Limited Company

  • Philipp Leu University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin


The Parisian literature and art magazine La Plume (1889–1914) has been traditionally considered a ‘petite revue’. This article shows its transformation from a specialized magazine made by writers for writers into a key actor of late-nineteenth-century culture, particularly under the entrepreneurial leadership of Léon Deschamps (1863–99), its first editor. At its beginnings, La Plume made the most of a productive formula that used subscriptions to sustain publication, like other literary reviews of the time. But it also integrated isolated practices into a larger system, able to produce synergetic effects that would prove profitable. As the magazine turned its back to the literary underground, it became a limited company, introduced some of its collaborators into the dailies’ editorship, and promoted art and artists, exhibitions and social events, it addressed a broader, more fashionable bourgeois readership, particularly women. This step marks an interesting turn in periodical history and throws up unforeseen issues, examined on the basis of unpublished documents from the magazine’s archives. The study sheds light on the importance of financial factors in the creation of literature and art periodicals, and links changes in form and content with concrete commercial strategies. La Plume represents an interesting case study of business transformation. Not only did it succeed, it also guaranteed a sustainable and expandable economic model rooted in communication strategies.

Author Biography

Philipp Leu, University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin

Philipp Leu earned his PhD in 2016 on ‘Digitisation and cultural heritage of fin-de-siècle literature and art reviews (France, Great Britain, Germany)’ from the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin. Supervised by Evanghelia Stead, he worked in partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France with the support of the Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine. He focuses on the complex relationship between form and content in periodicals, and collective artistic expressions as incubators of cultural innovation.