Post Office and Censorship

The relationship between the eligibility for mailing privileges and the restriction of literary and artistic expression in the little magazine is direct in 39 US Code 4354(b). This section of the law reads, “the word ‘printed’ does not include reproduction by the stencil, mimeograph, or hectograph processes or reproduction in imitation of typewriting.” Interestingly, the definition of the periodical for mailing purposes was revised in 1960. I have been unable to determine if the language discriminating against mimeo and other similar processes was on the books before then. It would be very telling if this section on mimeo was enacted in 1960 proving that the mimeo revolution was making a large impact on the hearts and minds of the American public despite its small print runs.

In any case, the law demonstrates how much of the little magazine revolution operated outside of not only the academy and publishing industry but also the sponsorship of the government. Poor writers who had access to new publishing technologies were restricted in the dissemination of their product by having to pay full mailing rates, while mainstream magazines, often with a mainstream message, received those benefits. Again as with magazine like Aspen, which was declared not eligible due to it format (a box not a codex), the law restricted the means of magazine production encouraging conformity in presentation and thus content. The laws discriminating against mimeo may explain why artists and writers, such as Leroi Jones who dabbled in mimeo in Floating Bear, chose to publish their magazines, like Kulchur or Yugen, using offset printing technology instead of other accessible technologies. For radical, counterculture magazines like Fuck You, the very act of printing in mimeo becomes an act of rebellion and a casting off of the government’s sponsorship.



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