I had seen the stark white cover of Lapham’s Quarterly on newsstands for years, but somehow never felt compelled to pick it up until I came across the Magic Shows- themed issue. The cover featured the Eye of Providence, an image I’ve always been drawn to. Once I bought this first copy, I was immediately pulled in by the concept of the magazine. Lapham’s Quarterly collects writing and visual material from all periods of history to address a specific universal topic like Nature, Death, Money, or Religion.
The magazine was founded in 2007 by Lewis Lapham, a former editor at Harper’s. In a New York Times article, he described the target audience as “people who wished they had paid more attention in school.”
The contributors are cleverly laid out in the front as any magazine contributor page would be- with an image and a short bio- and they range from the beginning of time to the present. The current issue’s theme is Comedy and its earliest contributor is Roman poet Juvenal, from c. 105 B.C. Its most recent contributor is Sarah Silverman.
The editor writes an insightful introduction to each theme- in this issue he observes that humans are “the only animal that laughs, but also the only one that is laughed at.”