Instructions for Authors

West 86th is a semiannual journal published by the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) with the University of Chicago Press. It is devoted to the examination and interpretation of decorative arts, design history, and material culture, without restriction as to media, culture, era, or geographic location. Using a wide range of methods, it interprets these fields in light of economic, social, political, and cultural history. The journal addresses decorative arts as documents of material culture and as subjects of connoisseurship. All article submissions are subject to double-blind peer assessment by international authorities.

The journalis published in print and online (hosted by the University of Chicago Press and JSTOR), and it is also the starting point for West 86th Online, an open-access Web site of related projects. The print content of the journal includes the following:

  • Scholarly articles of up to 8,000 words including notes; each article should be accompanied by an abstract of up to 150 words
  • Primary source translations of up to 5,000 words
  • Book, catalogue, and exhibition reviews of up to 2,500 words
  • Review articles of up to 8,000 words
  • Research inquiries of up to 150 words
  • Letters to the editor of up to 1,000 words

Longer texts will also be considered, although the longer format must be justified and longer pieces may experience more delay in being considered and published in the journal.

West 86th Online publishes further textual, illustrative, audio, and video content, focusing particularly on exhibition reviews. There are no word-count limits for online publication. We encourage the use of digital media to present elements such as maps, timelines, and three-dimensional models when the media offer insightful ways of presenting research. West 86th Online includes the following:

  • Exhibition reviews
  • Interviews
  • Notes from the field (letters, conference reports, and announcements)
  • Digital projects
  • Articles

Types of Journal Content


Articles must present significant original scholarship that is previously unpublished (in any language) or new interpretations, and they must explain the significance of the new scholarship and of the article topic itself. They must not be expansions or abbreviations of other articles that approach the topic from the same point of view, either previously published or planned for publication in the future, in any language. Articles must be lucidly structured and support and sustain their points with documented evidence and argument.

Articles may contain up to 8,000 words including notes when referring to publications, exhibitions, and/or specific items when the full details cannot be easily accommodated in the main body of the text. (Footnotes or endnotes may be used.) Long articles should include subheads for major sections of the text. Up to ten illustrations, color as well as black and white, may accompany each article. The illustrations must be submitted according to the guidelines below. Initial submissions must include these separate files:

  • Abstract of 150 words or less and written in the third person
  • Five keywords, including the period, artist/designer, medium, and region covered in the article
  • Author curriculum vitae of one page or less, as well as professional title and institution name to be used in the byline
  • Text and accompanying notes
  • Captions and illustration sources (combined)
  • Images, on CD or as high-quality photocopies. (If your manuscript is accepted for publication, you will be asked to submit high-resolution images on a CD.)

Translated Primary Sources

The journal publishes translations of little-known or obscure primary sources that the editor believes would be useful for research and teaching the history of the decorative arts, design history, and material culture. These texts may be of any length up to 5,000 words and should be accompanied by full citation of sources. The translation should be cleared for copyright, and undertaken by the contributor. The primary source and introductory section will be subject to peer review. When submitting a translation, please include the following:

  • Introductory section explaining the content and its significance.
  • Translated primary source
  • Any required acknowledgments.

Notes should be restricted to the introductory section but, where relevant, may be added to the translated primary source after consultation with the editor.

Review Articles

These should present an overview or particular interpretation of a field of research that may, but does not have to, be based on one or more books in the field. The topics may relate to any aspect or period of the history of design and the decorative arts, architectural studies, museums, and exhibitions—indeed, any of the fields related to the research areas of the BGC and the journal. Review articles should reflect the current state of research in a particular field and should comment critically on it, but the articles are not necessarily expected to offer new findings in primary sources or to present new material related to a particular item or topic, except where this illuminates the wider theme of the article.

Review articles should be written in fluent prose, not the exclusive jargon of a sub-discipline. Where it is employed, technical and subject-specific terminology should be explained. As a model for review articles, the tone, prose style, and detail should be equivalent to that of articles that currently appear in the New York Review of Books or London Review of Books.

Review articles may be between 3,000 and 8,000 words and should be accompanied by notes. Subheadings may be used if appropriate. Up to five illustrations may be included. If more illustrations are required, contact the editor for approval. Initial submissions must include the following separate files:

  • Author curriculum vitae of one page or less, as well as professional title and institution name to be used in the byline
  • Text and accompanying notes
  • Captions and illustration sources (combined)
  • Images, on CD or as high-quality photocopies. If your manuscript is accepted for publication, you will be asked to submit high-resolution images on a CD.

Reviews of Books, Catalogues, Exhibitions, and Built Spaces

These reviews, like articles, must be analytical and interpretive rather than essentially descriptive. (They should not merely summarize the contents, but should include a brief indication of what the whole work is about.) Reviews must evaluate scholarship and explain how the work adds to its field, whether and in what ways the scholarship of the work may be questionable, and whether it takes a controversial position with regard to current opinion. Reviewers are also expected to add their own perspective based on their individual specialties, when this is relevant to the work under review. Judgments must be substantiated with objective evidence and clear reasoning in order to give the original work a balanced and fair assessment.

Reviews should be at least 1,500 words, but usually no more than 2,500 words. They should be longer if more than one work is covered in a single review. No illustrations accompany book or catalogue reviews, but one illustration may be considered for an exhibition or built space review, and more illustrations may be considered if the review is intended for West 86th Online only. Page numbers must be given in parentheses after passages cited from the publication under review.

Book, catalogue, and exhibition reviews must include the following separate files, presented in this order:

  • Author curriculum vitae of one page or less, as well as professional title and institution name to be used in the byline
  • Book, catalogue, or exhibition review heading (see details below)
  • Text and accompanying notes

Each book or catalogue review must be headed with the following information:

  • Full title of the text reviewed
  • Full name of the author
  • Publisher’s name and city
  • Year of publication
  • ISBN
  • Number of pages
  • Whether the book is hardback or paperback (if the work is composed of more than one volume, these details should be given for each volume separately)
  • Price in the currency of the country of the review copy’s publication and, if known, the price in U.S. dollars

Each exhibition review must be headed with the following information:

  • Full title of the exhibition reviewed
  • Gallery’s name and location (city)
  • Exhibition’s opening and closing dates
  • For a touring exhibition, the names of the galleries and dates to follow the event reviewed
  • Citation for corresponding catalogue, if available

For other built space reviews, variable requirements will apply depending on the type of space being discussed—for example, a restaurant or a new extension to an established museum. In these cases, please contact the editor to discuss your review.

Research Inquiries

Requests by scholars for information related to current research are included in a special section, along with calls for conference papers. These inquiries may be up to 150 words long and should state clearly the nature of the topic and the type of information desired. The name and address of the inquirer must be included.

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor that comment on an article or review in the journal are sent by the journal office to the author of the contribution in question, who has the option to reply. Such letters are printed in the journal at the discretion of the commissioning editor. Letters must follow the format and style specified in the guidelines for articles (see above) and, like other contributions, are subject to editing. Letters may contain up to 1,000 words.

Types of Site Content

The BGC is committed to broadcasting a high standard of multimedia content for the presentation of scholarly research, and we hope to spark discussions around the content and the innovative forms it can take through electronic publishing. West 86th Online is an open-access Web site that complements the journal’s main print and electronic distribution (which is subscriber-only and maintained by the University of Chicago Press). West 86th Online is a space where scholars have the opportunity to present material that is related to the journal but also stands alone as insightful criticism: exhibition reviews and walk-throughs, built space reviews, interviews, conference reports, and other multimedia projects.

Digital media submissions will be reviewed by a BGC committee and are subject to the same editing process that print submissions undergo. Images (JPEG, PNG, TIFF, EPS, or PSD), audio (MP3) and video (FLV, WMV, or MOV) clips, three-dimensional models, slide shows, maps, and interactive timelines, as well as text, can all be included on the site. Please contact the editors to discuss your potential Web projects.


All submissions must adhere to the following format requirements:

  • Double space the entire document (this includes text, all quotations, and notes), and use an easily readable typeface and type size. Do not include handwritten notations.
  • Quotations longer than 100 words must be indented at left and right, with a line space added above and below the quotation. Such indented quotations must be double spaced and in the same type size as the rest of the manuscript.
  • Foreign language quotations must be translated into English in the text and given in the original language in notes.
  • If hyperlinks are desired or helpful in the text, insert clear cues of where these links should be placed. Including the full URL of the link destination.
  • Manuscripts of text, notes, and captions (but not illustrations) may be submitted as a Word file (PC, Windows) and transmitted as an e-mail attachment. Illustrations may be submitted as photocopies or as files on a CD, and transmitted by mail. Manuscripts may also be submitted on hard copy if accompanied by a CD with the Word file and with the illustrations on a CD or in photocopy form.

The journal is published in American English, and manuscripts may be submitted in English, French, or German. Please note that French, German, or other foreign-language submissions take more time to review, and so even a draft English translation is preferable. The journal’s arbiter of spelling is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.) is the standard for style, including notes. In all examples in the Manual, use only the style designated N (for notes). (B is used to designate bibliography style, but bibliographies are not used in West 86th.) The BGC also has its own style sheet, based on the Manual, which is supplied to the author once the work has been accepted for publication.

Reference sources should be largely primary rather than secondary. Notes should be identified with Arabic numbers (not small Roman numerals). Authors must verify the accuracy and completeness of all notes before the article is submitted. Please use The Chicago Manual of Style when formatting citations.


Illustrations must be cited in the text and be numbered in the order of their major treatment in the text. Please supply digital art on a CD. The images should be in TIFF format as originals, not converted from any other format. The resolution must be 300 dpi at the size at which they will be reproduced. For example, for an image sized 8.5 by 11 inches, the resolution should be 3,300 by 2,550 dpi.

Complete captions must accompany illustrations and must include name and life dates of the artist or maker, title of the object, when and where the object was made, the medium, the dimensions, and the full credit line required by the owner of the object and the source of the photograph.

Permissions and Copyright

It is the author’s responsibility to secure written permission for worldwide rights, including online publishing, for all content that is not in the public domain. We urge you to emphasize the scholarly context of your work when applying for permissions, as this usually reduces expense. Please do not submit rare or irreplaceable materials.

The BGC can reimburse article authors for permission fees up to $200. The managing editor will help authors follow up with copyright holders, if necessary. If an image is chosen by the editors to feature on the journal’s cover and this decision increases the usage fee, the BGC will pay the difference. Copies of all fully executed documents granting permission to publish the illustrations must be sent to the managing editor. Authors must supply a list of names and addresses of copyright holders that requir e a copy of the published article. These copies will be sent to the institutions by the journal office.

Photographs may not be created from printed publications. Good-quality photocopies of the illustrations may accompany manuscripts when initially submitted. The final photographs, however, must be submitted before an article can be scheduled for publication. All CDs submitted with images can be returned to authors after publication, if requested.

The BGC holds the copyright to content published in West 86th and on West 86th Online.

Contributors do not receive payment for material published in West 86th or on West 86th Online, but authors of articles and translators of primary sources receive three copies of the issue in which their contribution is published. Reviewers receive one copy each. Reprints are also available.

Please direct any questions about these guidelines to Daniel Lee at