The Brunonian, the first student publication, appeared in July 1829. Copies of the new publication were brought to the attention of two newspapers in Providence, neither of which was very impressed by its literary quality. The Manufacturers and Farmers Journal was offended by the title, accusing the editors of being “so much attached to latinity, as to reject the letter W because it is not found in the Roman alphabet.” “Brownonian” would have pleased the Journal better. As for the literary quality, “The style of most of the essays is turged (sic) and on that account, obnoxious to criticism ... Before the Brunonian is put to press it should pass under the inspection of some of the officers of the institution, whose duty it is to instruct the students in the art of composing.” The Literary Subaltern, noticing the Brunonian in its pages of July 17, 1829, said, “The work evinces talent, but it is evidently written by individuals who are unpracticed in the field of letters,” and urged these writers not to become discouraged, but to practice their writing. But on July 24, after the Brunonian used the public press to express its dismay at its reception, the Literary Subaltern showed its true colors (and the real reason for its animosity). Protesting that its first opinion of existence of talent was written out of kindness, it reassessed the publication as “decidedly one of the most ridiculous and stupid productions that ever disgraced the press. It contains not a solitary article that would not dishonor the earlier productions of a freshman – it is destitute of originality of thought or conception – its essays are written in violation of all the rules of prosody – they abound with false grammar – they are falsely punctuated, and are destitute of all the graces of rhetoric and Belles Lettres science. ... it is just what might be expected from an institution, which is under the management of such a man as Francis Wayland.” It was a literary magazine, intended to be a monthly, but its appearances at longer intervals came to an end in March 1831 after only twelve issues.
The Brunonian was revived in 1868, first as a quarterly, increasing to six numbers in 1870, appearing every third Saturday in 1874, and eventually becoming biweekly in 1879. Its objects were “to open to students a field for the exercise of the art of composition,” to become a reliable chronicler of “Home Matters,” meaning all the events in the college of interest to students, and to provide general news of other colleges. In 1874 the Brunonian, failing financially, changed its appearance. The space allotted to literary endeavors was sharply curtailed, and the larger size tinted paper suited its amended purpose, “to make it a representative of our college, in that its pages will be open for discussions on various questions of interest, will contain full accounts of matters relating to students, and will make such observations and criticisms as the conditions of things may seem to justify.” Their success in observing and criticizing was evident in an editorial several years later, “We are told that there has been a strong feeling in the Corporation that the Brunonian should be suppressed, and that we owe our existence to the mediation of the President. ... We discuss college topics. That is our business. ... In most cases, we are glad to say, the troubles to which we have called attention have been quietly, either wholly or partially, remedied.” A volume entitled Brown Verse, containing selections from verse published in the Brunonian, was compiled and published by the Brunonian Board of 1893-94. The Brunonian merged with the Brown Magazine in 1899, retaining the name Brunonian, and was from that time a literary monthly, leaving news reporting to the Brown Daily Herald, which had begun in 1891. In October 1914 the Brunonian tried to change its image by dropping the old departments and adding humor, art, and travel articles. The new style Brunonian owed some of its refurbishing to the Wastebasket Club for student writers, which had begun its life under the wing of Professor Hammond Lamont. The magazine died a natural death after its February 1918 issue, and its place was taken in February 1920 by the Brown Jug.
The title, Brunonian, was used from time to time by other publications, including a rival publication to the Brown Paper in 1866, a publication of Delta Upsilon in the late 1930s, a publication of Alpha Delta Phi in 1963, and the only issue of “a university publication prepared for all Brown alumni in military service” in August 1944.