Magazine sells for £8000 on eBay

October 31, 2014
Marc Jacobs 2014 Playboy special issue

Marc Jacobs 2014 Playboy special issue in perspex box

Magazine collectors have been setting more records on eBay recently. At the top of the tree is the £8000 spent on a copy of Playboy.

It’s one of the 60th anniversary issues of the men’s magazine with Kate Moss on the cover from Jan/Feb 2014 (which went on sale at the start of December). There were at least two variants of the cover: a sideways-on shot of Moss in a Playboy Bunny costume kneeling, which was used in countries such as the UK, Hungary, US and Germany; and one used in Mexico and Italy with the British model kneeling and looking back over her left shoulder.

Inside the issue were 18 pages of photos, which she told one paper she did as a way of celebrating her 40th birthday in 2014.

The cover photographs were taken by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, two UK-based snappers who usually spend their time doing cover shots for the likes of Dazed & ConfusedLove, W and Vogue.

UK issues have been selling for up to £30 on eBay.

The looking-back image was also used for 800 unpriced copies produced in co-operation with US fashion designer Marc Jacobs. One of these went for about £150 in the US recently. However, number 433 of the 800 edition twice failed to attract any bids recently on eBay when priced at £150 and £125.

The copy that fetched £8000 was one of 100 Jacobs copies that were signed by Moss and came in a perspex box. This one is numbered 33/100. Moss appeared at a Jacobs shop in Mount Street, London, at the start of December 2013 as part of the publicity for Playboy‘s 60th celebrations.

Of course, the buyer is after some kind of celebrity rub-off rather than a magazine. But £8000? Has to be a PR stunt. One of these Playboy anniversary issues in a box sold in the US recently for just $3000 (about £1800).

Kate Moss 2014 Playboy cover as it appeared in the UK

Kate Moss 2014 Playboy cover as it appeared in the UK

Caricatures in the Great War

October 27, 2014
Kitchener of Khartoum - caricature by Will Scott

‘K of K’ – Kitchener of Khartoum – caricature by Will Scott on the cover of Drawing magazine in February 1916

Will Scott was a new name to me when I saw this issue of Drawing magazine.  But this is a great caricature of a ship-like Kitchener, the War Lord who laid the foundations for Britain’s victory in the Great War with his call for volunteers.

The cover refers to an article by Scott about political satire, in which he is scathing in his views on British cartoons:

One cannot seriously suppose here is anyone who is really impressed by a British cartoon, or that there would be a single sigh of regret if our cartoonists ceased business tomorrow … We have not a single satirical journal worthy of the name.

Scott is a forgotten name now, but he came to fame, though not as cartoonist or art critic. He turned to writing short stories for magazines and newspapers such as the Passing Show and Daily Express. His detective novels and stage plays were made into films in the 1930s and his The Cherrys series for children was popular right into the late 1960s. Scott is credited with more than 2,000 short stories, claimed as a record for the UK during his lifetime.

Back in 1916, the black and white artists at Punch and other titles must have been spitting at his remarks, though Scott goes on to credit the Tatler‘s HM Bateman – with his ‘exquisite sense of “silly”‘ and Will Dyson at the Daily Herald with breaking the mould. The website dedicated to Bateman describes how he ‘went mad on paper’ after suffering a breakdown:

Until this time conventional cartoons had been illustrated jokes – drawings with a few lines of text or dialogue underneath. Take away the dialogue and the drawing becomes meaningless, the joke lay in the words. From 1909 onwards Bateman drew no more illustrated jokes and so changed profoundly the art of the cartoon, invested it with a new freedom of line and expression. The drawing became funny in itself, self-explanatory. He made emotion the subject of his cartoons and the characters became actors expressing feeling, rather than illustrations to an idea.

The Cartoon Museum is organising an exhibition of his work later this year: H.M. Bateman: The Man Who Went Mad On Paper.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography credits Dyson’s work on the Daily Herald with changing Britain’s attitude towards the working man and capitalism:

Dyson hacked into the pomposity and humbug of pre-war England, championing the working man boldly and without reserve. ‘In British cartooning Before Dyson’, his friend Vance Palmer wrote, ‘the working man had been depicted as a pathetic figure, a depressed person lacking any human dignity. Will Dyson drew him young, militant, an image of hope with fist up-raised’… He represented Capital, Finance and Power as a gross figure of large paunch, top hat, spats and a cigar, the image of greed in a world of ignoble advantages. Hackneyed now, the symbol was a notable creation in its day.

An article in a previous issue also touches on the topic of caricature. In ‘Cartoons and the War’ David Wilson writes:

Tirpitz’s whiskers are today to the public what Gladstone’s collars were to an earlier generation. Harry Furness, it would seem, invented the famous white wings, but in time the collars came to signify, in a kind of artists’ shorthand, Gladstone himself.

Drawing launched in 1915 as ‘A paper devoted to art as a national asset, entirely owned, edited and managed by professional artists and designers.’ Its message to advertisers expands on the philosophy:

The proprietors of Drawing are making a serious attempt to raise the standard of Press Advertising. They believe that advertisements should embellish a magazine, that is, be of a kind which readers will admire instead of regard – as is usually the case – as an objectionable feature. Only those which come up to a certain artistic standard will be accepted by Drawing. Nothing ugly or common will be inserted. Those which consist mainly of an illustration and show originality are preferred. If you have nothing suitable of your own, our artists will design a distinctive advertisement for you, under the supervision of experts. NB. We refuse advertisement so goods not actually manufactured in Great Britain’

The editor was George Montague Ellwood (1875-1955), one of the founding members of the Guild of Craftsmen. He held the post until 1924 and during that time expanded the coverage and title to become Drawing and Design. He wrote several books, including English Furniture and Decoration, 1680-1800.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statist: a magazine worth quoting

October 18, 2014
Statist magazine from February 1967

Statist magazine from February 1967

The editors at small-circulation magazines are always happy when big papers pick up their stories, so economics weekly  Statist magazine would be chuffed to be referred in the Financial Times (several of these articles also ran in MoneyWeek):

Here’s a quote from the (generally rightwing, and prone to long sentences) Statist magazine from 1962 which sums things up the feeling then, and rather my feeling now: “In an era when the government appears to find itself obliged to tax an individual’s current earnings so highly that it is difficult if not impossible for the industrious able and thrifty person to save a substantial amount of money for himself, it is very wrong that another person who may well be idle, stupid and spendthrift should be in a position to receive a fortune by gifts or inheritance virtually without paying tax at all. (‘Cameron should scrap IHT threshold,’ 5 April 2014)

A long sentence indeed : 76 words. And also this year:

The great swings in the relationships between the likes of profit shares and labour shares take decades to play out. Look back to press reports from the 1960s and you will see many of the same kinds of articles you see in the papers today – in 1963 the (generally rightwing) Statist magazine insisted that a new minimum wage policy was a must and that government was “irrevocably committed to doing something for the low paid”. (‘Workers of the world will unite,’ 8 February)

While last autumn,

In the mid-1960s an article in the Statist magazine explained to London readers that the tax would “reverse the trend of soaring land values and reduce housing costs”. The writer was sure that support for [a site value tax] was such that “a concerted effort at this stage should carry the day”. It did not. But the idea has remained. (‘The perfect tax?,’ 28 September)

That same month:

In 1967, Paul Bareau, an eminent journalist of the era, wrote in the Statist magazine about the “pangs of modest deflation” hitting the UK. He called for “re-expansion” via all the usual methods – low base rates, a “lenient attitude” towards the commercial banks and a new round of government support to various industries. That worked out, as it likely will this time, all too well. By 1970, a mere three years later and well before the oil price shocks, inflation in the UK was running at about 8 per cent. Whoops. (‘A bad day at the office for Mark Carney,’ 7 September 2013)

You’ll notice the pattern by now:

A row raged in the pages of the Statist magazine in the early 1960s after “distinguished chartist” AG Ellinger declared that in the idea that the stock market would keep their money safe, “the public has been sold a pup”. (‘Ross Goobey’s speech resonates 50 years on,’ 10 November 2012)

Yes, it’s back in the sixties again:

‘Back in 1962 most European bankers were mad for monetary union. They were planning for it and seeing it, as Statist magazine said at the time, as “part of the writing on the wall”’ (‘In spite of debt crises, Germany is in the zone, 4 December 2010)

And again:

‘This outperformance isn’t a new thing … Statist magazine noted that in the decade to 1967 the average trust made 175% even as global markets returned a mere 75%.’ (‘Cheers for the product, boos for the charges,’ 2 October 2010)

And, for my last example:

‘You will not have heard of Mr F.M. Osborn. However, I feel I know him rather well. Why? Because I have a copy of an article he wrote in … The Statist.’ (‘Liars’ self-cert charter could have a bitter result,’ 25 September 2010)

In fact, FT Money writer and MoneyWeek editor Merryn Somerset Webb has sought inspiration or evidence from Statist no less than eight times in four years in her FT articles. It’s just a shame that the Statist, which looked like the Economist, closed several decades ago. But, then, what goes around comes around in the world of finance and a good article is always worth quoting, even if it is 50 years old.

News magazines profiled

When a woman ruled the roost for Punch ad sales

October 14, 2014

 

Marion Jean Lyon was hard of advertising sales for Punch in 1923

Marion Jean Lyon was head of advertising sales for Punch in 1923 ((c) magforum.com)

Punch advertising manager Marion Jean Lyon  in 1923

Marion Jean Lyon in 1923 (Magforum.com)

The above advert for Punch from the autumn of 1923 describes the veteran weekly as ‘the foremost humorous journal in the world’. No small claim, and backing it up from the weekly’s Bouverie Street offices just off Fleet St was advertising manager Marion Jean Lyon.

She was one of the most successful people in the history of advertising sales, and, as head of sales for Punch, she was able to boast that all the advertising space was sold until the next year. Lyon held the post at Punch, which was a national institution, until she died in 1940. She was one of many women working in the industry in such roles, alongside women advertising managers at Everywoman, Woman and Housewife.

Lyon’s success was noted in another weekly, the Spectator (21 October 1922, p37):

A remarkable illustration of the ever-increasing part women are playing in business life is afforded by the appointment of Miss Marion Jean Lyon, a Scotswoman who came to London 16 years ago, to the position of advertising manager of Punch. Joining the office staff of Punch 12 years ago, Miss Lyon gradually worked her way upwards till she was made assistant to the late advertising manager, Mr Roy Somervell. She has recently been appointed to the vacant position, to the great satisfaction of all those who had experience of her business ability. The position of advertising manager of Punch is one of the most important and highly paid in Fleet Street and it is interesting to find that a woman has won it.

The year 1923 was a big one for Lyon, because she married Leonard Raven-Hill, who had joined Punch in 1901 and been second cartoonist to Sir Bernard Partridge since 1910. Not only that, she helped found, and became first president of, the Women’s Advertising Club of London in 1923. The WACL is still going today.

There is an intriguing symbol used in the advert – a clockwise swastika, below the words ‘goodwill throughout the civilized world’. Ten years later the symbol would become associated with the Nazis, but it is one of the world’s oldest symbols and was, for example, regarded as a a good luck totem by early aviators.

swastika symbol

Notice the swastika symbol below the text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis de Rougemont: the ‘greatest liar on Earth’

October 13, 2014
Louis de Rougemont portrait from Wide World Magazine

Louis de Rougemont in Wide World

There are tales and tall tales, and the tallest tales of all were told by Louis de Rougemont, who conned the Victorian world with his fantastic accounts of being shipwrecked and spending decades fighting off sea monsters and living with cannibals in Australia.

His stories were the making of Wide World Magazine, which used ‘astounding pictures’ and ‘thrilling adventures’ to appeal to readers under the line ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’. The magazine was published in both the UK (for 6d) and the US (10c) and serialised de Rougemont’s life story from its August 1898 issue. The opening page for the first instalment sets the scene: ‘The Adventures of Louis de Rougement … the most amazing experiences a man ever lived to tell.’ Even 55 years later in the US, the articles were the topic of comment in Time magazine’s letters page (14 December 1953):

Sir: Quentin Reynolds said he’d been “duped” by the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated.” No, not “the greatest” . . . Far greater, because it was not exposed till many years later, was Louis de Rougemont, whose  accounts were the foundation of Wide World Magazine … Sir George Newnes, publisher of Strand Magazine, and millions of Britishers were duped. The title “Truth is stranger than fiction” later became “Truth is a stranger to fiction.”

Illustration from Wide World Magazine for De Rougemont's serial

Illustration by A Pearce from Wide World Magazine for De Rougemont’s serial

De Rougemont had arrived in England in March 1898. A letter of introduction from Sir J. Henniker Heaton got him into the offices of the Wide World Magazine, which was then being launched by Tit-Bits and Strand owner George Newnes. Having seen the power of the Sherlock Holmes stories in driving sales for the Strand, the magazine’s editors – who claimed ‘we ave absolutely satisfied ourselves as to M. de Rougemont’s accuracy in every minute particular’  – knew a good thing when they saw it and so, from August 1898 to May 1899 Wide World serialised ‘The adventures of Louis de Rougemont’.

The fanciful stories were embellished by graphic illustrations by A. Pearce, such as one of de Rougemont’s crew being dragged off by an octopus. The articles were republished as The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont, as Told by Himself (1899).

However, other magazines and newspapers smelled a rat (or perhaps the ‘clouds of flying wombats’ that Rougemont described). In London, the Daily Chronicle cried foul, as did the Sydney Evening News and Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph contacted Rougemont’s abandoned wife in Sydney, who identified the hoaxer from his photograph in Wide World.

In truth, de Rougemont’s real name was Henri Louis Grin and was born in Switzerland. He had several jobs, including working as a butler, and ended up in Australia. He bought a boat Ada, which was later found wrecked. Grin claimed to have sailed 3000 miles after having survived an attack by Aboriginals. He then married, fathering seven children, before deserting them and heading to England to begin his career as a conman.

The Adventures of Louis de Rougement in Wide World Magazine August 1898

The Adventures of Louis de Rougement in Wide World Magazine August 1898

After the scandal, Grin became a music-hall attraction, billed in South Africa as ‘The greatest liar on earth’. He then earned a living as a handyman and married again. As ‘Louis Redman’, he died in London in 1921, and was buried in Kensal Green. His life inspired several books, with titles such as The Greatest Liar on Earth (1945) and The Most Amazing Story a Man Ever Lived to Tell  (1977). In 2009, Donald Margulies, a US playwright, brought de Rougemont’s story to life for a modern-day generation with Shipwrecked!, reviewed by the New York Times as ‘The breathless story of a Victorian gentleman whose colourful past as a seafaring wanderer springs to life like a theatrical pop-up book.’

As for Wide World, it survived as one of the longest-published men’s magazines until 1965, with many of its colourful covers attracting magazine collectors to this day. It has been described as being for the ‘armchair adventurer and the reminiscing old-timer‘.

Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey in Town magazine

October 1, 2014
Opening of 5-page article on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey with sketches by Clive Arrowsmith in Town magazine

Opening of 5-page article on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey with sketches by Clive Arrowsmith in Town magazine

Clancy Sigal wrote the words and Clive Arrowsmith did these sketches on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey for the July 1966 issue of men’s magazine Town.

This was a special film issue, with articles about Len Deighton’s Funeral in Berlin, the girls of Casino Royale, Bryan Forbes (who had already directed Whistle Down the Wind and written the script for King Rat and would go on to direct The Stepford Wives in 1975) and beach fashion spreads with the cast of Robert Aldrich’s  The Dirty Dozen.

The 5-page article, ‘2001: An informal diary of an infernal machine’, was written two years before the film’s release. The article opens with a whole page sketch showing an image of Saturn behind Dr Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester), a detail that is changed in the actual film, where the Discovery spaceship follows the monolith’s radio signal to Jupiter.

Sigal, a US novelist and screenwriter, points to a problem that still bedevils people today after seeing the film:

Arthur Clarke is going up the pole, trying to meet with Kubrick to put the end together. Kubrick is finishing the picture and, probably, wondering how to end it.

First spread of the Town magazine article shows one of the astronauts and the maintenance vehicle

First spread of the Town magazine article shows one of the astronauts and the maintenance vehicle (the right side of the page was cut off in the scanner)

Arthur C. Clarke – one of the best and most prolific of the SF writers who lives in Ceylon, where he has business interests, according to the text – was, of course, trying to finish his book.

Sigal speculates about an outcome similar to the ‘benign being that blessed’ Clarke’s Childhood’s End, though ‘it could turn out to be the hydrogen bomb in a rubber mask, like in (Madame Odinga Oginga from Outer Space) Sam Katzman’. He was prophetic on another point:

HAL may yet turn out to be the most interesting actor in the story.

Final spread of the Town article shows a sketch of the frozen scientists that is similar to a sketch shown to HAL in 2001

Final spread of the Town article shows a sketch of the frozen scientists that is similar to a sketch shown to HAL in 2001

In the film, one of the Discovery’s two crew members, David Bowman (played by Keir Dullea), is seen making sketches of the scientists in suspended animation, which he shows to HAL.

One of the sketches is similar to Arrowsmith’s at the bottom of this spread.

Clive Arrowsmith did illustrations for other issues of Town and is probably the famed photographer, who worked as a graphic designer for television after leaving art school before taking to the camera.

The article makes no mention of Arrowsmith having been commissioned by Kubrick to work on the film. So the question is: which came first? Did Town commission the article and then Kubrick take up the sketch idea, or had Kubrick commissioned Arrrowsmith to do the sketches and the latter took the article idea to Town?

In 2001, Kubrick shows one of the astronauts making sketches of the scientists in suspended animation

In 2001, Kubrick shows one of the astronauts making sketches of the scientists in suspended animation

Detail of Clive Arrowsmith sketch in Town magazine - compare it with the still from 2001 below

Detail of Clive Arrowsmith sketch in Town magazine – compare it with the still from 2001 above

One of the Discovery astronauts shows a sketch to HAL in a scene from 2001

Through HAL’s distorting camera: Dave Bowman, one of the Discovery astronauts, shows one of his sketches to the ship’s computer in a scene from 2001

Ace photographer Ken Griffiths dies

September 28, 2014
Ken Griffiths photographer at the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Photographer Ken Griffiths at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, on a shoot for Volvo. Photograph by his assistant,  Lucy Williams-Wynn, from the Guardian website

Sad to hear at the weekend of the death of the photographer Ken Griffiths last month. As well as following his work, he was also a neighbour, living in the Surrey Dispensary until a year ago.

He was on the staff of the Sunday Times Magazine with Don McCullin in the 1970s and then did advertising for the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi as well as editorial work. Former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans used his images in Conde Nast Traveller from the first issue.

Ken had no truck with digital cameras, using whole-plate cameras, a century-old colour process called Carbro and printing on platinum that enabled him to achieve incredibly subtle images that were shown to great effect in the series he did of the Three Gorges dam in China. His father’s Welsh roots inspired several personal projects.

He was a fountain of stories, coming from that generation of edgy artists and bon-viveurs with friends such as Bruce Bernard – who chose one of Ken’s images for the V&A as one of 100 to tell the history of photography for the V&A – and Lucien Freud. He could charm the legs off a donkey, holding forth in the local pub, the Roebuck, with his tale of living on Easter Island for a week to photograph the statues and waking up each night under a blanket of cockroaches!

The last project he told me he was working on was to return to his native New Zealand and document the changing seasons – a technique he used for one of his early features, to document an elderly couple growing crops in their ‘English Country Garden’, as Phil Davison describes in his obituary of Ken in the Guardian.

See also a short Telegraph interview from 2011.

Time UK closes TV Easy

September 28, 2014
What's On TV and TV Easy

Dummy cover of merged What’s On TV and TV Easy

Time Inc has marked the killing off of the IPC name with two changes. First is the closure of its compact TV listings weekly TV Easy, with some features of the magazine being taken on by What’s On TV, its best-selling TV guide. The first combined issue will be on sale on September 30.

As is typical in such mergers, What’s On TV will carry a cover flash to highlight the changes and try to retain TV Easy‘s readers. The merged magazine will also be given a design ‘makeover’.

Woman and Home Fashion magazine

First issue cover of twice-yearly Woman and Home Fashion magazine (autumn/winter 2014)

The second change is better news, with the launch of the third Woman & Home spin-off, a twice-yearly fashion glossy for the magazine’s over-40 readers. Woman & Home Fashion joins Feel Good Food and Feel Good You, covering health and wellbeing.

TV magazines history

Woman magazine, a ghost and an omelette

September 17, 2014
Woman magazine cover 1904

Woman magazine from 1904 with a cover design by Septimus Bennett, younger brother of Arnold Bennett, the Potteries novelist and the magazine’s former editor

This magazine cover from 1904 is from an earlier title to use the name Woman than today’s IPC / Time weekly (which only dates back to the Odhams launch of 1937).

The cover design for this ‘high class penny paper for ladies’ was by Septimus Bennett. A book, Artist in Arms, was published in 2001 and is based on the diaries of a Septimus Bennett when he was working at a Vickers shell factory in Sheffield during the First World War. At first glance, it would seem to be an unlikely link between this Septimus and the cover designer, but it looks like they were the same man – and he was the youngest brother of the Arnold Bennett – voted greatest West Midland writer in 2005.

While Arnold is best known for his ‘Five Towns’ novels, based on the six Potteries towns, he started out as a writer in magazines. He won a literary competition in Tit-Bits – the best-selling magazine of the day – in 1889 and five years later became assistant editor of the Woman. This probably explains how brother Septimus got the job drawing the magazine’s cover. Arnold began writing fiction serials, which resulted in A Man from the North in 1898 and he became Woman’s editor in that year. He stepped down in 1900 to write full-time, including The Grand Babylon Hotel (1902), serious criticism and theatre journalism. He wrote a column in London’s Evening Standard in the late 1920s.

Nigel Slater has a recipe for Omelette ‘Arnold Bennett’, a standard dish at the Savoy in The Strand. His advice: ‘Stick with the classic interpretation unless you want the wrath of Arnold Bennett’s ghost upon you.’ Delia Smith also has a version and reckons that Bennett wrote the whole of his novel Imperial Palace (1930) while staying at the Savoy.

Septimus was an artist and designer and ran a studio in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, where he produced designs for ceramics. His cover incorporates advertising for P&P Campbell, the Perth Dye Works, which was a prominent advertiser in magazines and on hoardings. The typeset copy includes quotes from two other magazines: ‘Oldest and best dyers, Myra’s Journal’; and ‘Excellent dyers, The Lady’; the latter is still published from office in London’s Covent Garden.

Woman was printed by Unwin Brothers at 27 Pilgrim St in London for the publishers Beeton & Co. The company had been founded by Samuel Beeton and produced several famous and groundbreaking titles, including the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, Boy’s Own, Myra’s Journal and Queen. The first off these spun off the famous Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook, which was compiled from her work on the magazine. Note the cover credit: edited by Mrs C.S. Peel (the original Avenger?). Dame Deborah Primrose replied to readers’s queries. About a dozen contributors are named, all but one a woman. Several fashion illustrations are credited to Rene Robinson.

The editorial offices were at 10-11 Fetter Lane, a thoroughfare that is an essential stop on any Fleet Street tour, having been the base for many publishing enterprises, such as Railway Magazine (no 30 in 1901), the Daily Mail (no 110 in 1920-61), DC Thomson’s Red Letter for the Family Circle (no 12 in 1950) and Jocelyn Steven’s Swinging Sixties version of Queen (no 52). It is also the site of a statue of John Wilkes, a radical journalist and rebellious politician in the late 1700s.

Woman describes itself as ‘A journal of information, entertainment and practical counsel for womankind the wide world over’ on its frontispiece page and closed in 1907, a run of 19 years.

 

A jazz approach to the crossword puzzle

August 27, 2014

 

Experimental jazz crossword: Jazz word square from 1937 in Rhythm magazine (June)

Experimental jazz crossword puzzle: Jazz word square from 1937 in Rhythm magazine (June)

 

The crossword puzzle was still pretty new in 1937, when this one appeared in Rhythm magazine’s June issue and, as here, experimentation was rife. The first modern-day crossword was reckoned to have been published on 21 December 1913 in the New York World. It was composed by Arthur Wynne, an immigrant from Liverpool who had played such games as a boy.

The most popular word game at the time in Britain was probably John Bull‘s ‘Bullets’. These prize cryptic competitions predated crosswords – and the magazine claimed to have paid out £620,000 prize money for its first 1000 puzzles. John Bull was selling 1m copies a week from 1914 to 1955.

The Sunday Express was the first British newspaper to publish a crossword, in 1924. The Daily Telegraph followed in 1925: ‘The initial plan was for these new-fangled puzzles to be published for just six weeks in deference to a passing American craze.’ But the idea stuck and in March 1928 the paper started publishing a prize crossword on a Saturday and in 1937 a daily quick crossword. In 1941, W.A.J. Gavin, owner of Vanity Fair, issued a challenge on the letters page to do the crossword in 12 minutes. (Daily Telegraph: 80 Years of Cryptic Crosswords by Val Gilbert.) The paper also published an article last year celebrating 100 years since the first US crossword by Arthur Wynne.

So there was lots of experimentation going on, and the idea of popular cryptic word puzzles in Britain, such as ‘Bullets’ in John Bull, was added to the simple word-definition clue concept to develop the cryptic crossword, an idea that has yet to take off in the US, where jumbo crosswords are much more popular. The Economist publishes a Christmas crossword for its US readers, complete with instructions.

Other famous crosswords include The Listener‘s, which appeared in the BBC’s weekly radio review in 1930. Both The Times and Country Life took up the idea in the same year. The Listener‘s crossword was adopted by The Times when the magazine closed in 1991. A tradition also developed of cryptic names for the compilers, so Alec Robins was ‘Zander’ in the Listener (1949-92) and ‘Custos’ for the Guardian, but used his real name in Intercity magazine.

In the 1950s, such was the level of competition for readers between and among newspapers and magazines that Tit-Bits was devoting four pages at the back of each issue to football pools, betting advice – and the solutions to the prize crosswords in Sunday newspapers and weekly rivals such as John Bull and Reveille.

 


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