Tom Browne: every dot counts

April 21, 2014

RULES AND ETIQUETTE OF GOLF: A ball lying in the fork of a tree must be played, or the player will lose a stroke – Tom Browne cartoon for the Tatler

Tom Browne was one of the best black and white artists working the the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. He went out to work at the age of 11 as an errand boy in Nottingham and became apprentice to a lithographic printer where he began to do illustration jobs on the side.

At the age of 21, he moved to Fleet Street and established his reputation with the Weary Willie and Tired Tim cartoon for Harmsworth’s Illustrated Chips from May 1896. His fat and thin tramps carried on into the 1950s (in the hands of other illustrators) and no doubt had a hand in triggering later generations of tramp pairings, such as Laurel & Hardy (first film together in 1921), Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot (1953) and television’s Bootsie and Snudge (1963).

It’s the details in Browne’s work that count and took him out of cheap comics into the society weeklies such as Punch and Tatler and made him such a hit in the US, in papers such as the New York Times. The Tatler cartoon here is a classic example.

Consider the faces on the dynamic duo hauling up the tubby golfer: just a couple of dots for eyes and a few lines for the features. Yet, look closely and you can immediately tell which way they are looking – one at the golfer and the other at the reader.

Truly, every dot counts.

Tom Browne drawing detail

Tom Browne’s drawing show incredible attention to detail; he could do so much with so little













Collectors come out for £2,700 Oz on eBay

March 31, 2014


Oz magazine first issue

Oz magazine first issue January 1967

Underground magazine Oz is one of the most collectable titles – and proved the point in March when half-a-dozen bidders took their offers up from the £999 starting price to £2,728 in just nine bids. The set included all 48 issues ‘in exceptional condition’ of a magazine that sparked the 1972 Oz trial and introduced Felix Dennis to the magazine world.

A copy of the Oz first issue on its own went for £895 – well above the £650 one sold for back in 2007. Several others issues fetched up to £220.

Another title that attracts collectors is trendy cycling title Rouleur, with a set of the first 43 issues selling for £1000 as a buy-it-now.

Part works aren’t usually big sellers but a James Bond collection with models cars fetched £691. Buying it new would have cost £7.99 x 132, more than £1000.


Strand magazine from April 1904 with Sherlock Holmes

Strand magazine from April 1904 with Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes in the Strand is a long-standing attraction for collectors and a set of the first seven volumes of the magazine fetched £545. Mind you, unbound copies fetch far more, and this single issue of the April 1904 Strand with a Holmes story fetched £443.

The first 50 issues of the Face were priced at £500 and the seller took an undisclosed offer.













IPC set to close Nuts

March 31, 2014
First sold issue of Nuts

First sold issue of Nuts

IPC Media has announced a 30-day consultation with staff about the potential closure of Nuts and IPC Inspire managing director Paul Williams said:

After 10 years at the top of its market, we have taken the difficult decision to propose the closure of Nuts and exit the young men’s lifestyle sector. IPC will provide impacted staff with all the support they need during the consultation process.

There are several factors behind the decision. First, falling sales. In print, it now shifts an average of just 53,000 copies and digital figures are a pitiful 8,000 an issue.

Second, Nuts and its rivals have been under attack from women’s lobby groups for the past year as a form of harassment. Time-Life, the strait-laced US owners, undoubtedly hate this – Maxim founder Felix Dennis has pointed out that a magazine like Nuts could never have been launched in the US: ‘anyone who does [try to] will be utterly crucified because there isn’t anywhere to sell it. There’s not a supermarket in America that would touch [Emap's and IPC's weeklies] Zoo or Nuts.’

Also, Nuts has been looking exposed since IPC sold lad’s mags pioneer Loaded four years ago

First issue of Zoo from Emap

First issue of Zoo from Emap

Yet, when Nuts and Zoo launched in 2004 it was one of the great publishing races of the decade – IPC gave away a million free copies through WHSmith. At stake was leadership of a weekly men’s market alongside women’s in a way that gave hopes of turning the publishing clock back to the 1950s. IPC beat Emap (since swallowed up by Bauer) by a week and Nuts has held the sales lead since.

The first ABC sales figures were impressive – almost 300,000 for Nuts and 200,000+ for Zoo. The weeklies took a chunk out of the monthlies – FHM (Emap), Loaded (IPC) and Maxim (Dennis) – with Loaded losing almost a third of its sales in 2005-6. Since then, all the headlines have been about plummeting, for monthlies and weeklies. Maxim was the first to go in 2009.

IPC reckoned it spent £8m launching Nuts – that’s the best part of £1m a year over its decade on the news-stands. The only winner has been websites (and not the ones owned by the publishers).

So, what will Bauer, publisher of rival Zoo, do now? Zoo’s sales are even more dire – 29,521.

IPC profile

Bauer/Emap profile

Men’s weeklies

Men’s monthlies




Louis Wain – cats, frogs and his sister

March 27, 2014
Felecie Wain illustration from Home Notes - Louis Wain's mother

Anthropomorphised frogs from Home Notes by Felecie Wain – Louis Wain’s sister







Louis Wain became famous to Victorians for his humanlike – anthropomorphised – animal drawings, particularly cats, which were widely published, as magazine illustrations, books and cards. He was ‘the man who drew cats’. The image above is from a children’s page in C. Arthur Pearson’s popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899, at a time when the prodigious Wain contributed at least a drawing an issue to this magazine alone. However, it is by ‘Felecie Wain’, Louis Wain’s sister, who was also known as ‘Felice’.

Frog tableaux were popular at the time and Dickens had a small statue of sword-fighting frogs on his desk as Gad’s Hill when he died.

According to a Margate newsletter, Wain moved to the neighbouring seaside town of Westgate in 1894 with his four sisters and mother at the suggestion of Sir William Ingram, who lived there and owned Illustrated London News (founded by his father in 1842). Wain’s wife had recently died and Ingram also owned Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, where Wain had worked since 1882. The newsletter shows photographs of Wain’s homes and the graves of both his mother and Felecie.

The image below is a drunken Wain cat held by the V&A Museum.

Louis Wain cat out on the razzle

Louis Wain’s ‘Hallo there! We won’t go home till morning’ showing a cat out on the razzle



Louis Wain, schizophrenia and cats’ eyes

March 22, 2014
Louis Wain's schizophrenic cats eyes from Home Notes 1899

Louis Wain’s schizophrenic cats eyes from Home Notes 1899

Louis Wain was famous to Victorians as ‘the man who drew cats’. There is a theory that Wain had schizophrenia and that the development of the illness can be seen in his cat drawings. It was not until 1924 that his sisters had him committed to a mental hospital, but this rarely seen sketch from the popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899 shows that he had a thing about cats’ eyes even at the height of his powers.

Family Herald – ‘The World’s Premier Weekly Magazine’

March 22, 2014
Family Herald title from 1935

Family Herald title from 1935

‘The World’s Premier Weekly Magazine since 1842′ is the grandiose claim still made in 1935 below the title of Family Herald Magazine almost a century after its launch.

Quite a claim for a magazine that had seen launches such as Home Chat, Home Notes and Woman’s Own in that time. What justifies the hyperbole?

Family Herald was a pioneer of the fiction-based penny women’s weekly formula when it was launched by the publisher George Biggs. The secret of its success was that its production was mechanised – from typesetting through printing to binding. With mechanisation came speed – and labour disputes because Biggs employed women workers – but ultimately high volume sales. By the middle of the 19th century, it was claiming a sale of 300,000 a week and was one of the best-selling cheap weeklies. The price went up to 2d – but stayed at that level till it closed in 1940.

The grand claim is based on the word ‘premier’, meaning ‘first in importance, rank, or position’. In 1935, it could hardly make the claim of the highest sale and its production values would have looked cheap in the extreme against the like of Newnes’ Woman’s Own, which called itself ‘The family favourite’ (and ‘the world’s finest weekly paper’ when it switched to colour gravure in 1937). However, its standing in the world of magazines was well established and its pioneering history could justify the claim, which, not being based on an objective statement, such as sales or number of pages, was difficult to challenge.

Family Herald cover 1935

Family Herald 1935: illustration and the blue ink were limited to the cover in its 20 newsprint pages

Despite its claim, by 1935 Family Herald was on its last legs, running to 20 pages on newsprint with the only colour being the use of blue ink for all the matter on the front. There was no advertising to speak of and very little illustration except on the cover. It was published by the Family Herald Press in Crane Court off Fleet Street, and printed at Yorkshire Printing Works in York. It was a technological pioneer when it founded but had stuck to letterpress technology with its poor reproduction of images – and photograph-friendly gravure was in the ascendency at this stage. Family Herald would close in 1940 with the advent of paper rationing.

Kitchener or Cavell – the WWI coin controversy

January 24, 2014
Royal Mint's Kitchener coin is based on Alfred Leete's cover from LOndon Opinion

Royal Mint’s Kitchener coin is based on Alfred Leete’s cover from London Opinion

The Royal Mint has announced several coins to mark the Great War, one of which features Kitchener’s face with the words ‘Your Country Needs You’ – an image by Alfred Leete for London Opinion magazine. It’s sparked a row and a petition campaign for a coin featuring the executed First World War British nurse Edith Cavell. Kitchener is a hero for the organisational skills that underpinned the British empire in the Sudan, South Africa, Egypt, India and, of course, in defeating Germany. However, he is also a controversial figure, and not just for introducing concentration camps during the Boer War.

In 1968, Leeete’s Kitchener image was revived for the Back Britain campaign, which riled Daily Mail columnist Anne Scott-James:

To invoke Lord Kitchener – an arch imperialist, a foul personality, a man who quarrelled with politicians, viceroys, officers and men, and who had the Mahdi’s head made into an inkstand – is to revive the crassest attitudes of World War I … Let’s hope the Kitchener campaign will be laughed out of court, for the British have grown up since 1914 and remained wonderfully civilised through all the agonies of World War II.

Anne Scott-James in the French pub in Soho from a Daily Telegraph biography

Anne Scott-James in the French pub in Soho from a Daily Telegraph biography

Scott-James was one of Fleet Street’s most experienced journalists, having been woman’s editor on Picture Post during the war, editor of Harper’s Bazaar and a star columnist on the Sunday Express. She was married to Osbert Lancaster, who had designed the jacket for Philip Magnus’s 1958 biography, Kitchener: Portrait of an Imperialist. Her mention of the Mahdi’s head refers to the 1899 controversy over Kitchener having the body of Mohammed Ahmed, leader of the Sudan uprising, taken from its tomb and thrown into the Nile. The desecration was defended on the grounds that a cult might grow up around the grave and lead to another uprising. Magnus describes how the ‘great howl of rage’ in the press over the skull being taken caused Kitchener to write to Queen Victoria expressing his regret at any distress he had caused and saying: ‘I had thought of sending [the head] to the College of Surgeons where, I believe, such things are kept. It has now been buried in a Moslem cemetery.’

Cavell is the antithesis of Kitchener. She had run a training school for nurses in Belgium for seven years before the Germans invaded and she treated combatants of all nationalities. Her downfall was in helping allied wounded escape to Holland. While papers in Britain called for vengence after her execution, Cavell herself was reported as saying as she awaited her fate: ‘Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.’ She was hailed as a heroine and martyr with statues just off London’s Trafalgar Square and in Norwich, near where she was born. The Cavell Nurses’ Trust that helps nurses in time of need was set up in her name in 1917.

The Royal Mint’s Kitchener coin commentary does not even mention Leete and it gets its facts wrong, stating: ‘This design was selected to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War because the poster [my emphasis] has come to be strongly associated with the outbreak of the war.’ But this image was produced by Alfred Leete as a London Opinion magazine cover. Only later did it become a poster (and never an official one with the ‘Your country’ wording). It’s a surprise that the Royal Mint is inaccurate on such a point and such errors damage its credibility when it says how carefully its committee has made it choice of subjects.

Heroines of the Western Front

November 17, 2013
Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm on the cover of Home Chat in 1918.

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm on the cover of Home Chat in 1918 wearing one of the many medals they were awarded. The ‘heroines’ or ‘Madonnas’ of Pervyse were world famous

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm were volunteer nurses who worked on the front line in Flanders with Belgian troops for most of the First World War – the only women working on the Western Front. Though their hospital was against British regulations, they carried on regardless, were lauded by the press and dubbed the ‘heroines of Pervyse’, hence their place on the cover of Home Chat, the best-selling women’s weekly of the time. Chisholm was just 18 when she volunteered with her motorcycling friend for the Flying Ambulance Corps. Once in Flanders, they set up their own, unofficial, first-aid station in the cellar of a collapsed house in the village of Pervyse. Their dug-out so close to the front was against regulations, but they carried on regardless, were lauded by the press and dubbed the ‘heroines of Pervyse’.

Knocker and Chisholm broke the rules to do their job, as did other pioneering women such as Edith Cavell, a nurse who was executed, and Flora Sandes – the only British woman soldier of WWI.

In 1915, Knocker and Chisholm were decorated twice by the Belgians. They were credited with saving thousands of lives and, as the only women working on the Western Front, were ‘les madones de Pervyse’ to the troops (the ‘madonnas’ nickname came from a shrine over the entrance to their dug-out). They toured Britain to raise funds for supplies and an ambulance.  The tragedy of their relationship was that … Read more

Magazines at war

Women in the First World War

London Opinion magazine and the Kitchener poster

Useful eBay searches for magazines

May 8, 2013

I’ve added this section on useful eBay searches to my Magazine Collecting page. It’s about creating a basic search and building up the targeting. Just click on one of these links and it’ll take you to eBay and do the search for you in a new browser window:

  • live listings: Magazines on eBay UK only (this includes overseas sellers who have put their listing on;
  • completed listings for magazines on eBay UK so you can see what actually sold.

The trick is to narrow down the numbers – from 404,000 live listings in this case – to focus on what you want. If the magazine has a unique name, it’s easy:

It’s tricky if your title is part of other titles. Take Today, a general interest weekly from the 1960s, for example:

There are 1,000+ results for this because of all the titles with ‘Today’ as part of their name: Yachting Today, Today’s Golfer, History Today, etc. So, remove those words using a minus sign:

No doubt you can see ways to improve the search based on the results that you don’t want. Be careful though, because you will also remove results for your target magazine that use that word in the description.

There is a Categories menu on the left column in eBay that can narrow down a search. However, I find this unreliable. Today, the News & Current Affairs category had 5 results – and no copies of Today were there, but there was a book about bears!

Once you’re happy with it, save the search so you can repeat it later.

It’s worth bearing in mind that sellers listing magazines can get things wrong – or perhaps list an issue in, say ‘Collectables’ rather than as a magazine. Again, Empire might be found in ‘Films & TV’. So, step out of your focused search occasionally to see what might be coming up elsewhere. Also, watch out for alternative spellings and errors: Car Week or CarWeek, Today’s Golf or Today’s Golfer or Todays Golfer.

Time pulls out of Meredith talks

March 6, 2013

Time Warner’s talks to merge its magazines with those of Meredith have broken down. Intsead,  the Time Inc and IPC magazines are to be spun off as a new public company by the end of 2013.


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