Bedford Square, the curse of the DIN plug and £12m

March 27, 2015
Once the office of Acorn User magazine – now the living room at 53 Bedford Square

Once the office of Acorn User magazine – now the living room at 53 Bedford Square

In the early 1980s, this room at 53 Bedford Square was the office from which I ran the computer magazine Acorn User. At one time, this part of Bloomsbury would have been crawling with publishers, but by 1982 most had gone, though my employers, the US group Addison-Wesley, and the Publishers Association, were still there. Both upped sticks within a couple of years. Though the Architectural Association has hung on at No 36.

So it was incredible to see this Grade 1 listed building turned back into what it once was – a house. But when I look at the room so much has changed – the marble fireplace has gone and it looks as even even the coving around the ceiling has changed.

53 Bedford Square in London's Bloomsbury. This Georgian building is up for sale at £12 million

53 Bedford Square in London’s Bloomsbury. This Georgian building is up for sale at £12 million

The coving  used to depict the skulls of cattle and was picked out in a Wedgewood blue.  The skulls were a rebus, referring to the fact that the Adams-brothers-style property developers had to battle to develop the land against farmers who used to fatten their cattle there before driving them on to market at Smithfields. Because of the loss of the pasture, they then had to graze them out by Marble Arch and bring them along Oxford Street (you can imagine the carriage-jams) At least that’s what I remember being told.

Acorn User magazine cover from December 1982. This issue would have been edited from the Bedford Square offices

Acorn User magazine cover from December 1982. This issue would have been edited from the Bedford Square offices

We had to be very circumspect in what we did in the main rooms – we couldn’t change the chandeliers, or the colours on the walls. And filing cabinets had to be kept to the edges of the rooms (they might have been too heavy for the floor beams in the middle). The floors were carpeted. The cellars, which stretched out under the road in front of the office, inspired the Acorn User Dungeon puzzles of two writers – MUD pioneer and Henry Root publisher Simon Dally and educational computing expert Joe Telford. They also led to the nickname ‘Mad Alex’ for Alex van Someren, one of the technical editors (he was some kind of belligerent gnome who skulked in the dungeon ‘with a glint in his earring’).

This room was the scene of one of the embarrassing failures of my career. The head honcho of Addison Wesley, Warren Stone, had come over from the US and my MD, Stanley Malcolm (a former IBM salesman who still shaved twice a day), had arranged for me to demonstrate the early email system I used. This was 1982, pre-internet, and the system was Dialcom  and my address was ACN014 (Dialcom was later bought by BT to become Telecom Gold and the basis for The Times Network for Schools). I came in early to put the room – and the computer system – back together, because it had been used for a party the night before. Just as I finished, in they came. So, I booted up the BBC Micro and loaded the software from the 100K, single-sided 5.25in floppy disc. Then, I picked up the phone an dialled the Dialcom computer. I heard the computer screech and plugged the handset into the red, metal-clad, 300baud acoustic coupler. But the computer did not respond. No error messages. It just sat there, the white cursor blinking away on the black screen. Waiting. ‘Must be a bad line,’ I murmured. So I tried again. No response. And again. Still nothing. So Warren and Malcolm smiled and left.

I probably went out for an early lunch, to cursing the BT Buzby bird that was the company’s ad mascot then, and everything to do with email and computers. When I came back, I unplugged the acoustic coupler, put the DIN plug back in the other way up – and it worked fine! Never mind.

I did manage to work the telex machine a couple of times though.

The Acorn User office 53 Bedford Square as it looked in 1969 – no fireplace or chandeliers

The Acorn User office at 53 Bedford Square as it looked in 1969 – no fireplace or chandeliers

However, today’s beautiful room has not always been so grand, as this 1969 photograph shows. The Georgian developers would be turning in their graves. No marble fireplace in the Swinging Sixties, a false ceiling and no chandeliers either. It looks very cheap and functional postwar, the sort of institutional, ministry-furnished room frequented by the 1960s spooks of a Len Deighton book such as the Ipcress File.

The main part of the house was not that big, but there are three floors, an attic and basement, and the mews behind has been developed and linked to the main house. Asking price today for the 6 bathrooms, 8 bedrooms 4 receptions and 10,732 sq ft is just shy of £12 million. Oh, and there’s a gym and a lift too. But no telex machine any more and Addison Wesley is now just an imprint of Pearson (like most things in the book publishing world). Acorn User was bought up by the BBC and sold on, finally closing in 2005. Alex escaped from the dungeon a long time ago and is now a managing partner at Amadeus Capital (but does still have that glint in his earring).


Life at Punch in 1962

March 25, 2015
Punch magazine cover from 1879 (November 22). This cover shows the Dickie Bird cover that was used into the 1950s

Punch magazine cover from 1879 (November 22). This shows the Dickie Bird cover that was used into the 1950s

The weekly humour magazine Punch is long dead – despite an attempt to revive it in the 1990s – and only a cartoon archive selling reproductions exists today. Yet, in its day, Punch one of the world’s most influential magazines, not only in encouraging the development of other magazines (Judy, Owl and Lika Joka among them) but also bringing new word usages into the English language – ‘cartoon’, the ‘curate’s egg’ – developing the cartoon itself, and politically – angering Churchill, for example, in the way it portrayed him as an old man in the 1950s (probably losing editor Malcom Muggeridge his job in the process).

By this time, Punch was in decline in the face of competition from television for readers and advertising, and about to face Private Eye at the harder end of topical satire in print. Private Eye even ran a special issue having a go at what it saw as a Punch that had lost its edge (though criticising Punch had been a topic since at least 1916).

But it’s rare to be able to put a face to a famous name in the magazine world, so this British Pathe film from 1962 was a bit of a find.

Punch table in 1962 from British Pathe film

Punch table in 1962 from British Pathe film

It starts with Bernard Hollowood, the editor, and cartoonists in debate around the Punch table and art editor Bill Hewison carves his initials on the table. His letters are shown as well as others by contributors James Thurber, William Makepeace Thackeray and John Leach and a rare guest, Prince Philip. There is a description of the table on the Punch website.

Two Victorian illustrations are shown, ’19th century forecast of television’ and ‘air-to-air refuelling, before the film moves on to summarise the editorial, production and publishing processes at Punch, with Russell Brockbank, contemporary illustrations, subscription orders and magazine binding.

Around the Punch table are: Peter Agnew, Kenneth Bird, J. B. Boothroyd, H. F. Ellis, W. Hewison, C. Hollis, B. Hollowood, D. Langdon, R. Mallett, Norman Mansbridge (who did Her, a brilliant spoof of 1950s women’s magazines), F. L. Marsh, R. G. G. Price, B. A. Young and P. Dickinson.

Wrights soap in Eve magazine

March 24, 2015
Advert for Wright's Coal Tar Soap by Lilian Rowles on the back cover of Eve magazine

Advert for Wright’s Coal Tar Soap by Lilian Rowles on the back cover of Eve magazine

The illustrator Lilian Rowles painted this advert for Wright’s Coal Tar Soap, which appeared on the back cover of Eve magazine in 1924. Note the orange theme in the illustration, matching the colour of the soap. Soap advertisers, especially Pears, were leaders in developing marketing techniques in the Victorian era and into the 20th century (think soap operas).

Eve magazine cover with a portrait of actress Sylvia Leslie (6 August  1924)

Eve magazine cover with a portrait of actress Sylvia Leslie (6 August 1924)

Eve described itself as ‘The Lady’s Pictorial’ and at this time had taken over The Woman’s Supplement from the Times newspaper. The cover here shows the stage actress Sylvia Leslie, who was appearing in The Street Singer, a musical by Frederick Lonsdale and Harold Fraser-Simpson that was running at the Lyric Theatre in London. In 1929, Eve, a weekly, itself merged with a current affairs weekly Britannia to become the monthly  Britannia and Eve, a title that was published until the mid-1950s.

The Sphere & Tatler company published the magazine from 172 The Strand and it was printed by Cornwall Press at 1-6 Paris Garden off Stamford Street in the Southwark district of London. This printing works was not far from the Wrights office at 44-48 Southwark Street and the soap factory at 66-76 Park Street.

£10 to New York and the inflight magazine

March 17, 2015
Freddie Laker's Skylines magazine cover from 1981

Freddie Laker’s Skylines magazine cover from 1981

One of the most popular online stories yesterday morning was Jane Wild’s story about Ryanair working towards £10 transatlantic flights.

Such cheap flights from Europe to the Americas have long been a dream – most famously espoused by Freddie Laker with Skytrain in the 1980s. So popular were Laker’s flights that the US embassy in London had processed 300,000 non-immigrant visas by April 1981 – and was expecting a total of 1m for the year. This meant there would be as many Britons going to the US as US citizens holidaying in Britain – and the rise was attributed to Laker by the US consul. Yet, as Wild points out, no airline has managed to run a transatlantic service offering rock-bottom fares and turn a profit. Some went bust trying, including Sir Freddie’s Skytrain in 1982.

And for every airline, there is usually an airline magazine. The 1981 Skylines cover shown here summarises the typical contents for such magazines, then and now:

  • Dustin Hoffman – a dust of celebrity sparkle;
  • Wine without tears – encouraging readers to dip into the duty free and buy more drinks;
  • The Laker story (and the cover) – it’s marketing material after all;
  • Money wars – business and finance for the executive travellers they are keen to attract;
  • About your flight – answering the questions and pushing other services
  • Short story – for those who want to switch off.

But the 1980s was the era of deregulation, and by 1985, the US airline People Express and Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic were following Laker in taking the transatlantic fight to British Airways. And just as BA has been the airline to beat on that route, for the past 40 years BA’s High Life has been the inflight magazine – and for much of that time the contract magazine – to beat (I remember ‘whoops’ in the office when the InterCity magazine I was editing for British Rail beat High Life in the National Readership Survey).

Cover of BOAC's inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Cover of BOAC’s inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Before BA and High Life, there was BOAC and its Welcome Aboard, where the covers focused on encouraging exotic international travel and used relaxing poster covers devoid of cover lines. These days, High Life magazine ‘gets in front of over three million people every year, who spend an average of 36 minutes reading it’, says its customer publisher, Cedar. And it has spun off lots of add-ons, becoming more than a magazine, with a travel website, iPad app, social media content and inflight entertainment package.

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

Cedar also boasts that High Life uses ‘some of the best editors, writers and photographers in the world, including Michael Palin, John Simpson and Rankin’. And that’s certainly true of many customer magazines. InterCity was launched by former Nova and Observer Magazine editor Peter Crookston and former GQ editor Paul Keers took over when I left.

Magazines such as High Life and InterCity were key to the development of the customer magazine industry in the early 1980s, led by contract publishers such as BBC/Redwood and Cedar.

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

These days, inflight magazines for the budget airlines tend to be functional, with tit-bitty city profiles and short lifestyle features for their short-haul flights.

One magazine that set out to break the mould was the illustration-led  Carlos for Virgin Airlines. This thought of itself as more of a fanzine than an inflight magazine. It was loved by other editors and designers and won awards for its launch and design from the BSME for publisher John Brown. However, like earlier creative titles such as Town and Nova, it failed to make commercial sense for the airline, lasting just three years and six issues. It was replaced by Travel Notes in 2006. The Atelier Tally blog has a post of covers and details.


John Bull at the Advertising Archives

March 16, 2015
John Bull in 1917 - the magazine was used as a promotional tool for Horatio Bottomley's financial schemes

John Bull in 1917 – the magazine was used as a promotional tool for Horatio Bottomley’s financial schemes

John Bull is one of the most collectable of magazines with a fascinating history. It started off as the mouthpiece of the corrupt politician and Robert Maxwell of his day, Horatio Bottomley. But it was very influential during the First World War and Bottomley was feted for his ability to sway the feelings of the nation – persuading men to sign up for the war, being asked to debate with the Oxford Union and being despatched as an unofficial emissary by the government to persuade strikers to return to work.

It was one of the bestselling weeklies, which ran a popular cryptic word series called Bullets – my pet theory is that John Bull‘s Bullets is the reason why cryptic crosswords developed in Britain.

Guinness made early use of a photograph for a magazine cover advert on this 1934 issue of John Bull

Guinness made early use of a photograph for a magazine cover advert on this 1934 issue of John Bull

In the 1920s, John Bull ran to whole page advertising covers – Guinness and Bovril exploited the potential here. These were usually illustrated, but in 1934, Guinness ran photographs for its advertising. Strangely, for such a massive bestseller, John Bull was slow moving into colour, unlike its rivals such as Illustrated and Passing Show, though it did run colour summer and Christmas covers. This is especially the case because it was owned by Odhams, a massive printing group, which built colour gravure presses in Watford in 1937 and launched the weekly Woman that year to keep those machines turning.

Like all British magazines, John Bull had to pull in its horns during the war, with drab, semi-display advertising covers, but blossomed soon after with stunning colour illustrated covers by some of the finest artists of the day.

Larry Viner, who runs the Advertising Archives (and has advertised on the Magforum Collecting Magazines page for the past decade) has told me that John Bull had sparked his interest in magazines and illustration, and so is probably responsible for the Advertising Archives. In fact, he now owns the rights to John Bull and so it’s no surprise to me that he’s put up a page of covers from the magazine. And every one tells a story.

John Bull magazine cover in 1955 - the poor dog with lead in mouth is ignored by the TV-goggling family

John Bull magazine cover in 1955 – the poor dog with lead in mouth is ignored by the TV-goggling family

The poor, expectant dog sat in front of the family, lead in mouth, while everyone is enraptured by the new TV (this was 1955); the wife having to wait hand and foot on her ill husband who’s sat up in bed looking as happy as Larry (‘man flu’ was alive and well back then, too); the worried husband sneaking a look at the price tag of the fur his wife’s trying on.

And there’s often a hidden story behind the images, as a recent post I did about a 1952 Robert Thomson cover for John Bull showed, with Chris Lourdan commenting on the history of the painting and naming three of the coppers.

But, in the era of TV, John Bull lost its way, was relaunched as Today and staggered on until the mid-1960s.

Ruptures, piles and Edwardian advertising paranoias

February 8, 2015
A long list of of Edwardian ailments from the classified advertising in Photo Bits magazine of 1902

A long list of of Edwardian ailments from the classified advertising in Photo Bits magazine of 1902

Rupture. Piles. Hair destroyed. Sleeplessness. Too stout. Fits. Drunkenness. The list of ailments bedevilling the Edwardians was endless to judge by just this one page of classified advertising from Photo Bits magazine in 1902.

In fact, the very concept of manhood was in doubt, at least that’s what’s suggested by the book about trying to cure the ‘general weakness, premature and acquired diseases’ of men.

Of course, it’s a strategy that underlies advertising to this day – create a problem in people’s minds so you can sell a product to cure it, from dandruff to bleeding gums, dry skin to greasy hair, slow computers to burglary.

Photo Bits magazine adverts for ways to improve your Edwardian moustache

Photo Bits magazine adverts for ways to improve your Edwardian moustache

The adverts I particularly like are the ones for moustaches, with their neat engravings bringing to mind an irritating, opera-singing character from a much more modern advert. These Edwardian adverts for ‘hair forcing’ treatments promised ‘strong military moustaches in a few weeks’ and that they would prevent baldness. So, send for your bottle of Forceline, HairsutVitaline or Pomade Don Cossack today!

Photo Bits was a slightly risqué weekly aimed at men that described itself as: ‘Up to date. Bright. Sketchy. Smart. Witty. Pictorial. Pithy. Original. Spicy.’

According to the British Library page on film magazinesPhoto Bits (Brunswick Publishing, later Phoenix Press) became Photo Bits and Cinema Star (New Picture Press) for a year in 1923, when it switched its name to Cinema Star and Photo Bits. In 1926, it was incorporated with London Life magazine.

Film, TV and radio magazines history

Leete, Kitchener and the pointing man

February 6, 2015

Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster was the subject of great debate last year with James Taylor’s book suggesting it might never have existed, but The Amazing Story of the Kitchener Poster proved that thesis wrong by uncovering pictures of the poster on display during the Great War (a book I wrote with Martyn Thatcher).

We also discovered an image that Leete might have seen of a pointing man used in advertising. Now, I’ve unearthed two more pointing figures, one that Leete very possibly saw, and one that he undoubtedly did see.

The first is this one, a pointing man in an advert for The Power Within from Pearson’s magazine (June 1907). I don’t know if Leete was a contributor to Pearson’s at this time, but it was a big illustrated monthly and he would probably have had an eye on it – he certainly did covers for Herbert Jenkins’ Mrs Bindle series in the magazine in 1921. So this advert has to be considered a possible inspiration for Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image. Note the way the word ‘you’ is picked out just below the man’s hand.

A pointing man in an advert from Pearson's magazine (June 1907)

A pointing man in an advert from Pearson’s magazine (June 1907)

The second image that he probably did see is this one:

The pointing man from an advert in London Opinion magazine, 17 September  1910

The pointing man from an advert in London Opinion magazine, 17 September 1910

Why am I so sure Leete will have seen these? Because Leete was an established illustrator on the magazine by 1910, regularly doing covers as well as drawings inside. Also, there is the illustration below in that very same issue of London Opinion – note his signature to the bottom right. When the war came along, he was in the right place to dash off the ‘Your Country Needs You’ image for the magazine cover.

Drawing by Alfred Leete in the same issue of London Opinion

Drawing by Alfred Leete in the same issue of London Opinion


A different type of magazine marketing

January 26, 2015

It’s January 1940. the Second World War is four months old, but the conflict still seems far away for most people in Britain. The next few months would see the Germans move into Scandinavia and sea battles at Narvik, but Dunkirk was five months away, the summer would bring the Battle of Britain fought in the air – and then the bombing Blitz on British cities in December. Meanwhile, at Woman’s Fair, an Odhams women’s weekly filled with American fiction and illustration, the war has hit home with the price of paper – an imported commodity from Scandinavia and Canada – shooting up.

The editor bemoans in a whimsical article, ‘We are going up':

Paper has become about as precious as gold and we’ve been wondering whether we should make Woman’s Fair smaller or ask you to pay a tiny proportion of wartime paper costs. We don’t believe you’d like a smaller Woman’s Fair and so instead we’re making it a penny more. Your February issue will cost 7d.

The editor of Woman's Fair blames wartime paper costs for the magazine's price rise

The editor of Woman’s Fair blames wartime paper costs for the magazine’s price rise

All supplies from Scandinavia were soon lost and soon the German U-boats would be hounding Britain’s convoys, where food and weapons no doubt took precedence over paper for magazines.

By 1942, publishers were cut to a ration of less than a fifth of their pre-war usage. The result was that many magazines closed, they all had fewer pages, some cut their page size and the battle was on to cram as many words on to the precious paper as possible – in the case of Woman’s Own, even starting articles on the cover.

The standard fare of the magazine was beauty, as shown by a Pathe news-reel called ‘Beautifying! Where to Put the Accent!’ The short film is based on Jean Barrie, ‘Beauty Editress’ of Woman’s Fair showing us ‘where to put the accent on our beauty’.

Marketing was important in drawing as many readers in as possible before the lack of paper supplies really bit.

'Once I was a Pretty Girl' - a poem designed to encourage subscribers to Woman's Fair magazine at the start of WW2 in 1940

‘Once I was a Pretty Girl’ – a poem designed to encourage subscribers to Woman’s Fair magazine in 1940 during the first year of WW2

At Woman’s Fair they took a creative approach with a poem, ‘Once I was a Pretty Girl':

Once I was a pretty girl
A witty girl, a city girl,
Now I’m just a pity girl’
Was poor Amelia’s cry.

‘My skin is yellow, dull and lined,
My hair a mass of tangles twined,
My sex appeal has quite declined
Won’t someone tell me why?’

‘Of course we will the secreet share,
Cried Maud and Milly, Kate and Clare,
‘You haven’t ordered WOMEN’S FAIR,
And wise girls will allow

It’s WOMEN’S FAIR that marks the trends,
That guides the feet and shapes our ends
And turns to husbands our boy-friends –

There’s an order form on page 61

A Pore Em’ly poem in Woman’s Fair preys on the beauty worries of its readers

A Pore Em’ly poem in Woman’s Fair preys on the beauty worries of its readers

A few pages later, the message was reinforced, again stressing the danger of becoming a dowdy woman:

Pore Em’ly
Em’ly Brown was a glamour girl,
Witht sparkling figure and hair a-curl,
And luscious teeth of mother-of-pearl’
Oh, Em’ly was delicious!

But that, alass, was in days pre-war’
And now she’s known as the Awful Bore’
Her face is one GIGANTIC poer –
So she stays at home washing dishes.

Poor Em’ly knows as well as not
Why her looks and wit have gone to pot’
For she quite forgot (may her conscience rot,
May she tear her hair in sheer despair)
She quite FORGOT – believe it or not –
To reserve her copy of WOMAN’S FAIR.

The text goes on:

MORAL: Don’t be like Pore Em’ly. The war has made us short of paper and so your newsagent will be short of your copy of WOMAN’S FAIR unless you tell him to keep you one. NOW! – ED

The attitude to readers at Woman’s Fair seems pretty cynical. And the magazine was undoubtedly put together on the cheap, buying in almost all its copy and illustrations from the US. Among the imported material was:

  • cover illustrated by Jon Whitcomb cover (where the woman seems to have a voodoo doll in her hair);
  • Lyn Arnold short story ‘Life begins in January';
  • Wilton Matthews fiction, ‘She Made His Bed’, illustrated by Jon Whitcomb;
  • ‘She’s a Treasure’ by Lester Ashwell;
  • ‘This Time it’s True’ by Gladys Taber. Illustrated by Earl Cordrey;
  • White Magic serial by Faith Baldwin.

The only prominent British illustrator commissioned was Clixby Watson, who was a regular choice for top magazines such as  Lilliput, Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine and The Passing Show as well as Woman, the leading woman’s weekly at Odhams. He also worked for advertisers, including Mars’ Spangles sweets.

Women’s monthly magazines

What about the undies?

January 19, 2015
A Woman's Own centre spread from 1939 - 'She likes undies'

A Woman’s Own centre spread from 1939 – ‘She likes undies’

Undies. When did you last see that word? It used to be used on women’s magazine covers and in headlines quite a lot. But where do you see it now? Fashion journalists in magazines were certainly not afraid to use it in 1939 – as this centre spread from Woman’s Own shows – ‘She likes undies.’

And in Woman’s Fair in its January 1940 ‘Wishful thinking’ editorial for the new year: ‘We are going to stop hoarding old evening dresses and decrepit undies and make instead the beauteous evening gala outfit on page 24.’ At the end of the 1940s, here are undies as the topic for the main cover line above the title on Woman’s Pictorial:

Woman's Pictorial magazine from 1949 with the cover line: 'Beutiful undies to make and embrioder'

Woman’s Pictorial magazine from 1949 with the cover line: ‘Beautiful undies to make and embroider’

But note that these were the days when fashionable women made their own. I can’t see such an article causing Woman’s Own to go flying off the shelves today. Fashions change and it seems that reliable, cheap undies from Marks and Spencer tempted women away from their sowing machines. By 1991, the Times could inform us: ‘And we know that Margaret Thatcher gets her undies at M&S. “Doesn’t everybody?” she asked a television reporter.’

The full Oxford English Dictionary defines undies as meaning ‘Articles of girls’ or women’s underclothing’. In support, it quotes:

  • 1906. Punch 30 May: ‘She’d blouses for Sundays, And marvellous “undies” concocted of ribbons and lace.’
  • 1920. Arnold Bennett, the Woman editor and novelist, in his book Our Women: Chapters on the Sex-discord: ‘You have only to reflect … upon the astonishing public importance given to what are delicately known as “undies”.’
  • 1939. Arthur Ransome in Secret Water: ‘Go on, Bridgie. Off with your things. Undies too.’ (Doesn’t sound like it’s from one of his Swallows and Amazons children’s books!)
  • 1967. Crime writer Nicolas Freeling in one of his Van der Valk books, Strike Out Where Not Applicable: Arlette … knows I’m not just belting off for the afternoon because of the black undies.

But that OED definition needs rewriting because undies are for men these days, as the Christmas clash of the male models shows:

David Gandy has claimed victory over David Beckham in the battle of the undies – and even made the astonishing claim that his underwear range has single-handedly saved Marks & Spencer (Mail on Sunday, 18 January 2015)

Undies meaning men’s underwear is a trend that goes back to at least 1993, when the Evening Standard talked about a company ‘that makes men’s undies’ and there was an ‘offer’ in another newspaper that year, the a Daily Star: ‘Buy a pair of Gazza’s undies.’

However, a quick flick through the newspaper cuttings suggests the word is these days much more likely to appear in the Sun than a broadsheet. While the ever-so-posh Lucia van der Post was quite happy to talk about undies for How to Spend It, the Financial Times glossy magazine, the FT put the word in quotes last year in a column by David Tang; almost as if it’s not quite a safe word to touch for its tycoon columnist (a sense suggested in that ‘delicately known as’ phrase from Arnold Bennett in 1920):

A stay at a flash hotel in Miami last year had us in a suite of rooms with a huge art-deco style bathroom, beautifully decorated in black and white, but with nowhere to sit or put one’s ‘undies’

‘One’s undies.’ Now that’s a really rare phrase.

What’s a magazine worth – Autocar

January 14, 2015

A Magforum reader asks – I have a complete copy of a 1916 Autocar magazine in good condition, any idea what it is worth?

Autocar magazine from 1907

Autocar magazine from 1907 – colour covers did not come in until the 1920s

Copies of Autocar tend to sell on eBay for £10-£30, including postage. 1916 will be before it used colour covers and the front will be semi-display advertising. It’s a wartime issue, which are rarer because of paper rationing and there may be war interest. So I’d guess at the upper end of the range. Some useful searches:

Notice that I don’t use the word ‘magazine’ in the search – because some listings don’t; I don’t specify the books and magazines category because some people list them under cars or collectables or vehicle parts; the use of the quote marks ensures the separate words ‘auto car’ are excluded.

Among the results:

  • The top-value single copy from the third search was for a September 1910 issue at £29.50, including postage, on a buy-it-now.
  • There were about 20 results above £20. These were pre-WW2 issues, except for one – a 1963 copy featuring a Jaguar E-type road test. They were buy-it-nows or had a starting price at £19.99 + postage.

When it comes to listing the magazine, leave out words that people don’t search on in the main description such as: dated, the (though can be useful for some other searches, such as The Face), for the year. In the photographs, be sure to show good adverts in the issue – though there may not be any bigger than half-page in a 1916 issue – as well as the main articles.

Car magazines at Magforum


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