The Athletic swoops on the UK

September 3, 2019

Screenshot 2019-09-03 at 14.38.06

Producing news magazines has always been difficult in Britain because of the strength of the daily and Sunday papers. The same is true of sports magazines.

So it will be interesting to watch the progress of The Athletic, a US-based online magazine and app that has recently launched football coverage for the Premiership, with Glasgow and Celtic added. Obviously intent on global domination, it’s strategy is: if you can’t beat newspapers’ football writers, poach them. So far, it’s lured 50-odd from national and local papers.

That’s a very expensive staff list, though someone who turned the ambitious online offering down told me the money wasn’t brilliant and it would have meant leaving London. Other reports say it is offering ‘old journalism money’ and equity in the company. With subscriptions costing £10 a month after a first year of £2.49 a month (cut from £4.99), the pressure will be on for The Athletic to be very good.

So, James Pearce, who reported on the 2012 London Olympic Games for the BBC and has now quit his Blood Red column on Liverpool at the Echo after eight years, is one of those taking the dollars. Phil Hay, chief football writer at the Yorkshire Evening Post was first to go in June   

The Press Gazette has an Athletic staff list of who’s covering what.

A racy cover for Pictorial Magazine

August 19, 2019

 

 

Pictorial Magazine front cover by Thomas Heath Robinson for a serial by Austin J. Small, ‘Seamark’

A comparatively racy cover for Pictorial Magazine by Thomas Heath Robinson for a serial by Austin J. Small, who wrote as ‘Seamark’

Pictorial Magazine was a cheap illustrated popular weekly costing two pennies (2d) from Amalgamated Press. This racy cover promotes the start of a new fiction serial – ‘Perils of Desire’ – by Austin J. Small, who used the nom-de-plume ‘Seamark’ and wrote science fiction as well as mysteries.

The illustration was by Thomas Heath Robinson, the oldest brother of Charles and William Heath Robinson, and a popular black-and-white artist in the Edwardian era. While WH became a household name with his quirky machine drawings, the Dictionary of 20thCentury Book Illustrators suggests that demand for Thomas’s work ‘seemed to dry up’ during the First World War. Such was the dip in his career that in 1920 he and his family had to move out of their house in the Pinner suburb of north London into lodgings and then a council house.

The Philsp magazine cataloguing website lists hundreds of Thomas’s works for magazines such as The Strand, Captain and Chums, but nothing from the end of 1919 until March 1923. However, things picked up and they were able to move back to Pinner the year after this cover came out. After that, he’s continually working on magazines until 1935, when he would have been 63 years old.

Other fiction in this issue of Pictorial Magazine included ‘XV: Percy the Pocket’, another case for Detective X Crook, a reformed criminal, by J Jefferson Farjeon, a popular and prolific mystery writer of the period.

Other features in this issue included ‘Must parsons keep “mum”?’ by Reverend GA Studdert Kennedy – known since the war as ‘Woodbine Willie’ for his work on the front line.

Plenty there for a Saturday afternoon reading session.

What to do with old magazines

July 30, 2019
Tommy Handley, a famous face in 1955, on the cover of weekly magazine Tit-Bits

Tommy Handley was a famous face in 1955

 

People often ask me about selling old magazines and I’ve done several posts about selling on Ebay and the rare titles that are worth taking to auction.

But what about those that don’t sell or even the charity shops don’t want?

Chatting on eBay with a woman from Oxfam reminded me that care homes are another option.  I had a correspondence a few years ago with a dementia nurse who was trying to trace a particular magazine that one of the women in her care had appeared in. It was a needle in a haystack and we never found the specific issue. However, in the process I sent her some 1950s women’s weekly magazines. She said the result was amazing when she passed them around!

The people there, particularly the women, kept each other entertained for weeks afterwards with their reminiscing sparked off by the magazines. Pop and film stars, celebrities and household names they were then, but they are hardly known today. The likes of George Formby, Tommy Handley and Frankie Vaughan have all long since died, but these women were teenagers at the time and the oldest memories live on the longest.

 

 

George Newnes and his Millionaires

July 25, 2019

1892_million_1892_3mar26_1000

The valiant attempt by George Newnes to bring colour to the masses, ‘the million’ as they were described in the early 1890s, was the subject of a paper I gave in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.

The Million, an ambitious penny weekly, is rarely discussed*, but was a rare failure for the man who pretty much invented the modern magazine industry – and became one of the richest men in the country in the process. Magazine publishers such as Cassell and Hodder & Stoughton would soon become, in today’s parlance, legacy brands, and were left to concentrate on book publishing.

But Britain was slow to adopt colour printing. Although the Illustrated London News had started at trend for colour supplements at Christmas in 1855, colour was still reserved for special occasions and papers for children. There were colour weeklies in France and the US, however.

Newnes had launched Tit-Bits, the best-selling weekly, in 1881, and The Strand, the best-selling monthly thanks to Sherlock Holmes, ten years later. The Million started as a tabloid-size magazine in 1892 and lasted for about three years, though it halved its page size during that time and had two redesigns (usually a sign of problems). Its readers were called, of course, ‘Millionaires’ – Newnes was nothing if not aspirational for his audience.

coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

Coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

The size, quality and number of colour engravings falls sharply in the final year, though there are some surprises; a coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in September 1894 is particularly striking.

The Million was printed on letterpress machines – so did not have to use expensive paper – by the London Colour Printing Company at their works in Exmoor St, Notting Hill. The same printer later produced Puck, a colour cartoon paper launched by Harmsworth in 1904 and seemingly modelled on a US paper with the same format and title. Harmsworth’s Amalgamated had also tried colour for a one-off edition of a comic paper called The Funny Wonder in 1898 (May 28).

In fact, Guy Lawley, a fellow researcher at the conference, told me that the colour presses used by Newnes were bought from Hippolyte Auguste Marinoni, who already used letterpress for a supplement to his French daily tabloid Le Petit Journal. This was the best-selling paper in France – probably the world – claiming a million print run in the early 1890s.

Le Petit Journal appears to have started publishing an eight-page colour illustrated supplement on Fridays in November 1890, judging by adverts on the front page of online digitised copies of the daily edition at the French national library. The price was 5 centimes, the same as the daily edition. Soon after, the supplement itself was claiming print runs of just over a million.

Guy adds that the success of Le Petit Journal and The Million inspired US newspaper publishers to turn to colour. The Chicago Inter Ocean added a free Sunday colour supplement in 1892, three months after The Million; The New York World added colour pages from 1893 and later a colour section. The Inter Ocean referred to the success of both Le Petit Journal‘s Supplément Illustré and the Million in its editorial announcing the coming of colour.

The New York supplements evolved into colour Sunday comics section, a development that was then copied across the country, giving birth to a new form of mass entertainment in the US.

As for the US Puck, that was printed using a different printing technology, lithography, until it was taken over by William Randolph Hearst in 1917, and closed down. However, in 1918, he resurrected the name Puck on his own Sunday comics supplement for the New York Journal, so it was also printed on newspaper-type colour letterpress presses.

Guy is working on a PhD thesis about colour printing and US newspaper comics.

Print Networks and the Centre for Printing History & Culture organised the conference, Dregs, dross and debris: the art of transient print. Discussions are under way about collating the talks as proceedings, or publishing them in Publishing History or Printing History and Culture.

*Kate Jackson’s Newnes and the new journalism in Britain, 1880-1910 has the most to say about it; Dave Reed doesn’t mention it. My British Magazine Design shows one of the smaller format covers. The issues are available in the British Library as bound volumes

General weekly magazines

The Strand magazine

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


Brexit threatens Spare Rib archive

July 24, 2019
spare_rib_archive_threat

The British Library has digitised all the issues of feminist monthly Spare Rib

Back in April, the British Library warned that the digital archive of the iconic 1970s feminist magazine Spare Rib might have to close down. Nothing has changed, because the problem is Brexit. If there’s no deal on Halloween, the site has to come down – and might never come back up again.

I’m sure Boris is working on it with his new cabinet as we speak, but as with everything to do with Brexit, on-one knows anything for sure. Two other possibilities are:

  • The Spare Rib Jisc resource would stay until the end of any transition period. But it is not clear whether or when it would be possible to make the resource available again after that.
  • In the case of the UK remaining in the EU or reaching some form of agreement with Brussels to align the copyright regimes, the archive will remain available.

The complete run of the feminist spearhead in print was digitised by the British Library and is hosted at Jisc Journal Archives.

For now, Spare Rib is freely available, but if you’re interested in it, I’d get in quick. The Jisc archive also has hundreds of academic journals, but you can only download articles if you’re at a college or university that has a subscription.

 

Where did you get those teeth?

April 11, 2019

harmsworth-magazine-1898-white-teeth - 1

Shiny teeth, no skin blemishes and clear white eyes. It’s standard practice nowadays that celebrities on magazine covers such as Vogue look perfect. But when did these little white Photoshop lies start?

It’s well known that the publicity photographs in Hollywood were taken by experts in the art of making anyone look good. And that they were then put into the hands of expert retouchers to take out any real-world blemishes.

harmsworth-magazine-cover-1898-november

But this cover image shows the practice goes back before Hollywood even existed, It’s from a 1898 copy of The Harmsworth, a monthly pictorial magazine that competed with the likes of the Strand. The teeth on the girl have clearly been altered to become perfectly white blocks.

Magazines in the movies: Gangster No 1

October 9, 2018

Magazines often pop in TV series and the movies, from Doctor Who to Steven Seagal thrillers to James Bond, but a surprise appearance was in the gruesome Gangster No 1, the film that established Paul Bettany in 2000. There’s a scene where Bettany’s character has butchered a rival in the man’s flat, and he sits in his vest and underpants spattered with blood with copies of three magazines at his feet.

They are: Condé Nast’s House & Garden, Michael Heseltine’s Town and and Football Weekly. The full covers are not visible but I reckon the Town is from September 1962 with the first couple of letters of the white sans title on a dark background. The Jimmy-Hill-fronted Football Weekly is from October 11, 1968, with Liverpool’s Ian Callaghan dribbling past a Manchester City player (no change there then).

The House & Garden is trickier, but it will have been at the time when the typographer and polymath Robert Harling was editor. The title has the first word reversed out of a dark background and then the & Garden in black on a second line. Pretty distinctive, but I don’t have set of cover images from House & Garden across the sixties for reference. The magazine does have a cover archive, but only of the ‘best 100’ House & Garden covers.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

 

Last chance to see – the trailblazing iconoclast magazines

August 20, 2018
Recognise many of these magazines? One of the walls at Somerset House

Recognise many of these magazines? One wals at Somerset House

If you haven’t been to ‘Print!: Tearing it Up’ at Somerset House yet, get down to London quick. It closes on Wednesday. Kieran Yates rounds the show off with a talk about her magazine, British Values, which celebrates immigrant communities.

The show ‘charts the evolution of polemic and progressive print publications and celebrates the current diverse industry of innovative independent magazines’. Beginning with Blast!, the Vorticist journal of 1914, to moves through the pacifist Peace News of 1930s, the satire of Private Eye, the Spare Rib of the feminist 1970s, the pop phenomenon of The Face in the 1980s and 90s and the zines from teenage feminist collectives into the new millennium.

The editor of British Values gives talk on Wednesday

The editor of British Values gives a talk on Wednesday

It’s worth it just to study Paul Gorman‘s wall-sized mind map of independent British magazine publishing – you will never have heard of many of the titles and zines, and it’s a great argument of an infographic.

The other walls are covered in displays of magazines that have changed the way we think about the world and fought against the dead hand of censorship and conservative attitudes in Britain.

The main focus is the postwar era to the present day. But the boundaries are pretty fluid, with Blast! being a seminal work and titles such as the Spectator and The Wide World creeping in (though the latter is mis-titled as The World Wide). Gorman’s archives are the foundation of the displays, which have been curated with Claire Catterall.

For anyone who’s worked in the industry, the sight of flat plans and layouts for several titles will; bring back pre-screen working practices.

There’s also a newsstand where you can peruse modern titles.

 

Mayfair magazine, Lord Desborough and The Thames

August 16, 2018
Mayfair magazine's 1914 caricature by 'Pip' of Lord Desborough as 'The Thames'

Mayfair magazine’s 1914 caricature by ‘Pip’ of Lord Desborough as the personification of ‘The Thames’

There are many magazines named after places, particularly London districts and roads: Pall Mall, the Strand, Charing Cross and Cornhill spring to mind. A new one on me is Mayfair, which seems silly given the men’s magazine, but this is a copy of Mayfair magazine of 1914, just before the start of the First World War.

The masthead of Mayfair magazine

The masthead of Mayfair magazine. The name is expanded to include ‘and Country Society’ with a Latin motto

Mayfair was a society weekly in the mould of Vanity Fair – with a similar page size and format, and complete with a colour ‘cartoon’ portrait of a leading person of the day. It ran from 1911 to 1922, according to the British Library’s collection. This issue describes itself as ‘the only cartoon illustrated weekly’ because Vanity Fair, which dated back to 1868 with its chromolithography caricatures, had closed in January that year. The cartoonist was ‘Pip’ for the cartoon of Lord Desborough, as the personification of ‘The Thames’ for his work on building a new lock on the river. At Vanity Fair, the profiles were written by ‘Jehu Junior’ (Thomas Gibson Bowles, the magazine’s editor and owner); Mayfair‘s were by ‘Junius Junior’. Vanity Fair‘s prolific cartoonists included ‘Ape’ and ‘Spy’.

At over six feet tall, Desborough was a famous athlete as a runner, rower and fencer. He brought the Olympics to London in 1908. However, 1914 saw the start of several travails in his personal life. Two of his three sons were killed during during the war. The Times mistakenly ran his obituary on 2 December 1920, having being confused him with Lord Bessborough. His third son died after a car accident in 1926. Desborough himself died in 1945 at the age of 90.

The front cover of Mayfair magazine showing a stature of Minerva from Rome

The front cover of Mayfair magazine showing a statute of Minerva from Rome

This issue was a ‘special river supplement’, with 11 of its 24 pages devoted to the Thames, in addition to a colour plate of the source of the Thames, based on an engraving from 1873. The pages covered the river from its source near Oxford to Teddington Lock and were copiously illustrated with photographs, including of Eton, Magna Carta island and Taplow Court – ‘Lord Desborough’s famous riverside seat’. Very much the Hello! magazine treatment of the Edwardian era. (Today, Taplow Court is owned by a Buddhist group.) Several photographs show the opening of Boulter’s lock on the river in 1912, with Desborough in many of them.

The title page shows the masthead with a Latin inscription: ‘De omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis’ (‘Concerning all knowledge and other peoples’. This may be a reference to ‘De omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis’, the frontispiece etching from George Cruikshank’s Omnibus of 1842. The cartoon tries to portray everything and even more by crowding people on the earth.

A full-page advert – illustrated by ‘Pip’ – promotes the Mayfair Salon at the magazine’s premise where readers could commission a life-sized painting in oils or water colours. The magazine entrepreneurs of the era were never short of ideas for making a few bob.

Mayfair was published from 7 Albemarle Street, just off Piccadilly in Mayfair. A previous resident of 7 Albemarle Street was the Royal Thames, the oldest continuously operating yacht club in the world. It was established in 1775.

Mayfair magazine showing photographs of Boulter's lock from 1912 with Lord Desborough-the-thames

Mayfair magazine showing photographs of Boulter’s lock on the Thames from 1912 with Lord Desborough

Given the price of property, it’s difficult to imagine many publishers being based in that street today, but as well as Mayfair, John Murray, the book publisher, was at 50 Albemarle Street, from 1812 for the best part of two centuries. John Murray published Byron, Austen, Darwin, Livingstone, Betjman and many others who will have walked through its doors. And, in a famous example of literary vandalism, Byron’s memoirs were burnt inits office in 1824.

And the literary links don’t end there. Oscar Wilde was a member of the Albemarle Club and it was there in 1895 that the Marquess of Queensberry left his infamous ‘For Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite’ note that ultimately led the the magazine editor and writer being sent to Reading jail. Previously, Wilde had been editor of Lady’s World magazine for Cassell’s, relaunching it as Woman’s World, from 1887-89.

Albemarle was made one of the first one-way streets because of the popularity of the Royal Institution and the Albemarle Club, which led to huge carriage jams.


To learn about almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

The innovative past of magazines

August 6, 2018

There much talk of innovation in the publishing industry at the moment, but an often-overlooked place for ideas is the past 150 years of magazine publishing. And here’s one from the Boy’s Own Paper (BOP).

Until the Second World War, a strategy for some magazines was to publish a magazine as a weekly, and then collate those four issues as a monthly, and also as a complete annual.

So, this BOP from Jan 1908 is actually the December issues with their covers removed, some fresh advertising pages and all in a new wrapper. The price was half as much again as for the four weekly issues at 6d. However, the part carried ‘added value’ in the form of a fold-out colour plate.

The plate was of a painting, ‘?Companions in Tribulation’ by Miss N. Joshua, which showed two men in the stocks. It was printed separately by Tom Browne & Co in Nottingham, a colour lithographic printer founded by Tom Browne, then one of most famous cartoonists.