Leete’s animals in Country Life

February 24, 2021
Country Life issue with Alfred Leete article

Country Life magazine has a nice feature this week about the animals – real and imaginary – of Alfred Leete. The writer, Nicholas Hodge, is a descendent of the Kitchener-Needs-You artist – his great-grandmother Dorothy was Leete’s sister.

Despite writing a book with Martyn Thatcher, Kitchener Wants You: The Man, the Poster and the Legacy, I still find it astounding how overlooked Leete’s work is, given that he created the 20th century’s most famous image, so it was great to hear that there’s a movement afoot to persuade English Heritage to mark his achievements with a blue plaque on what was his London home. The PG Wodehouse Society (Leete was the first illustrator of his books), the House of Illustration, the London Sketch Club, the Cartoon Museum (which displayed some his wartime work a few years ago), and the Artists’ Rifles Association have all backed the idea, says Hodge.

Opening spread of the four-page feature by Nicholas Hodge in Country Life

Magazine tributes to John Lennon

January 23, 2021
Time Out tribute to John Lennon from 12 December 1980

This post was meant to have been published in December, after I showed three newspaper front pages from John Lennon’s murder in 1980. So here, belatedly, are three magazines that covered the same horrific event.

First up is the London listings magazine Time Out. You’ll notice that the cover date is December 12, just four days after the killing. Getting this tribute out so soon would have been quite a feat at the time. The cover is straightforward, with a photo of the young Beatle, barely recognisable as the same person on the Daily Mirror‘s front page shown on the previous post.

Inside, the centre four pages of the stapled issue were printed on a heavier varnished paper to take colour printing on both sides (the magazine’s usual paper stock was newsprint). The text was reversed out of black on the four pages and told the story of Lennon’s life in diary-like entries illustrated with contemporaneous photographs.

Time Out’s colour centre pages to mark Lennon’s death

In New York, it took six weeks for Rolling Stone to produce its tribute issue, even though Annie Leibovitz had taken her photograph of a naked John Lennon curled up against Yoko Ono five hours before Lennon’s murder on December 8. Even so, it is Rolling Stone‘s most famous cover and made the career of Leibovitz.

Rolling Stone’s most famous cover: John and Yoko by Annie Leibovitz (January 22, 1981)

A few years before this, Dick Stolley, the founding managing editor of People, a weekly celebrity magazine in the US, had come up with a mantra for his cover images.

Young is better than old. 
Pretty is better than ugly. 
Rich is better than poor. 
Movies are better than music. 
Music is better than television. 
Television is better than sports 
. . . and anything is better than politics

Lennon’s murder led Stolley to update the mantra, with an new final line:

… and nothing is better than the celebrity dead.

The 22 December 1980 tribute issue was People‘s best-selling cover at that time.

Best-selling People cover: John Lennon tribute (22/12/1980)

>>>Analysis of British press: ‘Times readers run the country…

Private Eye’s ‘naked bunny’ in the movies

January 22, 2021
Michael Caine with Private Eye ‘Naked bunny picture!’ poster

In a recent ‘magazines in the movies’ post, I listed the many walk-on parts for magazines in the 1969 film The Italian Job and mentioned a Private Eye poster. The poster is on the wall next to a photographic montage of Bob Dylan in 1960, Marlon Brando with his Triumph motorbike in The Wild One from 1953, and an unknown man wearing glasses.

Having seen the film recently, it turns out the poster consisted of the Private Eye logo – created by Matthew Carter in 1962 using Letraset – with the hand-drawn words below: ‘Naked bunny picture!’ I wonder how that came about? The posters are on the walls of the Michael Caine character’s flat in the film.

In another scene, imprisoned gangland boss Mr Bridger, played by Noel Coward, visits the Wormwood Scrubs governor (John Le Mesurier), and two Vanity Fair chromolithograph caricatures are seen on the walls. The upper print is of Frederick Edwin Smith from Vanity Fair magazine of 9 August 1911 (captioned ‘No Surrender’ by Frederick Drummond Niblett, ‘Nibs’); the other is of Henry JR Dawson-Damer (‘Port’, by Sir Leslie Ward, ‘Spy’, 24 August 1878). Smith was a Liverpool politician, lawyer, and orator who became Baron Birkenhead and as lord chancellor reformed the judiciary and helped negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Dawson-Damer, the third earl of Portarlington, was an Irish landowner and hereditary peer.

Bridger and the governor with two Vanity Fair caricatures

Later in The Italian Job, the royalty-obsessed gangland boss Mr Bridger is given a copy of the Illustrated London News (because there’s a photograph of the Queen in it) and reads it in his prison cell, which is lined with dainty crockery and pictures of the royal family.

Bridger reads the Illustrated London News in his cosy cell

Google is really going nutty

January 8, 2021
Oh no! I’ve been censored by Google AI!

Google has objected to one or more of the images on a page devoted to monthly women’s magazines. This page has been up for more than 10 years. Google keeps doing this and finding a new page every month to stop serving its adverts on. Each time I just take the Google ads code down and replace it with one of my direct advertisers or Amazon.

Its bots send messages saying: ‘Adult: Sexual content’ and ‘Some advertisers are choosing not to advertise on your page because of issues relating to some of your content.’

What could this be? A 110-pixel wide magazine cover with Cate Blanchett in a red dress? Does someone not like Kylie Minogue? Or Michael Caine? Even with all their clothes on?

Such arbitrary censorship reminds me of the story told by Nobel Prize winner Sir Harry Kroto in the mid-1990s. He said that his emails were being blocked because of their sexual content. What was that? His email address ended @sussex.ac.uk – it had ‘sex’ in the address!

If this is Google AI, then heaven help us!

A right Royal 12th day of Christmas

January 4, 2021
December 1907 cover of Royal – a milestone in the history of periodical production

This, the last of 12 covers in a magazine version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, is a milestone in the history of periodical production. It is the December 1907 cover of Royal. What marks it out as special is that it is the first cover I’ve seen that looks as if it was printed from a colour photograph.

There were lots of examples of magazines colouring black-and-white photographs, but these usually used just a second process colour with the black, such as on Quiver and The Million. Unfortunately, this copy of Royal is a rather grubby example and there is a fair bit of type show-through from the re

verse side, but this would have been a spectacular image on the bookstands, the like of which would not become common for another 30 years.

The printing of photographs in magazines had only started in 1885; and the application of colour to illustrations, at first from wooden blocks, dated back to 1855. True photographic colour separations and printing did not materialise until the mid-1930s.

So this is a very early and very skilled example of colour cover printing using a photograph. It gives a very punchy result, but was not achieved easily. It was probably printed using two-colour process engraving (red and blue) with additional solids for red, blue and yellow. Some ink squash at edges of the red working suggests this is relief-printed. The design style with the white background is familiar to us today from Dorling Kindersley book covers of the 1980s.

The ‘string’ by which the teddy is holding up the Japanese doll is printed tone using the warm red used for the post box and sock with some yellow.

Detail from the cover showing the letterpress dots on the box of crayons and part of the blue R in Royal

The Royal was published by C. Arthur Pearson, whose offices were in Henrietta Street in London’s Covent Garden. It was printed by Horace Cox, at Bream’s Buildings, which is a street between Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane, just north of Fleet Street in London. 

For more Christmas covers, take a look at the selection from 2019.

A be-baubled Marsha Hunt

January 4, 2021
Hair singer Marsh Hunt on the 1968 Christmas cover of Queen magazine

The Queen dated back to the pioneering days of Mr and Mrs Beaton as a society weekly, but was reinvented for the Swinging Sixties by Jocelyn Stevens, who bought the magazine for himself on inheriting a fortune at his 25th birthday. He later turned into a toothy Fleet Street management bully (hence his Private Eye nickname, Piranha Teeth).

The American model and singer Marsha Hunt is on this 1968 cover, complete with Christmas-tree-style decorations. Her breakthrough was in the West End production of the seminal rock musical Hair, in September that year. She brought the afro into fashion – just like it is now – with Justin De Villeneuve’s iconic silhouette photograph of Hunt used for the show’s publicity. That led to a nude picture taken by Patrick Lichfield for US Vogue and the be-baubled Queen cover. Hunt was the muse for Mick Jagger’s song ‘Brown Sugar’ and mother of his first child.

This is the penultimate of 12 Christmas covers in a magazine version of ye olde English counting song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

There was also a selection of covers for Christmas 2019.

The millennium at Christmas

January 2, 2021
Private Eye’s millennium bug cartoon cover

‘Oh No! It’s the Millennium Bug!’ is the plaintiff cry from Father Christmas as his sledge plunges earthwards towards London’s Millennium Dome. That was cartoonist Nick Newman’s take for Private Eye on the software peril that the computer industry feared could bring the world to a halt at the start of 2000.

It may seem ridiculous now, but the worry was that there was a lot of software around that had not been written ever expecting to reach the end of the century, and so it was expecting all dates to begin with the numerals 19. Millions were spent searching for the bug, but in the end the catastrophe never came to pass.

Notice that the issue covers the two week-period over Christmas and New Year – a common strategy for weeklies, including Radio Times, the Economist and the Spectator.

Newman knew Private Eye editor Ian Hislop at school and university, and has supplied cartoons to the satirical fortnightly since 1981. He is also a pocket cartoonist for The Sunday Times. ‘Oh No! It’s the Millennium Bug!’ is for sale at the Chris Beetles Gallery.

This is the tenth of 12 Christmas covers in a magazine version of ye olde English counting song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

There was also a selection of covers for Christmas 2019.

9th day: romance at Christmas

January 2, 2021

This 1945 issue of Woman promised Christmas Specials! But this was just six months after the defeat of Hitler, so it was a thin issue – paper rationing was still in place until 1952. Among the special features were a romantic fortune-telling game and the ‘loveliest jumper in colour contrast’. Top of the bill though – as was typical in women’s weeklies for a century – was fiction, in this case by Mary Howard and Dorothy Black, who between them wrote more than 150 romantic novels spanning most of the twentieth century. Alongside writers such as Ida Cook (Mary Burchell), they were stalwarts of the Mills & Boon style of fiction.

Howard, born Mary Edgar in 1907, started writing romantic novels in 1930 and was a past chairwoman of Society of Women Writers and Journalists.

Black, writing under what was her maiden name, worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist in 1916. She was a vice-president of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The association gave its annual award to Howard three times between 1960, its founding year, and 1980.

This is the ninth of 12 Christmas covers in a magazine version of ye olde English counting song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

There was also a selection of covers for Christmas 2019.

8th day: The Strand at Christmas

January 1, 2021
A coloured cover for the 1903 Christmas double issue of The Strand

Most British magazines were slow to introduce colour covers, but many made an exception at Christmas. The Strand followed the trend – set by the Illustrated London News in 1855 – with a 1903 double issue and a coloured version of George Charles Haité’s iconic rendering looking eastwards along the famous street from the bottom of Southampton Street. (The first version was from the bottom of Burleigh Street, but this was updated by just changing the street sign when the George Newnes office moved a couple of streets farther west.)

The ‘grand Christmas double number’ also doubled the price to a shilling (12 pennies).

A&F Pears, the soap maker, tended to take the back covers for these issues. For the Christmas 1904 issue of the Strand, it used the famous ‘Bubbles’ painting, which had first been published as an advert almost 20 years before.

‘Bubbles’ on the back cover of The Strand in 1904

This is the eighth of 12 Christmas covers in a magazine version of ye olde English counting song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

There was also a selection of covers for Christmas 2019.

Some comedy for Christmas

December 31, 2020
Pictorial Comedy for a new century

Pictorial Comedy was a monthly magazine of ‘stories, humorous pictures, varied reading’. Each issue typically ran to 32 pages plus the covers. At a shilling a copy, it was expensive. The Strand, for example, was sixpence – half the price – as was the society weekly the Queen.

Pictorial Comedy aimed to depict ‘the humorous phases of life’ through the eyes of eminent artists. Prominent among its roster was Charles Dana Gibson, an American artist renowned for portraying beautiful women. Its pages were slightly larger than A4, and many images were printed full-page, or across a spread, so many will have been mounted and framed.

The printer and publisher was James Henderson at Red Lion House in Red Lion Court, just off London’s Fleet Street.

The striped effect visible on the cover is caused by the impression of the letterpress type on the reverse of the page coming through.

This is the seventh of 12 Christmas covers in a magazine version of ye olde English counting song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

There was also a selection of covers for Christmas 2019.