Great to see Real Review’s a winner

December 3, 2016
Front cover of the first issue of Real Review magazine, summer 2016

Front cover of the first issue of Real Review magazine, summer 2016

I picked up a first issue of Real Review a while back from the Magculture shop. It’s a lovely magazine because it’s so portable and readable. So congratulations to them for winning the launch of the year award from Stack Magazines. There are many great-looking independent magazines around at the moment, but too often the emphasis is on looking good rather than encouraging people to read them.

I was discussing Real Review with Jeremy Leslie, who was saying there is a return to thin, glossy paper and lighter formats, and he mentioned Real Review in his Radio 4 talk last week. I liked it because of the way it folded up and could be put in your pocket for reading on the Tube or bus. It’s slightly wider than A4 to cater for four columns and a similar height.

A magazine that used to be like that is the RSA Journal. Ten times a year it would land on the door mat, I’d put in in my pocket and go off to work. Then, it was relaunched as a quarterly coffee table magazine and redesigned by Esterson/Lackersteen. Nothing wrong with the redesign, but it was no longer fit for my purpose and so it went pretty much unread.

Last week I flew out to Budapest and it was copies of the Economist and the Spectator that slipped into my bag. It’s usually that format for me to dip into on the move.

Getting back to Real Review, it’s architecture focused, but stretches the pitch into other areas: the meaning of home, for example. And it’s designed to be folded, as you can see from the cover above. And my copy has been read – the stain is from a pint of stout at the Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell while I was waiting for a pal!

Real Review, first issue: spread of pages 19 and 22

Real Review, first issue: spread of pages 19 and 22

The foldability offers some intriguing layout possibilities. The spread here is of pages 19 and 22 folded so the text reads across – it’s difficult to explain without a copy, but the intervening pages disappear into the gutter!

Real Review magazine: pages 51 and 54 folded to make a spread of juxtaposed images

Real Review: pages 51 and 54 folded to make a spread of juxtaposed images

This spread shows the potential for some Stefan-Lorant-style juxtapositions by folding the pages. It’s something the Real Review editors have tried to do and on just a single spread, and possible occasions might be rare, but with all the fantastic architectural photography around it’s worth trying in this format. If Stefan Lorant is not a familiar name, take a look at Lilliput and his brilliant book 101 Best Picture Comparisons from Lilliput: Or Chamberlain and the Beautiful Llama – more pages from the juxtapositions book can be seen at Fulltable.

 

MagCulture’s Jeremy Leslie on BBC Radio 4

November 30, 2016
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Jeremy Leslie runs the MagCulture blog and shop

Jeremy Leslie is on BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought tonight, giving a 15-minute explanation of why reports about the death of magazines are so exaggerated. Anyone interested in magazines will have noticed all the niche print titles that have opened up even as the behemoths close down.

The state of the mainstream men’s sector is a classic example – with the likes of Loaded, FHM, Maxim, Nuts and Zoo going to the wall, while a thriving independent sector has ensured there are more titles around than for decades.

The designer and  MagCulture founder will address the questions of why this has happened even in the face of the digital onslaught that’s at the top of the media agenda and whether the trend will continue (of course it will!).

I was at the MagCulture shop  when the recording was made this month – with a certain level of irony because I’d just just come from the Printers Unite conference at the Karl Marx Library where I was delivering a paper on how magazines and newspapers responded to print disputes.

Codd’s bottles and codswallop in The Caterer magazine

November 17, 2016
Advert for Codd's globe-stoppered bottles from the Caterer magazine (1878)

Advert for Codd’s globe-stoppered bottles from the Caterer magazine (1878)

‘Codswallop’ is a term long-known to me as meaning ‘drivel’ so I was intrigued to come across this advert for Codd’s bottles, from which the word is supposed to be derived. The story goes that Hiram Codd patented a bottle for fizzy drinks with a glass marble – a ‘globe’ – in the neck and that ‘wallop’ was slang for beer, so ‘Codd’s wallop’ became a derogatory term for weak beer.

Codd’s ‘globe-stoppered’ bottles were very popular – ‘the greatest invention of the age in connection with aerated waters’, according to another advertiser –  with 450 soda water makers using the technology according to the advert. It won awards from Philadelphia to Vienna.

For the editors at the Oxford English Dictionary, however, the Codd’s wallop story poses a problem because they can find no trace of it until 1959, when it crops up in an episode Hancocks’s Half Hour:

Tony (Hancock): I was not.

Sidney (Sid James): Don’t give me that old codswallop. You were counting your money…

The theory has been cited in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but how could if have survived by word of mouth for the best part of 100 years without  ever being captured in print?

The page advert for Codd’s bottles appeared in the launch issue of The Caterer & Refreshment Contractors Gazette, from April 6, 1878. It was published by J Gilbert Smith & Co under the editorship of John Plummer and is a fascinating magazine, for its advertising as well as the editorial. And it’s still going strong today, as The Caterer, a ‘multimedia brand’ that regards itself as ‘the beating heart of UK hospitality’.

In 1878, The Caterer was based at 67 Leadenhall Street in the City of London. This was close to Leadenhall Market, a covered food market built in 1881, though there had been traders there for 400 years. The market specialised in meat – hence the butchers’ hooks that can still be seen outside many of the shops – though today you’re more likely to go there for a lunchtime beer or on a scene-spotting trip for the Harry Potter films.

Night of the supermoon

November 14, 2016
Bite Me magazine

Bite Me magazine

The papers are full of talk of a supermoon tonight and how this will not occur again until 2034. The last time I covered this aspect of astronomy was when a copy of the first issue of Bite Me magazine sold for £21, at a time that coincided with the supermoon eclipse. [BTW, this is a difficult post to write, my Mac keeps turning ‘supermoon’ into ‘superman’ – all this talk of AI, but computers are just getting more stupid!].

Hammer Horror film vampire superstar Ingrid Pitt was the main feature of that issue. No such interest tonight, though a set of 10 issues of Bite Me on ebay sold recently for £19.99.

Tonight, it’s all about a “perigee full moon” – when the moon is full and at its closest to the Earth on its orbit. The opposite is an “apogee”, when the moon is at its farthest distance from Earth. Tonight, the moon will appear about a third bigger than when it is at its apogee.  It’s a difficult comparison to make, but the moon certainly looked bigger last night, particularly as it rose. A real harvest moon.

The Red Poppy in Scotland in 1931

November 7, 2016
Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

The Red Poppy is a rare and unusual magazine. It was produced for several years by the West of Scotland committees of the Earl Haig Fund to raise funds for disabled veterans. It is not dated by month, but will presumably have come out in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

The poppy was adopted in the early 1920s by the British and Canadian Legions as the symbol of remembrance of World War One, inspired by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae with his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Lady Haig established a poppy factory in Edinburgh in 1926. Both the Haig Fund and the poppy factory are still active.

Charles Davidson's signature

Glasgow artist Charles Davidson’s signature

The cover is by the magazine’s staff artist, Charles L Davidson. It shows the positions of the Allied and German lines on three dates during the Great War and marks the sites of the greatest battles during the conflict in France.

Davidson studied at Glasgow School of Art and served in the war as a captain in the Seaforth Highlanders. Davidson also produced several posters for the war effort that aimed to encourage men at the front to salvage materials.

This logo was used as a strap on the pages of Red Poppy magazine

This logo was used as a strap on the pages of Red Poppy

Among the magazine’s cartoonists were Charles Allen Oakley, who took the name Ochre as his nom de crayon; Arthur Ferrier, who drew for Blighty magazine in the First World War and would do so again in the Second World War; T Grainger Jeffrey; and Berwick painter Frank Watson Wood, who painted the surrendered German fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

Mother’s Friend and the engraver John Swain

November 1, 2016
Mother's Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

Mother’s Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

The Mother’s Friend ran for almost 50 years from 1848 and was one of several magazines launched for mothers in the mid-Victorian era. Note the prominent cover credit for the editor, Mrs GS Reaney, who was also a prolific book author for Hodder and Stoughton, with titles such as For my Children’s Sake: A Christmas story for mothers.

The particular issue, dated November 1888, has a cover engraving signed by John Swain, one of the most skilled craftsmen of his day.

John Swain's signature in 1888

John Swain’s signature in 1888

Swain (1829-98) was a wood engraver who worked for a considerable time on Punch, where he was a favourite engraver of John Leech. The artists’s caricatures where interpreted by the engravers, who carved a representation of the image into wood. On a weekly such as Punch, large images were made up of several blocks, which were clamped together for printing.

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

An engraver could specialise in certain subjects, such as sea, sky or people. Swain was popular with Leech for his ability to carve dainty feet and hands, a skill that can be seen in this cover.

As well as Mother’s Friend and Punch, Swain made engravings for Once a Week and the Illustrated London News, along with many books. As a young man, he formed a partnership with  John Rimbault, one of a family of celebrated engravers, and worked on The Engineer. He formed a company in 1857, which later became John Swain and Son at 58 Farringdon Street and later at Columbia House, 80-89 Shoe Lane.

 


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

 

 


 

Paypal is getting flakey at the weekends

October 31, 2016

Weird goings-on at Paypal for the second weekend on the run. Trying to pay for ebay items, it tells me ‘We don’t recognise the device you’re using’. They’re the same 2 devices I’ve been using for several years. And I’ve bought more than 1,000 items using Paypal.

I spent an age on the phone last weekend and then going through interminable security systems to get a screen grab to them. Of course, I got a ‘we’re experiencing unexpectedly high volume of phone calls’ message last weekend and I got one again yesterday morning.

Ebay help far easier to get hold of, but they know nothing. Just give me Paypal’s phone number, which I know only too well already.

So, I think there’s something going wrong with Paypal’s systems. Certainly, last week the problem sorted itself out without them doing anything.

In the meantime, what do people recommend as an alternative to Paypal for ebay payments?

Guess what? It all worked fine at midnight. Paypal definitely getting flakey at weekends.

 

Vogue – vague about photography

October 28, 2016
Inside Vogue book by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine's centenary year

Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine’s centenary year

Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year came out this week with editor Alexandra Shulman writing about the magazine’s celebration of 100 years since the first issue of British Vogue – known in the trade as ‘Brogue’. Incredibly, she’s been at the helm for 24 of those years.

She was asked on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about that first issue and came across as a tad vague. She remarked that it was then a society magazine rather than a fashion magazine and that ‘there were no photographs, of course’. Why ‘of course’?

Photography was well established and the Graphic had been reproducing half-tones for 30 years. Its four-page supplement in 1884, ‘An amateur photographer at the zoo’ is one of the first examples of photographic reportage.

Could it be that ‘of course, Vogue is always slow to follow the trends’? Or perhaps ‘of course, Vogue simply didn’t like photographs’. It did not run its first photographic cover until 1932.


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

 


 

The week in magazines

October 27, 2016
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Bharbat Gula with the National Geographic  cover in 2002

Bharbat Gula, the Afghan refugee whose face made one of the world’s iconic magazine covers, has been arrested for living illegally in Pakistan with fraudulent documents.

She was 12 years old when Steve McCurry took her photograph at a refugee camp close to the Afghan border in 1984. The National Geographic cover was dated June the following year.

The cover may have sold magazines and made McCurry’s name, but it did nothing for her. She had never even seen it until he tracked her down almost 20 years later (left).

Now, she’s caught up in the drive by the Pakistani authorities to force the millions of Afghan refugees in the country to return home.

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NME is one of the biggest magazine brands

AT&T announced a takeover offer in the US with Time Warner. The ‘Time’ in Time Warner is, of course, the US news magazine founded in 1923.

TW one of the world’s biggest media companies and is itself the result of two mergers – Time magazines and Warner films, and then internet provider AOL and Time Warner. The latter was supposed to be about provided old media content to a fast-growing dotcom star, but it bombed, hence the dropping of the AOL.

Today, the jewel in the crown is HBO, maker of Game of Thrones and getting together with AT&T is again about providing content to a massive broadband and mobile distributor.

In all the press coverage, though, one part of TW has barely rated a mention – Time Inc UK, once called IPC, and once a force to be reckoned with as Britain’s biggest magazine publisher. However, they’ve sold off the Blue Fin building in Southwark to rent it back to themselves, boosting the balance sheet in the short term, but costing the company in the long term. UK magazines are an insignificant bauble in a company the merger values at $65bn.

The Liverpool Echo launched a free monthly magazine, Business Post on Thursday.

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Home Chat and Winnie-the-Pooh in 1928

AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh is celebrating the publication of his first collection of stories 90 years ago.

The honey-loving bear was used for a big marketing campaign by Home Chat in 1928 and one of the six EH Shepard colour plates commissioned for that campaign was sold recently for £68,500.

Milne was a prolific contributor of articles and stories to magazines, dating as far back as 1903 with ‘The Rape of the Sherlock’, one of the first parodies of Conan Doyle’s famous detective, for Thomas Bowles’s Vanity Fair. Milne was just 21 at the time.

Sally Brampton, founding editor of Elle in the UK aged just 30, was declared by an inquest to have died from suicide. That launch was half her lifetime ago, and she had since suffered from depression, an issue she wrote about in a book, Shoot the Damn Dog. In recent years, she had written an advice column for the Daily Mail.

 

The strange ways of Fleet Street: Jack the Ripper expert paid in unused £1 notes

October 12, 2016
Weekend magazine cover in 1959 (jan21). At this time it was published in a tabloid format

Weekend magazine cover in 1959, when Richard Whittington-Egan began working there. At this time it was published in a tabloid format

A recent obituary in the Telegraph for Richard Whittington-Egan, mentioned an interesting tit-bit about Fleet Street practices. Whittington-Egan was known as a ‘towering authority’ on Jack the Ripper, but earned his living as a journalist on Weekend, a popular general interest magazine.

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

He worked at Weekend‘s offices at Northcliffe House off Fleet Street  between 1957 and 1986 – in ‘a job he detested’, but it must have paid the bills and gave him the time to indulge his passions. And a condition of his contract was that ‘he was paid weekly, every Friday, in unused £1 notes’!

In that time, Weekend moved from a tabloid newspaper format with a colour cover to an A4 magazine, a strategy also used by rivals John Bull (which became Today in 1960) and Tit-Bits. Weekend took over Today in 1964 and Tit-Bits in 1984, but closed down itself five year later.

The obit makes him out to have been quite a character whose work ‘was as remarkable for its singularly convoluted style as it was for his probing, almost obsessive, research’:

A kinsman of Dick Whittington, the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Whittington-Egan, with his signature pipe, stiffly starched collar and lined cape, cut an old-world figure of studied manner and speech. To some, however, his rich prose was no less fussy and idiosyncratic: a contemporary marked him out as ‘one of the last surviving and most expert exponents of the broderie anglaise style of writing’…

But despite the stylistic curlicues, Whittington-Egan was a shrewd analyst of the criminal mind. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jack the Ripper killings in the East End of London in the autumn of 1888, and was a dissenting voice when, in 1965, the American author Tom Cullen identified the Ripper as an obscure barrister, Montague John Druitt. ‘It won’t do,’ complained Whittington-Egan, ‘it simply won’t do.’

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov19) with Felicity Kendall on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov 19) with TV actress Felicity Kendal on the cover

His 1975 study, A Casebook on Jack The Ripper, tackled the theories about the Ripper’s identity and dismissed them all: ‘The verdict must remain undisturbed: some person or persons unknown.’

Associated Newspapers – part of the Daily Mail group – owned the magazine. Its offices, Northcliffe House, were in Tudor Street, off Fleet Street and are today occupied by a law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The building name – after the Answers magazine and Daily Mail founder Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe – is also used for the Daily Mail‘s office, in Kensington, today. The name Weekend is now found on the Daily Mail‘s Saturday magazine supplement.

Of course, it’s no wonder Whittington-Egan developed an interest in the macabre, for he worked yards way from Johnson’s Court, the alley that is supposed to be the site of the barber shop of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Liverpool-born Whittington-Egan broadcast frequently on BBC Radio Merseyside and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, investigating ghosts and poltergeists. He was 91 when he died. Read the Telegraph obituary.