Life at Punch in 1962

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.

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

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