This month in magazines: The Strand’s albatross cover

The Strand magazine cover from February 1930 - note the mini cover at the bottom right

February 1930: The Strand magazine with a mini cover at the bottom right and the Oxo advertising sign

The Strand magazine was first published by George Newnes in 1891 and was an immediate hit – establishing both itself and Sherlock Holmes in the world’s imagination. Even today, it is the world’s most collectable magazine. A set of all 75 issues with Sherlock Holmes stories is likely to set you back £50,000.

Raphael Sabitini's Captain Blood on the cover of Pearsons, January 1930

Competition fromRaphael Sabitini’s Captain Blood on the cover of Pearsons, January 1930

Its initial cover design by George Haité became an icon and, like Punch and The Wide World, was used for a long time. However, the iconic cover became an albatross around the magazine’s neck. The reason for this is that the magazine industry thrives on change, but readers hate change! Managing this dilemma is one of the great skills of an editor, but usually involves some painful decisions that will upset the most loyal readers.

As an earlier post explained, The Strand cover evolved. First, an advertising panel was introduced on the top left, then images were inset over the traffic on the right side. In the 1920s, colour was introduced and the street scene moved around the Covent Garden area that The Strand thoroughfare bounds. But by 1930, there was a lot of monthly competition with arresting, colour covers, such as Pearson’s. And the last of the Holmes stories had been published in 1927.

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a colour cover and a Covent Garden flower seller

The Strand of May 1922

So the February 1930 tradition was an attempt to break with the past – it depicts a scene inside a restaurant, presumably on The Strand, with the Oxo hoarding seen in its familiar place through the window.

However, there must have been angst in the office, and it was Herbert Greenhough Smith’s last year in the editorial chair – after 40 years! At any rate, they felt they still had to show the usual cover, which was an updated colour version of Haité’s original work, in a panel. And they then reverted to that version – which dated back to 1921 – for the next two years, with a Covent Garden flower seller in the foreground and cars rather than carriages in the road.

 


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

 

 

 


Advertisements

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: