How to spot a magazine reproduction


Letterpress impression on this 1866 issue of Sharpe’s London magazine is clear

Country Life, Women’s Weekly, Time Out, The Face – all magazines that have published reproductions of their first issue. In the case of the latter two, the fact that they are celebratory facsimiles is made clear, but there is no such indication in the others.

So, if you’re buying a copy of Country Life that seems to be a first issue from 1897 or a premier Women’s Weekly from 1911, you need to watch out for clues, because the real thing is worth far more than a repro.

As I mentioned in a post about buying and selling copies of Country Life magazine, the giveaway is the printing technique. Most magazines before 1950 will have been printed letterpress, with gravure for big run titles between about 1930 and 1990. With letterpress, the metal type is raised and often makes an impression on the paper.

The scan at the top of this page shows the detail from a copy of Sharpe’s London magazine from 1866. The impression from the printing of the reverse page can be clearly seen. This is a particularly obvious example and better techniques as the century progressed greatly reduced the excess pressure, so it’s unlikely to be this clear.


Facsimile of first Woman’s Weekly

The first issues of both Country Life and Women’s Weekly were letterpress, so should show some signs of the impression of the type on the pages. Modern copies using offset lithography will be perfectly smooth.


Also, the real issues are unlikely to be in good condition. Women’s Weekly was printed on newsprint, which will have turned brown and brittle because of the acid in the woodpulp paper. The facsimiles are printed on brown paper, but the colouring is very even, which will not be the case with the real thing, because these usually brown from the outer edges in.

Country Life is tricker in this regard because it was printed on good paper, but it will have picked up dirt. Finally, the staples will have discoloured the paper on the centre pages and will probably have rusted, particularly on Women’s Weekly.

So, if you’re selling one of these, be careful in your description. If you’re buying, ask about the provenance. If in doubt, assume it’s a repro.

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2 Responses to “How to spot a magazine reproduction”

  1. simon robinson Says:

    Interesting read. I always find it useful to tilt one of the pages almost horizontal into direct daylight, then the letterpress indentation usually shows up reasonably well even on later magazines and printed items. Funnily enough a neighbour let me borrow a box full of old newspapers his Gran had saved last month and these went from 1817 to 1954. We have no idea why she saved these random issues or indeed the titles but I enjoyed going carefully through them though sadly some had rotted along the fold and are in pieces. Others have fared better. I was also interested in the vintage cardboard box she’d stored them in! He’s looking to donate the papers if anyone has any ideas.

  2. magforum Says:

    That’s a very good tip. And that newspaper collection from 1817 is amazing. One thing you will notice is that the paper on the 1817 copies will be better than those from about 1880 and later. That’s because the paper will be made from cloth and won’t have the inbuilt acids that destroy woodpulp newsprint.
    Researchers would value that spread. If they’re local papers, talk to a local history society or university. Who you would talk to depends on the publications. Be good to have more details.

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