Archive for the ‘1940s’ Category

On this day in magazines: Punch 1954

February 3, 2017
Illingworth's controversial Punch cartoon of Churchill from February, 1954

Illingworth’s controversial Punch cartoon of Churchill from February 3, 1954

From its inception in 1841, Punch magazine built on the great tradition of English satire.

Fleet Street's Punch Tavern, with the eponymous puppet above the doorway

Fleet Street’s Punch Tavern, with the eponymous puppet above the doorway

Its founders originally held meetings in the Edinburgh Castle Tavern on The Strand. However, when its offices moved from 13 Wellington Street in Covent Garden to 85 Fleet Street, the magazine’s editors also moved east, to the Crown and Sugar Loaf at 99 Fleet Street. So, when the architects Saville and Martin rebuilt the pub in 1894-95 with the Baker Brothers, as part of a public house boom, they changed its name to The Punch Tavern. Mr Punch’s sharp chin and nose can be seen above the door to this day, and the The Punch Tavern was listed in 1996.

By the 1920s, Punch magazine could boast that its advertising pages were booked months ahead. However, three decades later, Bradbury Agnew & Co, its publishers, could see that sales were in decline. Cartoonists had once been the scourge of politicians, but they had lost their bite in Punch and readers were being tempted away by new-fangled televisions. The response from Bradbury Agnew was to appoint a new editor, Malcolm Muggeridge, in 1953. He sacked the magazine’s lead cartoonist, EH Shepard, the Winnie the Pooh illustrator, who had held the position since 1945.

In 1954, Punch was still using a front cover that was little different from Dicky Doyle's design from a century earlier

In 1954, Punch was still using Dicky Doyle’s front cover design from a century earlier

Within a year of Muggeridge’s editorship, in the issue of 3 February 1954, Punch pulled off a controversial coup in Leslie Illingworth’s 1954 sketch of Winston Churchill for the weekly’s ‘Big Cut’ cartoon.

The portrayal of an ailing prime minister – rather than the man who had epitomised the British bulldog spirit – with the caption ‘Man Goeth Forth unto his Work and to his Labour until the Evening’ upset friends of Britain’s wartime leader and the man himself. Churchill has been quoted as saying: ‘Yes, there’s malice in it. Look at my hands – I have beautiful hands … Punch goes everywhere. I shall have to retire if this sort of thing goes on.’

Illingworth had held down two positions right at the top of the cartoon world through the war, working for both Punch and the Daily Mail. As the British Cartoon Archive says:

It was noted in 1942 that Illingworth’s busiest time began on Thursday mornings, after the Punch cartoon had been commissioned the previous day. This was “Illingworth’s toughest period of the week…when he has a Punch cartoon and two Mail cartoons to produce before Saturday”, and he would often work through the night and into the next day to produce the detailed drawings. His wartime cartoons were very successful, and after the war a cutting of one of his Daily Mail cartoons – from 14 January 1944 – was found in the ruins of Hitler’s chancellery.

As the Political Cartoon Society points out, Churchill was deeply offended, but it was Muggeridge’s strategy to ‘make a loud nasty noise of the kind nobody associated with Punch‘.  It quotes Muggeridge saying to a friend in late January 1954:

As he sprang from the train [Muggeridge] remarked with profound satisfaction that the issue of the magazine he had just sent to the press was ‘likely to get us all in a lot more hot water’

It also cites Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran: ‘There was something un-English in this savage attack on his failing powers. The eyes were dull and lifeless.’

Writing in the Journal of European Studies, Mark Bryant sums up his view on Illingworth in an article entitled ‘Crusader, white rabbit or organ-grinder’s monkey? Leslie Illingworth and the British political cartoon in World War II’:

If anyone deserved an award for his work in peace-time or war it was Illingworth. Praised by Sir Alfred Munnings, former president of the Royal Academy, he has been called ‘the last of the great penmen in the line of English social satirists starting with Hogarth’ and ‘probably the most outstanding cartoonist that Punch ever had’. Nicholas Garland has also described him as ‘the last of a great line of black and white draughtsmen … There is no mystery about his work. It is just superb.’ (1 September 2001, pp 345-366, vol 31, issue 123)

Ronald Searle's cartoon of Churchill in Punch from 18 April, 1956

Ronald Searle’s cartoon of Churchill in Punch from 18 April, 1956

Even after that controversy, Muggeridge’s Punch did not leave Churchill alone. Ronald Searle set about the prime minister again in 1956. The photograph Searle depicted on the wall behind Churchill is of the PM at the Yalta conference with Stalin and Roosevelt in 1945.

The newspaper headline refers to ‘Stalin in disgrace’ and the titles of the books on top of the bookcase are ‘Roosevelt, the Truth’ and ‘Inside Roosevelt’, referring to criticism of the US president’s record that had emerged. Roosevelt’s death within months of the Yalta conference was met with shock in the US because his declining physical health had been kept secret from the public.

Muggeridge left his position after four years, probably because the Punch owners found him  too controversial.


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


On this day in magazines: Picture Post 1941

February 1, 2017
Picture Post from 1 February 1941 with a Bert Hardy photography of Blitz firefighters

Picture Post from 1 February 1941 with a Bert Hardy photography of Blitz firefighters

I’ve spent much of the past few years perusing collections of magazines in places such as the V&A’s National Art Library, the British Museum and St Bride’s. In the process, I’ve built up a collection of 40,000 images of magazines to add to a physical collection of several thousand issues.

So, this month I’m delving into this archive to show what publishers have been producing for their readers in the month of February over the past 150 years. It runs the gamut from Dickens’ Boz to Oz, from Good Housekeeping to Sublime, from Madonna to green jelly.

First off the storage stacks is the legendary Picture Post from 1 February 1941. The cover is iconic – two men struggling with a hose in the burning streets of London. ‘Fire-fighters!’ was an example of photojournalism at its best – and saw Bert Hardy’s photo-essay about Blitz-stressed fire-fighters win him his first credit in the magazine. Stefan Lorant, Picture Post editor, had never credited photographers. One oft-cited reason for this was that they were mainly fugitives from the Nazis, like himself, and he was afraid they would be interned by the authorities (he was right, they were; and he fled to the US). In print, the magazine wrote:

From our rule of anonymity we except these pictures. They were taken by A. [Albert] Hardy, one of our own cameramen.

Hardy became the most popular photographer of the 20th century, and you’ll recognise Hardy’s images. The house in South London where Hardy was born carries a plaque that was voted for by local people.

strand_1942feb_blitz_nelson660.jpg

The Strand in February 1942 showed how the area around St Paul’s and Fleet Street was devastated

The London Blitz hit at the heart of the publishing trade, for books, magazines and newspapers, because all the books, paper and oil-based printing inks stored along Fleet Street and The Strand – from St Paul’s to Charing Cross – made it a prime target for the Luftwaffe. It should also be remembered that the Nazis started burning books in 1933, an event that led the printing and typesetting companies a mile away in Clerkenwell to found the Karl Marx Memorial Library. Also, the area was easy to identify because the nearby Thames river could clearly be seen from the air.

The War, a weekly from Nelsons, from 31 October 1914

The War, a picture-based weekly from Nelsons, from 31 October 1914

The Strand of February 1942 ran an article ‘Beauty in the Blitz’ with three pages of photographs by Cecil Beaton. The image above looking north shows how Paternoster Row, running east-west on the north side of St Paul’s Cathedral, was destroyed in the bombing. Picture Post‘s office were just a few hundred yards away in Shoe Lane.

Note the nameplate to the left of the doorway – Nelson & Sons. Nelson is today known as an educational book publisher, but is has published magazines, particularly artworks. The War, a weekly during the First World War, being an example.

The area north of St Paul’s is today focused on the modern Paternoster Square. This includes a monument marking the 1666 Great Fire and the Blitz of December 1940. The route of Paternoster Row, which old maps show going east-west to Amen Corner, has been re-routed south round the west side of St Paul’s.


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


Women war reporters and ‘immersion journalism’

January 5, 2017
A glamorous female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1946 issue of Woman magazine

A glamorous British female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1945 issue of Woman magazine

The International Association for Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS) has some cracking meetings – gonzo journalism being a recent subject – and the next one is about ‘immersion journalism’. It is, they say, what Martha Gellhorn, a US war reporter for the US weekly magazine Collier’s during the Second World War, would have called ‘the view from the ground’.

The concept of the female war correspondent dates back at least to Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Charlotte Briggs, who reported on the Boer Wars in the 1890s for the Daily Mail and Morning Post newspapers, respectively.

Gellhorn began writing in the 1920s and then went with Ernest Hemingway in 1936 to cover the Spanish Civil War. She married him in 1940, but they split up five years later. The Spanish conflict was the start of a career that saw her flying off to cover just about every war she could find until she developed cancer and later killed herself in 1998. Another American woman famous in the role was Lee Miller. She did so as a photographer, at first as a freelance and then from 1940 for Vogue. She was famously pictured soaping herself in Hitler’s bath. After the war, she married the artist Roland Penrose and settled in Britain.

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

These female correspondents were glamorous figures, and were depicted in a short story, ‘No Other Love’ by Leonie Mason (a pseudonym of Winifred Walker), in Woman in February 1945. The illustration, credited to ‘Koolman: Carlton’, shows two women in a Paris café. One is in uniform with the designation ‘Official War Correspondent’ on her shoulder; she is ‘Julie Wilson’ a British reporter for a paper called the Daily Record (there was then, and still is, a Glasgow paper of that name). On the table between them alongside what look like coffees in tall glasses with metal holders is a packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a US brand relaunched in 1942 with a white packet designed by Raymond Loewy to appeal to women.

In Leonie Mason's short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

In Leonie Mason’s short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

Gellhorn wrote reports and fiction for magazines throughout the war and after, with her short stories being published in both Britain and, the US. As I show in my book, British Magazine Design, ‘The Long Journey’, for example, was published in the June 1952 issue of Good Housekeeping and then Woman’s Own (December 4). Other examples have titles such as ‘Come Ahead, Adolf!’ (Collier’s, Aug 6, 1938); ‘Dachau: Experimental Murder’ (Collier’s, Jun 23 1945); ‘Java journey’ (Saturday Evening Post, Jun 1, 1946); and ‘The Lowest Trees Have Tops’ (Ladies’ Home Journal, Aug 1967). The Fiction Mags Index has a substantial list.

French coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes would have been luxuries in wartime Britain - rationing would not end until 1952

Coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes – luxuries in wartime Britain, where rationing would not end until 1952

As the literary journalism academics explain, such work ‘uses in-depth, on-the-scene reporting, research and literary techniques to take readers into worlds that would otherwise be off limits’. They also give a more technical definition:

Immersion attempts to address the limits of conventional reporting by replacing the emphasis on deadlines and objectivity with long-term observation and the building of enduring — and often psychologically and dramatically complex — reporter-source relationships.
Immersion practices link literary journalism to other disciplines, primarily anthropology and sociology, with their emphasis on the role of the participant observer and “thick” description techniques used in ethnographies.
Historically, immersion journalism often imbued reporters with a distinct moral authority to call for social reforms. Current discussions of immersion techniques highlight the ethical dilemmas of being part of the story, the quest for authenticity, and the necessity of finding narrative in the “every day-ness” of immersion. The economics of the news business also factor in. How can journalism now afford the time and resource-intense practice of immersion? How will traditional immersion techniques fare in contrast to new technologies of interactivity and virtual reality that purport to give the reader an “immersive” experience?
Immersion also presents a challenge to the pedagogy of literary journalism. What practices are best for teaching immersion, particularly given that few students will have the schedule and financial support to attempt it?

The IALJS sessions will take place at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in the US city of Chicago on August 9-12. It is titled ‘The View from the Ground: Rethinking Immersion.’ The editors are seeking academic submissions.

Magazine covers that used the same artwork

December 14, 2016

Britannia and Eve, February 1949

Britannia and Eve, February 1949

Woman and Home, November 1953

Woman and Home, November 1953

This is a rare occurrence: the same artwork used on two magazine covers. On the left is Britannia and Eve from February 1949; alongside it is Woman and Home four years later. The illustration has been reversed and cropped, and the different printing processes and scanning have introduced colour variation, but it is the same image.

The Britannia and Eve cover breaks a rule of cover design in that the subject is looking out of the page. The tendency is for the reader to follow the gaze of the person, which would encourage the reader to look away from the cover and perhaps to a rival magazine or another distraction. It is common practice for the cover subject to look at the reader. The Woman and Home cover is clever in this respect because the woman’s gaze is at another element on the page – and is ‘returned’ by the smaller photograph, keeping the eyes ‘within the page’.

I don’t know who did the illustration but Britannia and Eve used gifted artists such as Fortunino Matania and was very well printed. Covers in the 1940s and 1950s are often credited to ‘Moss’ or ‘Critchlow’.

Britannia and Eve was one of thetitles that had come together under the same publisher in the late 1920s to form ‘The Great Eight’, the others being: Illustrated London News, The Sketch, Graphic, Bystander, The Sphere, The Tatler, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Illustrated War News.

In contrast, Woman and Home was published by the Amalgamated group, which concentrated on keeping its prices low. In 1949, a copy cost 9d, compared with 2s for Britannia and Eve.

The results of this cost-conscious approach at Woman and Home included poorer-quality paper and minimal use of colour. Its fiction was frequently illustrated by US artists, and some of those images, too, will have been published before.

However, Woman and Home is still published today, by Time Inc UK, formerly IPC, while Britannia and Eve closed in about 1956. The FictionMags website has a listing of contents for Britannia and Eve and a few issues of Woman and Home.

It’s That Man Again’s Tommy Handley

July 31, 2016
1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

There’s a certain poignancy in this 1948 Strand cover of Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley signing autographs outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House.

Handley was one of the most popular voices on the radio throughout the Second World War in It’s That Man Again, a series that took its title from a newspaper nickname for Hitler and was soon shortened, military style, to ITMA (pronounced ‘Itma’). The first pre-war series in 1939 was set in a pirate commercial radio station (what are the chances that this idea sowed a seed in the young minds of the people who would found Radio Caroline 20-odd years later?).

Once war broke out the setting was changed to the Office of Twerps and various changes were made throughout. Itma also introduced Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap and his catchphrase ‘I don’t mind if I do.’

Inside the Strand, a box credit box explains:

Robin Jaques made this study of Britain’s best-loved comedian as Tommy was ambushed by fans when leaving the B.B.C. headquarters of “Itma.” Autograph hunters are not permitted inside the hall of Broadcasting House, so they lie in wait over the road in Portland Place. And Tommy accepts it all with never-failing humour and kindliness. The tie Tommy is wearing is his favourite. The colours are those of the famous writers’ and artists’ club, the Savage.

Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley in a BBC publicity shot from the ITMA series

The similarity with this BBC publicity photograph suggests that Jacques – one of the best illustators of the era, who also did covers for Radio Times, Punch and the Listener – might have used it as a reference for Handley’s face. His sister was actress Hattie Jacques, who appeared in Itma from 1947.

The February 1948 issue of the Strand will have been on sale in January that year, 12 months before the last broadcast of Itma on 6 January 1949. Handley died just three days later of a brain haemorrhage. As a BBC Radio tribute to Handley puts it: ‘and with him died one of the most popular radio shows of the forties’.

The theory that Jacques used the BBC publicity photograph as a reference is given added weight by the Tit-Bits cover below from 13 June, 1947 – a year before the Strand illustration. Two artists using the same source suggests there weren’t a lot of options – but then this was post-war Britain, with rationing heavily enforced and that will have affected photographic paper. It would be another five years before rationing ended.

tit_bits_1947_6jun13_.jpg

This cover was definitely based on the BBC’s publicity photo of Tommy Handley

>>More on the Strand magazine

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

Wartime woolly reality for Hocknell’s charming children

October 25, 2015
Lilian Hocknell and two of her charming children on the cover of Home magazine in March 1927

Lilian Hocknell and two of her charming children in an illustration on the cover of Home magazine in March 1927

Lilian Hocknell was renowned for her drawings of charming children, but I found it difficult to imagine children being dressed with so many perfectly-arranged woolly layers, as on the Home magazine cover above. Then, I came across the wartime Woman’s World cover from 1940, below. And there it all is, 13 years later the complete outfit to knit at home on the cover of a weekly woman’s magazine! The only thing is, it’s for a boy.

The real thing - Hocknell's children come to life on the cover of Woman's World in January 1940

The real thing – Hocknell’s children come to life on the cover of Woman’s World in January 1940

When magazines dropped like flies

October 24, 2015
Recycling paper in the war, as shown on the cover of Everywoman magazine in January 1942

Recycling paper in the war, as shown on the cover of Everywoman magazine in January 1942

It’s been a dire few years for the big magazine publishers with many closures. Yet, things could be worse – as they were soon after the outbreak of the Second World War. Just as householders ripped out their iron railings and every scrap of metal was collected up for the war effort, so was paper.

People went around recycling their magazines and newspapers – as portrayed in this Everywoman cover by Clixby Watson from 1942. Even local libraries donated their bound volumes. Another form of recycling was reusing – the public was encouraged to hand their old magazines in to Post Offices so they could be sent out to the troops, as had happened in the Great war.

By 1942, the amount of paper publishers could use was reduced to a fifth of what it was before the war! Page sizes were reduced, print runs reduced, the number of pages cut and weeklies became fortnightlies, but even this was never going to be enough.

So titles had to close. And dozens of them did. You can see a clue as to what was happening below the title on this cover Woman’s Pictorial cover from 1940:

Woman's Pictorial magazine cover from 1940 -wartime rationing had already started to bite

Woman’s Pictorial magazine cover from 1940 – wartime rationing had already started to bite

And this one,

London Opinion magazine's cover from September 1940 reveals that another magazine has closed

London Opinion magazine’s cover from September 1940 reveals that another magazine has closed

And another.

And even Tatler has swallowed upon of its venerable rivals. This issue is from 1943 but the takeover took place in October 1940

And even Tatler has swallowed one of its venerable rivals. This issue is from 1943 but the takeover took place in October 1940

Home Journal, The Humorist and Bystander. Just three examples of the many magazines that were closed by publishers in just six months so they could meet their paper ration. And, look back above at the Everywoman magazine cover and you’ll see it had swallowed Woman’s Fair. There’s a particular poignancy in the loss of the Bystander, for that was the magazine that introduced Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill cartoons – a great morale booster during the Great War.

Needlecraft and the craft of the magazine

September 12, 2015

 

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

Needlecraft. Now there’s a topic I know next to nothing about. As children though, we sat around a table every Christmas with a tablecloth that had been decorated with colourful robins and holly by my maternal grandmother. She had been in one of the Dublin orphanages run by nuns where the girls were trained to make and repair linen for the city hotels and later worked as a seamstress for a tailor in Prescot, just outside Liverpool. Her fingers could do magic with a needle.

It was a world of tracing and transfers, often found free in magazines such as Needlewoman. Magazine formats like this were pioneered by Samuel Beeton – husband of cookery’s Mrs Beeton – with the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine from 1852. Beeton’s Book of Needlework was published in 1870 (though Isabella was just a brand name by then, having died five years earlier). The quality of work such magazines encouraged is superb, as I saw when leafing through copies of the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine at the V&A’s National Art Library when researching my forthcoming book on magazine design.

Needlewoman magazine was printed and published by Tillotsons in Mealhouse Lane in Bolton. The company also had an office at 23 Fleet Street in London, where it used an advertising agency, Sells Ltd. The magazine was probably an offshoot of the Bolton News group, certainly the paper was founded by the Tillotsons and based in Mealhouse Lane from 1860.

The illustration for the ‘Mother Christmas’ cover above is reminiscent of the work that would usually be seen on Vogue at the time, but is not credited. One of the projects inside, a fish-shaped bag, seems in contrast to Christmas theme cover, but provides a superb graphic spread with the same-size pattern (one half of the spread is shown here). This was the Art Deco era. How many of these bags were made up I wonder?

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman merged with Needlecraft Practical Journal to become Needlewoman and Needlecraft, which was published into the 1970s. Copies are regularly traded on eBay and at craft fairs. Craftylittlebugger is one of the many people inspired by such magazines, whose contents are finding a new lease of life. Her wartime copy of Needlecraft shows a ‘beautiful bit of bias binding’ that caught her attention. Her issue is just over A5 in size – half the page size of my 1925 issue because of wartime paper rationing – but, as Craftylittlebugger says, it ‘packs quite a punch’.

Magazines from Bolton are rare, but in the 1920s Lancashire was still at the heart of the cotton and spinning industry and there were big advertisers such as Clark’s whose marketing for ‘Anchor’ thread below would have been vital it keeping the magazine profitable. The Anchor thread brand is still going as part of the Coats group, which traces itself back 250 years to the Clark brothers and weavers in Paisley, Scotland. The wealth of Lancashire from the industrial revolution was on display this year at 2 Temple Place in the Cotton to Gold exhibition.

Colour advert for Clark's 'Anchor' thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

Colour advert for Clark’s ‘Anchor’ thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

These crafts have made a huge comeback, and magazine publishers have spotted the trend. Hachette found itself in a ‘crochet part work hell’ a few years ago when it misjudged demand for its Art of Crochet part work. Copies of the Art of Crochet now sell on eBay for up to £5 each and individual patterns for £1. The century-old Woman’s Weekly has produced a Vintage View spin-off carrying past articles and Pretty Nostalgic is now in its fourth year of publication and has built up an industry around itself.

One of the Needlewoman articles carries the quote: ‘The thing of beauty is a joy forever’. How true.

Sun printers’ role in the atomic bomb programme

June 14, 2015

The repro department at Sun Engraving took the skills needed to process images for photogravure and letterpress printing to great heights in the 1930s, with Picture Post, Vogue and Woman’s Own among the many magazines it printed.
During the war, the company turned over much of its production to military purposes, printing maps and documentation. Now, an exhibition at the Science Museum in London, ‘Churchill’s Scientists’, has revealed a less likely activity – Sun’s work for ‘Tube Alloys’, Britain’s atomic bomb project.

A Sun printing screen used for uranium enrichment at the Science Museum A Sun printing screen used for uranium enrichment at the Science Museum

Sun took the screens it made to produce printing films for photographs and illustrations and developed them into ultra-fine screens that would ‘enrich’ uranium by a process called gas diffusion. The screens progressively concentrated the proportion of uranium-235, the lighter isotope of the metal that is essential to a nuclear explosion, from less than 1% to the 85% needed for weapons-grade material.

Self-referential covers 3: the recursive John Bull

April 10, 2015
John Bull 1946 March 2 first edition in colour with a cover by Clixby Watson

John Bull 1946 March 2 – first edition in colour with a cover by Clixby Watson

This John Bull cover marked the 1946 relaunch of what was one of the biggest-selling magazines with a fresh editorial approach led by a full colour cover. Since its launch, John Bull had always been a monochrome weekly magazine, with advertising on the cover since the 1920s and throughout the war. It dated back to 1906 as the brainchild of the swindling MP Horation Bottomley. It may well have been the biggest-selling magazine until the great success of the BBC’s Radio Times in the early 1930s.

The cover was by Clixby Watson, one of the most sought-after illustrators of the era (and the only Clixby I’ve ever come across). Watson had illustrated Woman magazine since the 1930s along with many other magazines. As well as promoting the magazine, the image promotes the idea of actually buying magazines at a news-stand. Such self-promotion seems to be lost of today’s publishers, who spent their value page space encouraging their readers to put the magazine and turn instead to their mobile phones or television sets.

Scenes of buying magazines – on the street or at railway station stalls – was a regular theme on magazine covers in the first half of the 20th century.  Publishers promoted the retail buying and distribution chain – a link that is being lost today as even the biggest news chains focus on other goods and even charge publishers extra for new launches. The publishers have reacted by adopting the historical US model of focusing on subscriptions, or moving online.

In theory, the illustration is repeated ad infinitum in each cover – it is a recursive, self-referential cover. The composition of the John Bull cover above is very good, as is the the sense of light. Watson uses the angles and diagonals in the image – and the pointing pipe – to focus on the stall holder and everyone is engrossed by the sight of the magazine. Note that ink and paper were still rationed at this stage – and would be until 1952 – so the appearance of a new colour magazine will have made a splash.  The publisher was Odhams (later IPC/Time UK).

This 1946 holiday season cover from John Bull forecasts a web fate for the slumbering  gent

This 1946 cover from John Bull forecasts a wet fate for the slumbering gent

The second John Bull cover here is a twist on the self-referential theme. The cover of the issue that has fallen from the hands of the snoozing holidaymaker predicts the fate that lies in store for him – the tide is coming in and he will soon be up to his waist in seawater. Though at least his hat looks safe.

So there are at least three types of self-referential cover:

  1. recursive – featuring the cover itself within itself: John Bull colour relaunch above and Woman’s Own colour relaunch in 1937. It’s interesting that these fiercely rival publishers – Odhams and George Newnes – should both use the same idea to mark relaunches;
  2. self-referential to other issues of the same title: Woman’s Own 1931 and 1935. What would be the criteria for the choice of cover? Obviously, you would want to to be strong visually, both the main image and the masthead in particular, but also a significant issue – perhaps a bestseller;
  3. self-referential with a twist, John Bull at the seaside, above.

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