Archive for the ‘1990s’ Category

What’s a magazine worth? Country Life

January 1, 2017
Country Life magazine front cover of Prince Charles, 12 November 2014

Country Life magazine front cover of Prince Charles, 12 November 2014

Two people have emailed me asking about Country Life. The first writes:

I have a number of editions of Country Life magazine dating from 1976 to 2015; BBC Gardener’s World most of 1992-95; about 20 editions of the Royal Horticultural Society journal Garden from 1994-95 and Gardens Illustrated from 1994 and 1995.  Most are in good condition.

And the second:

My friend has every single issue of Country Life from the mid-1960s to the present date. Are these of interest to you? If not, then any ideas? They are all in perfect condition. Located in Central London

Selling magazines on eBay

Ebay has become a massive place to sell magazines, with 700,000 on sale at the moment. Narrowing things down to Country Life, there are 2,617 copies for sale. But will they sell? In the past six months, 2,082 lots have been listed (some of these will have been listed more than once). Of these, 261 lots have sold – a rate of 13%, or about one in eight.

How much does a copy of Country Life sell for?

In terms of price, the biggest listing sold was a lot of 1,400 copies from 1989 to the present day, which fetched £100 (7p a copy). A lot of 280 issues from the 1970s fetched £75 (27p a copy). A 1927 quarterly bound volume sold for £19.99, plus £10 postage.

Country Life magazine front cover 1963 January 10

Country Life magazine front cover, 1963, January 10

In terms of single issues, the highest price was a best offer accepted against £65 on what appeared to be a copy of the first issue. I say ‘appeared to be’ because I have seen facsimile copies of the first issue – and there was nothing in the listing that would convince me it was a real first issue. This is where the expertise of the seller comes in and any buyer at such a price should ask some searching questions. Next highest price was £25 for eight separate lots.

Of the 246 copies that sold, 98 (about 40%) went for £5-10 (including postage). This would suggest that unless you are selling pre-1980s copies, and are keen to sell, £9.99 including postage should be your top offer price. Only 71 of the 246 listings (about 30%) were auctions, most were buy-it-nows.

Single issue price (inc post) No. sold
less than £3 11
£3-5 79
£5-10 98
£10-15 38
£15-20 9
£20-30 11
246

Is there a pattern in what sells well on eBay?

Yes. Pre-1955 issues achieved the best prices and are the rarest. The eight copies that sold at £25 were all published during the First World War. However, these copies appear to have been bought by the same person – it may have been a collector or it may have been someone buying for a one-off reason, for example a museum preparing for an exhibition. There is no guarantee that someone else selling the same issues would get the same price.

A 1955 three-month bound volume sold for £20 and a 1903 volume for £25 (2 bids). All the single issues that sold for £15-£20 were dated before 1946. They were all on a buy-it-now listing.

What else can the eBay data tell us?

EBay listings can have a lot of data attached to them, though some of it can be incomplete or contradictory. In the case of magazines, the year and month can be added for example, though most people do not do it. So, of the 2,082 sold listings I’m analysing, only 347 gave the year of publication. This, however, leads to an interesting finding, as we’ll see in a moment. First, the overall figures.

Country Life sales based on eBay data for 347 lots
No. listed No. sold Sold (%)
2010s 67 18 27
2000s 7 1 14
1990s 71 8 11
1980s 17 3 18
1970s 35 19 54
1960s 78 26 33
1950s 44 18 41
1940s 28 4 14
1930s 1
1900s 7
347 105 30%
All lots sold 2082 253 12%

The most popular decade in terms of number listed was the 1960s, with a third of these sold. However, the 1970s (54% sold) and 1950s (41% sold) had a better success rate. Note the figures for the 1990s – 71 listed but only an 11% success rate.

The really interesting figure comes when you compare the selling success rate – 30% – for the people who filled in the year data with the 12% success rate for all the 2082 copies sold. It seems that people who fill in the year field are three times as likely to sell their copy of Country Life! Why should this be so? It can’t be just down to a factor such as buyers searching on a year, because most sellers put that in their listing title. It is probably because these are more expert sellers. The fact that they go to the trouble of filling in the extra data points to their doing everything well.

What about the gardening titles?

First, Gardener’s World. Not a great seller simply because there are so many around – it’s been the best-seller almost since its first issue; it is well produced so lasts well; and is a comparatively new title (early 1990s launch). The most a single issue has fetched recently is £3.99 (inclusive). It’s a similar story in terms of price for the RHS’s Garden (£3.50) and Gardens Illustrated (£4.99). However, bundles of these titles do seem to be selling, for example a dozen copies for £20 plus postage (£5.50). This is better for buyers and spreads the postage cost (which can be as much as is being asked for the magazine!).

First issues of Country Life

As either a seller or buyer, be careful of first issues of Country Life – is it the real thing or a modern reproduction? 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. The first issue of Country Life was letterpress, so should so signs of the impression of the type on the pages. Modern copies using offset lithography will be smooth.

Is Country Life worth collecting?

Country Life magazine front cover from 2009, December

Country Life magazine front cover from 2009, December

Yes. It has a long, distinguished history and is of interest to scholars in many areas as well as collectors of many goods besides magazines. The target market has always been the upper classes with grand houses, scholarly tastes and an interest in rural affairs. The advertising is of particular interest to upmarket estate agents. It is a weekly and so has always had a strong element of news and so has documented changing tastes in high society. The size of this market is limited and so sales have never been substantial – today is sells about 40,000 copies a week.

It was one of the titles that expanded the fortune of George Newnes, who had founded Tit-Bits and The Strand, when he teamed up with the printer Edward Hudson in the 1897. Gertrude Jekyll wrote the gardening column. The early issues are also of interest to architectural historians, with some excellent writers, reflecting Hudson’s own passions and love of civilised English life. Hudson was key in establishing the career of Edward Lutyens and commissioned the architect to restore Lindisfarne Castle.

The Newnes publishing company became part of IPC in the 1960s and Country Life is now published by the UK arm of the US publisher Time Inc. The company’s offices at 110 Southwark Street in Borough, London, are a stone’s throw from where Hudson had his family printing business, Hudson and Kearns, at number 83, and in nearby Hatfields. The company dates back to 1831 but was subsumed into Keliher, Hudson and Kearns, though that company no longer exists.

The early editorial offices for Country Life were in Southampton Street, Covent Garden. Today, Time Inc UK seems to be dismantling the company and has sold off many titles. It has also sold the offices and moved some magazines out to reduce costs. Country Life now has an address in a business park in Farnborough, Hants, suggesting a lack of investment in the title by its owners. However, even if this penny-pinching strategy leads to a decline in Country Life‘s fortunes, its history and contacts should enable it to attract a better owner – and its history can never be taken away. If I were the editor, I’d be trying to do a management buy-out.

To sum up

Country Life is a magazine worth selling on eBay. Pre-1990 issues can fetch a good price (£15 and upwards), but more recent copies are more likely to sell for £5-10. I haven’t noticed any particular issue selling well. There are some copies of a 2014 Prince Charles issue being offered for £30+, but I think these sellers are going to have to wait a long time.

Gardening titles are not worth spending time on and are probably better off being sold in bundles – check the weight and offer as many as you can while staying in the cheapest postal band.

The finding that people who fill out date fields for a listing are three times as likely to sell their magazine suggests that building up eBay expertise pays off.

>>Hints & tips for buying and selling magazines on eBay

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An evening with Andy Strange and the Seafoxes (and George Martin)

March 9, 2016

Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982 Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982

I was with record producer Andy Strange yesterday evening to listen to some tracks he is laying down for the up-and-coming Seafoxes. Andy learnt the ropes from working with George Martin for 15 years at AIR Studios. We talked a bit about Martin over a few cans of Polish lager, so it was eerie to be woken up by a clock radio this morning telling me that the legendary Beatles producer had died.

Andy had just listened to a George Martin tribute on the Robert Elms show and commented this afternoon:

Working with George was always a special experience. He was a true recording legend who everyone had the utmost respect for. He created a friendly family environment at AIR Studios that clients and staff all enjoyed. A real gentleman who always had a good laugh making records. His role was to help the artists realise their musical dreams and, more often than not, make their music far better than they could have ever dreamt of. He did not make records that sounded like George Martin records, he simply made many great records with many great artists. His musical sensibilities and influence on popular music will be with us forever.

Martin was brilliant on TV and radio – today he would become a David Attenborough of music. I remember him on Desert Island Discs and a documentary where he talked about the importance of the silence between notes in music. I checked out his Desert Island record choices from 1996 and it’s a eclectic mix, including Ravel, the Liverpool mopheads (of course, with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, a Mozart Oboe Quartet, Britten and Gershwin (‘Bess, you is my woman now’, his overall favourite). His luxury was an electric piano.

But I also saw he’d also been on Desert Island Discs in 1982. The record choices then included Debussy, Flanders and Swann, a Cimarosa concerto for oboe and strings, two Beatles tracks (‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘In My Life’), Peter Sellers, Bach (St Matthew Passion, his overall favourite) and Britten. His luxury was a clavichord.

Although no track appears in both lists, there are strong themes (besides the Beatles): French romantic composers (Ravel and Debussy); humour (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, Flanders and Swann); oboe pieces; LSO recordings; keyboards. In both cases his book choice was very practical: how to build a boat and a manual on practical engineering (I always thought such useful choices weren’t allowed – wasn’t someone refused a cat as a luxury because they might eat it!)

Among a list of credits that’s as long as your arm, taking in Elton John, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion and building a recording studio for Robbie Williams, Andy was one of the engineers on In My Life – a CD Martin did to mark his retirement. It’s mainly cover versions of Beatles songs that he produced originally – Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin on ‘Come Together’, Goldie Hawn signing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, Jeff Beck playing on ‘A Day in the Life’ and Sean Connery’s singing ‘In My Life’.

Andy was telling me last night how revolutionary it was when Martin left EMI in the late 1960s to set up AIR (Associated Independent Recording), unleashing a movement towards independence in music that is still happening today. The first studio was in London’s Oxford Street, high up in a building that was the headquarters for the Burton tailoring chain. Andy has a couple of framed letters from the 1970s, both from the building manager complaining about the noise and nuisance from the studios. One is about the Sex Pistols (the building manager had obviously just seen their TV interview with Bill Grundy!) and the other about projectiles coming from the rooftop studios – tomatoes! I wonder what Martin replied?

Madonna – a scarce face on Cosmopolitan covers

March 7, 2016
Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna has appeared quite a few times on Vogue covers, but just twice on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. In May 1990 she fronted the magazine and the designers made an unusual use of the title to promote its 25th anniversary:

That COSMOPOLITAN girl is twenty-five … and the future is hers

The pop singer was well established as a cover choice by this time, with the first Madonna magazine cover dating back to 1994. But Cosmopolitan seems to have keen to make up for a quarter century without Madonna with its May 2015 issue – when both Madonna and Cosmopolitan celebrated their 50th birthdays (though neither seems to have wanted to be associated with that age!). The publishers, Hearst, ran the cover below and three other Madonna covers. The thing all three covers had in common, as well as Madonna, was ‘Sex! Sex! Sex!’, Cosmo‘s favourite cover line.

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with its May 2015 issue

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with a mask and pearls  for the May 2015 issue

But celebrity covers have been rare for most of Cosmo‘s history. Originally, the cover girl was chosen as a ‘Cosmopolitan girl’ who espoused the philosophy of the magazine.

Of course, it wasn’t a silver anniversary for the British edition of the magazine (that only appeared in 1972), so Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel and now Suffolk resident, was the choice for May. Note the cover plug for the Zest insert, Cosmo‘s health and beauty spin-off, which was launched as a standalone magazine in the autumn of 1994.

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan for May 1990

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the front cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine for May 1990

>WATCH OUT for my V&A book on British Magazine Design (Waterstones UK)

>WATCH OUT for my book on British Magazine Design (V&A shop)

>WATCH OUT for my V&A book on British Magazine Design (Amazon US)

>Cosmopolitan magazine profile

A newspaper’s last big story

February 6, 2016
The last edition of London's Evening News on 31 October 1980

The last edition of London’s Evening News on 31 October 1980

As this splash on London’s Evening News demonstrates, a newspaper’s last big story is its own demise. This front page was 31 October 1980. That day, the copytaster – the person who watches the news agency wires to spot any stories the paper should be carrying – was Robin Elias, and he was the first of the staff to know of the closure. It must have been particularly galling for a paper in its 99th year. Luckily for him, he got a job as night editor on ITV’s News at Ten and went on to become managing editor there.

It was a surprise reading that your paper would be closing from the Press Association! Yet, that may well be the situation many journalists are expecting at the moment as cost-cutting proprietors wind down their print editions in favour of digital.

Last issue of US picture weekly Life (29 December 1972)

Last issue of US picture weekly Life (29 December 1972)

The US picture weekly Life took a different tack to the Evening News, with no mention of the closure on the cover of its last issue (29 December 1972). However, this may well be because the cover was ready before the closure was announced by its owners, Time Inc. Instead, editor Hedley Donovan carried a full-page editorial on the weekly magazine’s closure on the first inside page.

Editor Hedley Donovan's final editorial on Life magazine's closure

Editor Hedley Donovan’s final editorial on Life magazine’s closure

As he says readers have reminded him, the magazine had not failed. It had, after all, lasted almost 40 years and been one of the biggest-selling titles in the US for that time.

Last issue of Rupert Murdoch's Today newspaper (17 November 1995) 

Last issue of Rupert Murdoch’s Today newspaper (17 November 1995)

Today took a similar tack to the Evening News with its closure in 1995. This would have been less unexpected, given that it had outlived its usefulness to Rupert Murdoch in helping him break out of hot metal in Fleet Street and into the electronic makeup era at Wapping. It was a paper with a short history – having been launched by Eddie Shah on 4 March 1986. Shah had won a vicious industrial relations battle against the NGA, the print union, in his Warrington freesheet newspaper group and then launched Today as a national colour tabloid using new technology. It had a target sale of 1.2 million copies, but rarely exceeded a third of this figure. One editor, David Montgomery, resigned after printing an apology to readers for the poor quality of the paper.

Promotional copy of the Sun inside the final issue of Today - with a message from Tony Blair

Promotional copy of the Sun inside the final issue of Today – with a message from Tony Blair

Murdoch wasn’t going to lose Today’s readers easily though and inside was a promotional copy of the Sun – complete with a top-of-the-page story written by Tony Blair and headlined ‘Why Labour readers are turning to the Sun‘. Today had taken a leftish editorial stance, while the Sun was traditionally rightwing, but switched allegiance when Blair established a rapport with Murdoch.

>>>UK newspapers

 

Blow by Blow in Vogue

November 20, 2015
Why the hats? ‘To keep everyone away from me, said Isabella Blow

Why the hats? ‘To keep everyone away from me, said Isabella Blow

The A.G. Nauta fashion blog has put together a nice sequence of Isabella Blow photos from magazines, including pages from the 1993 London Babes feature shot by Steven Meisel and conceived by Blow – the fashion muse’s brother has described it as the most expensive Vogue shoot of the era.

The blog quotes Blow, who wore some astounding creations from the likes of Philip Treacy – you have to see them live to really appreciate them:

Why the hats? To keep everyone away from me. They say, Oh, can I kiss you? I say, No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye. I don’t want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.

>>>Women’s glossy magazines

 

Supermoon eclipse – and vampire magazine Bite Me fetches £21

September 28, 2015
Bite Me vampire magazine cover from summer

Bite Me vampire magazine: note the cover line: Ingrid Pitt rides again

Can it be a coincidence that tonight is the supermoon eclipse and last week a copy of the first issue of vampire magazine Bite Me fetched £21 on eBay? The main cover feature being: Ingrid Pitt screams again – the Anglo-Polish actress known as ‘Hammer Films’ most seductive female vampire’.

While tonight promises a blood-red lunar eclipse not seen since 1982 and not to be repeated until 2033, the magazine promised:

If you like vampires, the supernatural and things that go bump in the night, Bite Me is the magazine for you.
We’ve got interviews with real-life vampire hunters, features on famous film classics of the past Hammer Scream Queens, with Ingrid Pitt in the launch issue, plus all the latest horror movies, books and video releases.
Our team of roving investigators search out the world’s spookiest corners and we report on special events like the World Dracula Congress. We’ll even tell you if your neighbour is a werewolf!

Bite Me aimed to have readers glancing nervously out the window come dusk and hanging strings of garlic on their doors, with contents such as an interview with New York vampires and how to become a werewolf. Stuck to the cover were trading cards based on the Hammer Horror films.

Do they make them like this any more?

 

 

New Statesman’s curious case of John Major’s ‘mistress’

August 23, 2015
new_statesman_2015jul17_660.jpg

New Statesman’s ‘motherhood trap’ cover illustration earned the ire of several women politicians (17 July 2015)

New Statesman is a leftwing magazine that, as befits a political weekly, likes to stir things up occasionally. This recent cover for ‘The motherhood trap’ by Helen Lewis generated a fuss when it was criticised by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as being ‘crass’ and reinforcing prejudice. The Tory leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, tweeted: ‘oh do sod off’.

But New Statesman really got itself into deep water in the 1990s with an article, ‘The curious case of John Major’s “mistress”‘.  It sparked a libel  case that became curiouser and curiouser, damaged the PM and had a stunning denouement – nine years later. At the time, the article nearly sank the magazine as it celebrated its 80th anniversary year with a revamp to try and boost its 22,000 circulation.

New Statesman 1993 jan 29 John Major Clare Latimer

The curious case of John Major’s ‘mistress’: New Statesman of 29 January 1993 with a photomontage by Richard Camps showing Clare Latimer in the background

It was January 1993. Major was the son of a trapeze artist and former City banker who had never been to university. He had risen through the Tory ranks to take over as prime minister and leader of the Conservatives after the ousting of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990. He then won a tight election in 1992. Major himself was regarded as the grey man of British politics. However, his government was plagued by sexual and financial scandals and led to the label of ‘Tory sleaze’. Prominent among these scandals was actress Antonia de Sancha selling a kiss-and-tell story to the News of the World of a ‘toe-sucking’ affair with David Mellor. Major vowed to back his culture minister ‘through thick and thin’, but Mellor eventually resigned as a minister. Such scandals derailed Major’s ‘back to basics’ campaign that aimed to encourage support for traditional morality and the family.

The New Statesman article set out to investigate who was driving persistent  rumours that Major was having an affair. It had been obliquely referred to in newspaper diary columns and the satirical puppet-based TV series Spitting Image. The standfirst and headline summed the article up:

It is the ‘story’ that dare not speak its name. Steve Platt and Nyta Mann investigate the rumour, gossip and nudge-and-a-wink innuendo behind … the curious case of John Major’s mistress

It talked about a ‘deliberate attempt to undermine the new prime minister’, ‘dissatisfied Thatcherite Tories’ and ‘investigative muckraking’ by the newspapers. The ‘mistress’ often surrepticiously cited was named as Clare Latimer, who  had done the catering for events at 11 Downing Street when Major was chancellor from 1989 and carried on working for him when he was PM.

Major and Latimer separately sued for libel, against both the New Statesman and the satirical magazine Scallywag, which also carried the story.

The New Statesman insisted the article never intended to assert that an affair had taken place. It was ‘anatomy of a rumour’. But Major and his lawyer, David Hooper, who was reputed to charge £250 an hour, pressed the writ. The magazine’s wholesalers, distributors and printers quickly apologised and paid damages without a fight. These were seen as ‘soft’ targets. However, they, in turn, were able to make New Statesman pay these costs. In an article that argued Major had damaged his reputation in bringing the case, the Sunday Times estimated the damages at £26,500 to Major and £30,000 to Latimer with costs of £80,000 (11 July).

Paperboy threatened by libel laws: New Statesman of March 12

Paperboy threatened by libel laws: New Statesman of March 12

New Statesman editor Steve Platt fought the case, quickly raising £100,000 from an appeal to readers for donations towards its costs (as Private Eye did in cases such as its fight against Robert Maxwell). It campaigned for reform of the libel laws to protect printers and distributors from such claims with a cover story entitled ‘Would you sue your paperboy?’

Its legal bills topped £200,000 and the magazine came close to collapse. However, Major settled in July for just £1,001 in damages, in what the Sunday Times called ‘a derisory climbdown’.

The Economist agreed, describing Westminster talk of ‘John the Wimp’ (10 July):

A popular reading of Mr Major among his Tory critics is that he is a man who throws in his hand when the stakes get raised against him. This week’s settlement seems to bear that out.

New Statesman hits back: the cover the week after Major settled the case (16 July)

New Statesman hits back: the cover the week after Major settled the case (16 July)

But the magazine survived. Major left the leadership after losing the the 1997 election to Tony Blair (an article by the then shadow home secretary, ‘Why crime is a socialist issue’, was one of the cover lines alongside ‘The curious case’), but stayed on as an MP until 2001. Then, in 2002, former Tory minister Edwina Currie ‘shopped’ Major, revealing she had an extra-marital affair with Major in her memoir Diaries (1987–92). The book told of a four-year affair when they were party whips from 1984, a time when they were both married; Major to Norma, and Currie to her first husband, Ray Currie.

The news led the magazine to threaten legal action to get its costs back, saying Major’s libel action appeared to be based on a false premise.

In 1994, Currie had written a novel, A Parliamentary Affair. An Observer Magazine profile summed up the plot:

[A] cabinet member has an affair with a rent boy and a junior minister makes love to a breast-jiggling journalist on Westminster Bridge. Meanwhile, Elaine, a backbencher not to be confused with her creator, has rear-entry sex in a Commons office.

So it’s no wonder that the Guardian said of Currie’s Dairies revelation:

The nation was shocked by Edwina Currie’s revelation that she had an affair with John Major, not so much because of any moral concern over fidelity, but because the idea of them at it took us to places we never, ever, wanted to go.

Let’s give the final word to Richard Camps who did the pre-computer photomontage for ‘The curious case’ cover:

I remember watching footage on the news of rabid Tories angrily waving this illustration in parliament. A proud moment. John Major has since proved himself to be a man of unquestionable integrity and fidelity who would never get involved in anything as sordid as an extramarital affair.

What can we do with the nipples this month?

August 15, 2015
Cute cover-up: Naomi Campbell on the cover of GQ in April 2000

Cute cover-up: Naomi Campbell on the cover of GQ in April 2000

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, GQ was down there fighting for sales against the likes of FHM and Loaded by putting naked women on its covers as often as possible. Well, nearly naked. The delicate rules of the newsagent dictate that nipples cannot be shown.

This cute magazine cover-up for Naomi Campbell on the cover of GQ – sister title to Vogue at Conde Nast – in April 2000 has to go down as one of the best examples.

You can imagine the cover meetings at the time: ‘Well, how can we show as much naked flesh this month without revealing a nipple?’ They were taped up, covered in subtly-draped clothes or hidden under type. Sometimes, they were just blatantly airbrushed out, as in the example of Abi Titmouse below from FHM (then published by Emap) .

FHM June 2004. But what's happened to the nipples on Abi Titmuss?

FHM June 2004. But what’s happened to the nipples on Abi Titmuss?

 

 

More genius of colour printing – Vogue cover

June 20, 2015

 

The 'London Babes' cover from Vogue in December 1993

The ‘London Babes’ cover from Vogue in December 1993

This is a great issue of Vogue, with Danish fashion model Helena Christensen on the cover photographed by Nick Knight (his second Vogue cover, the first being the month before). Inside, is Steven Meisel’s ‘London Babes’ photoshoot styled by Isabella Blow. From a printing point of view, the cover is interesting for several reasons. The Blighty colour cover I discussed last week was printed colour letterpress. That technique produces quite a crude result compared with modern-day offset lithograph printing, which is used for most magazines today, including this 1993 Vogue. Nick Knight is renowned for his digital manipulation of photographs and as a proponent of its ‘extremely exciting’ possibilities.

Detail of Helena Christensen's eye from the cover of Vogue in December 1993

Detail of Helena Christensen’s eye from the cover of Vogue in December 1993

The detail of Helena Christensen’s eye from the Vogue cover demonstrates several things. First, the skin tones are purely made up of magenta dots. Compared with the Blighty cover, the dots are finer – more like 300 lines per inch than the 150 of the 1950s. Click on the images here to see them at a larger size. Notice how much blue there is in and around the eye – this looks to me as if a blue shadow has been added in Photoshop. Similarly with the blue highlights in the eyebrows and hair.

Detail of Helena Christiansen's lips from the Vogue cover

Detail of Helena Christensen’s lips from the Vogue cover

This close focus on Christensen’s lips shows a much higher density of the magenta, a tinge of yellow at the centre of the mouth and then a shadow of cyan, which becomes heavier moving to the right. Below is a a magnified image of the whole face, with the bottom of the G from the title across the forehead. This is printed in solid magenta.

Detail of Helena Christiansen's face from the Vogue cover

Detail of Helena Christiansen’s face from the Vogue cover

JUST OUT – British Magazine Design, a highly illustrated hardback history from the Victoria & Albert Museum

The genius of colour printing

June 19, 2015
Blighty pin-up cover for the popular men's weekly by MB Tompkins in 1958 (16 August)

Blighty pin-up cover for the popular men’s weekly by MB Tompkins in 1958 (16 August)

Colour printing has always seemed to me to be a bit of a miracle – seemingly every colour under the sun can be printed from just four colours, cyan (sky blue), magenta (a pinky red) yellow and black. The colours are abbreviated as CMYK – with K being black, the ‘key’ colour. In theory, the black is not necessary because the other three should merge to black, but in practice, the result is a bit washed out, more a murky brown.

In the 1950s, when this cover was printed, the colour painting of the glamorous dancer would have been photographed through a filter and a metal screen to produce a sheet of printing film for each colour. The screen would be a metal screen capable of showing 150 lines to the inch. The film would taped on to the other pieces of film of each colour for the rest of the page and then paired up with its partner page – the back cover in this case – and that assembled film used to make a printing plate for each colour. Each plate would have been wrapped around its cylinder on a four-unit press. When the paper is run through the press, each colour ink in its turn would have been passed from the printing plate on to the paper. The overprinting of the colours builds up the image.

Detail showing dots of printed ink from the lower face of Blighty magazine cover in 1958

Detail showing dots of printed ink from the lower face of Blighty magazine cover in 1958, Click on the picture to see it in more detail.

Look at the magnified detail here and you can see individual dots for each colour. In the bottom left, there are dots of pure cyan. You can see that the dots are in regular lines at an angle of about 10 degrees to the horizontal. In the darker blue areas, you can see black dots among the cyan. The skin tones are mainly magenta with yellow highlights. The red lips are a combination of magenta and yellow. The teeth are simply the white paper. You can make out some of all the colours in the black areas.

Blighty was a popular men’s weekly magazine published by City Magazines at 64 Fleet St, but it was printed 200 miles away by Eric Bemrose in Long Lane, Liverpool. The Long Lane plant closed down in 1991. The illustration was by MB Tompkins, an artist about whom I only know that he produced Blighty covers in 1958, and some pulp book covers.

MB Tompkins signature from Blighty magazine cover in 1958

MB Tompkins signature from Blighty magazine cover in 1958