Archive for the ‘collecting magazines’ Category

Last chance to see – the trailblazing iconoclast magazines

August 20, 2018
Recognise many of these magazines? One of the walls at Somerset House

Recognise many of these magazines? One wals at Somerset House

If you haven’t been to ‘Print!: Tearing it Up’ at Somerset House yet, get down to London quick. It closes on Wednesday. Kieran Yates rounds the show off with a talk about her magazine, British Values, which celebrates immigrant communities.

The show ‘charts the evolution of polemic and progressive print publications and celebrates the current diverse industry of innovative independent magazines’. Beginning with Blast!, the Vorticist journal of 1914, to moves through the pacifist Peace News of 1930s, the satire of Private Eye, the Spare Rib of the feminist 1970s, the pop phenomenon of The Face in the 1980s and 90s and the zines from teenage feminist collectives into the new millennium.

The editor of British Values gives talk on Wednesday

The editor of British Values gives a talk on Wednesday

It’s worth it just to study Paul Gorman‘s wall-sized mind map of independent British magazine publishing – you will never have heard of many of the titles and zines, and it’s a great argument of an infographic.

The other walls are covered in displays of magazines that have changed the way we think about the world and fought against the dead hand of censorship and conservative attitudes in Britain.

The main focus is the postwar era to the present day. But the boundaries are pretty fluid, with Blast! being a seminal work and titles such as the Spectator and The Wide World creeping in (though the latter is mis-titled as The World Wide). Gorman’s archives are the foundation of the displays, which have been curated with Claire Catterall.

For anyone who’s worked in the industry, the sight of flat plans and layouts for several titles will; bring back pre-screen working practices.

There’s also a newsstand where you can peruse modern titles.

 

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Mayfair magazine, Lord Desborough and The Thames

August 16, 2018
Mayfair magazine's 1914 caricature by 'Pip' of Lord Desborough as 'The Thames'

Mayfair magazine’s 1914 caricature by ‘Pip’ of Lord Desborough as the personification of ‘The Thames’

There are many magazines named after places, particularly London districts and roads: Pall Mall, the Strand, Charing Cross and Cornhill spring to mind. A new one on me is Mayfair, which seems silly given the men’s magazine, but this is a copy of Mayfair magazine of 1914, just before the start of the First World War.

The masthead of Mayfair magazine

The masthead of Mayfair magazine. The name is expanded to include ‘and Country Society’ with a Latin motto

Mayfair was a society weekly in the mould of Vanity Fair – with a similar page size and format, and complete with a colour ‘cartoon’ portrait of a leading person of the day. It ran from 1911 to 1922, according to the British Library’s collection. This issue describes itself as ‘the only cartoon illustrated weekly’ because Vanity Fair, which dated back to 1868 with its chromolithography caricatures, had closed in January that year. The cartoonist was ‘Pip’ for the cartoon of Lord Desborough, as the personification of ‘The Thames’ for his work on building a new lock on the river. At Vanity Fair, the profiles were written by ‘Jehu Junior’ (Thomas Gibson Bowles, the magazine’s editor and owner); Mayfair‘s were by ‘Junius Junior’. Vanity Fair‘s prolific cartoonists included ‘Ape’ and ‘Spy’.

At over six feet tall, Desborough was a famous athlete as a runner, rower and fencer. He brought the Olympics to London in 1908. However, 1914 saw the start of several travails in his personal life. Two of his three sons were killed during during the war. The Times mistakenly ran his obituary on 2 December 1920, having being confused him with Lord Bessborough. His third son died after a car accident in 1926. Desborough himself died in 1945 at the age of 90.

The front cover of Mayfair magazine showing a stature of Minerva from Rome

The front cover of Mayfair magazine showing a statute of Minerva from Rome

This issue was a ‘special river supplement’, with 11 of its 24 pages devoted to the Thames, in addition to a colour plate of the source of the Thames, based on an engraving from 1873. The pages covered the river from its source near Oxford to Teddington Lock and were copiously illustrated with photographs, including of Eton, Magna Carta island and Taplow Court – ‘Lord Desborough’s famous riverside seat’. Very much the Hello! magazine treatment of the Edwardian era. (Today, Taplow Court is owned by a Buddhist group.) Several photographs show the opening of Boulter’s lock on the river in 1912, with Desborough in many of them.

The title page shows the masthead with a Latin inscription: ‘De omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis’ (‘Concerning all knowledge and other peoples’. This may be a reference to ‘De omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis’, the frontispiece etching from George Cruikshank’s Omnibus of 1842. The cartoon tries to portray everything and even more by crowding people on the earth.

A full-page advert – illustrated by ‘Pip’ – promotes the Mayfair Salon at the magazine’s premise where readers could commission a life-sized painting in oils or water colours. The magazine entrepreneurs of the era were never short of ideas for making a few bob.

Mayfair was published from 7 Albemarle Street, just off Piccadilly in Mayfair. A previous resident of 7 Albemarle Street was the Royal Thames, the oldest continuously operating yacht club in the world. It was established in 1775.

Mayfair magazine showing photographs of Boulter's lock from 1912 with Lord Desborough-the-thames

Mayfair magazine showing photographs of Boulter’s lock on the Thames from 1912 with Lord Desborough

Given the price of property, it’s difficult to imagine many publishers being based in that street today, but as well as Mayfair, John Murray, the book publisher, was at 50 Albemarle Street, from 1812 for the best part of two centuries. John Murray published Byron, Austen, Darwin, Livingstone, Betjman and many others who will have walked through its doors. And, in a famous example of literary vandalism, Byron’s memoirs were burnt inits office in 1824.

And the literary links don’t end there. Oscar Wilde was a member of the Albemarle Club and it was there in 1895 that the Marquess of Queensberry left his infamous ‘For Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite’ note that ultimately led the the magazine editor and writer being sent to Reading jail. Previously, Wilde had been editor of Lady’s World magazine for Cassell’s, relaunching it as Woman’s World, from 1887-89.

Albemarle was made one of the first one-way streets because of the popularity of the Royal Institution and the Albemarle Club, which led to huge carriage jams.


To learn about 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

 

 


 

The Economist magazine milks its past covers

May 9, 2018
The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist has been around for a long time, since 1843. For most of that time its cover looked like an academic journal, which in many ways it was. The strategy only changed in 1959 when the weekly magazine’s title was put in a red box with the name reversed out in white. This ‘red top’ approach is today associated with tabloid newspapers such as the Mirror and Sun, but back then it was the brainchild of  Reynolds Stone, one of leading designers of the era, who had been appointed a Royal Designer for Industry in 1956 for his work on lettering.

Out went a text-only approach with a list of contents in favour of a line   illustration of a leading figure in politics or business with selling cover lines. Stone’s title idea survives to this day, although the typography has been tweaked to suit changing printing techniques. The monochrome line drawings were replaced by colour illustrations and photographs in the 1960s.

But Economist covers are never simple. Like New Scientist, they have to work hard to sell the complex ideas the writers discuss inside.

Bill Emmett, the editor in 1991, explained the news magazine’s approach in an editorial introducing a redesign:

‘There are few things more boring than long articles by editors about how their redesigns are going to produce a sharper, more modern, publication, brightening readers’ lives and furthering world peace … Good design, like good writing, should blend into the background; it should be the servant of editors and readers alike, not their master.’

Who can argue with that, from a magazine that continues to sell like the web had never been invented? But so many have forgotten it. All magazines and newspaper – the likes of the Guardian in particular – should take note, no matter how many design awards they win.

The Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Margaret Thatcher

Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Thatcher

And the strength of the Economist as a global brand has led it to launch merchandising. Of particular notes is Cover Story, a set of 100 postcards telling the story of the magazine’s cover designs. There’s a page showing many of the covers and you can order Economist cover T-shirts, totes and mugs.

News magazines profiled


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

 

 


 

Comics, cartoonists and surrealists – this week’s good reads

May 2, 2018
The TLS on comics and graphic novels. Minnie the Minx Beano cover

The TLS on comics and graphic novels

Martin Rowson seems to have become the voice of Britain’s newspaper cartoonists – and he doesn’t let his comrades down with ‘Afflicting the comfortable’, an article in The Times Literary Supplement. It’s the highlight of last week’s ‘Cartoon times’ issue.

Rowson is supported by Lucy Dallas’s ‘Groo! Yeuch! The Beano at 80’, Kassia St Clair on graphics and politics, and Eric Bulson reviewing six books about comics and their spin-offs, including CUP’s Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel.

Desmond Morris: The Lives of the Surrealists. Thames & Hudson

Desmond Morris on the surrealists he knew

Next in my reading pile is The Lives of the Surrealists from Thames & Hudson. Desmond Morris – he of Zoo Time and Naked Ape fame – turns out to have been a surrealist painter himself and portrays the likes of Magritte, Moore and Miro through personal anecdote.

The book has some lovely lines. I particularly liked the chapter on Roland Penrose – who bankrolled the movement, founded the ICA and lived with Lee Miller. Other surrealists condemned him for selling out and joining the establishment when he accepted a knighthood in 1966. His reaction? ‘They can call me a Sir-realist.’


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

 

 


 

Delayed Gratification – what a magazine!

March 23, 2018
Delayed Gratification: the first issue with its Shepard Fairey c

Delayed Gratification: the first issue with its Shepard Fairey cover

Delayed Gratification. What a magazine. Last night, its editors gave a great talk at the London College of Communication about its latest issue with contributions from investigative journalist Heather BrookeJames Montague and Locke actress Kirsty Dillon.

For those with longer teeth, Brooke will be known for her NUJ courses and her book, Your Right to Know about the Freedom of Information Act, but her great claim to fame is the MPs’ expenses expose with the Telegraph. Montague has had astounding access to places such as North Korea as a football writer (though how he can describe Icelanders as ‘reserved’ is a mystery in my experience). Dillon gave her experience on the extent of the knowledge among British actresses of Weinstein’s excesses (can it really be true that Judi Dench had his name as a tattoo on her bottom?).

Has there been any magazine as innovative as Delayed Gratification in the past 50 years with its quarterly look back at the news, groundbreaking infographics and great illustration and photography? Town? Private Eye? Nova? Cosmopolitan? Loaded? Grazia? Monocle? The answer does not matter; it’s up there with them.

When it first appeared I doubted Delayed Gratification could survive. It was an independent magazine and, although its roster of Time Out veterans was a good sign, that was no guarantee. It was one of four titles I identified as pointing to the future of magazines in my book covering covering the past 170 years of British magazine design. Since January 2011, it has kept to its last and thrived.

I named Delayed Gratification as the only magazine I subscribed to in a 2016 interview for Magculture. A subscription to Stack, a birthday present from my son, the UX designer Max Quinn, is the only exception since.


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

 

 


 

NME magazine bites the dust

March 12, 2018
Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

NME is to close. The 66-year-old old music magazine will no longer appear as a free weekly but will remain as an online brand. The owners, Time Inc UK, describe the decision as an ‘initiative’ that will ‘expand its digital-first strategy’.

NME was one of the first two mainstream consumer magazines at IPC to launch a website, the other being Uploaded.com for Loaded, in 1995.

New Musical Express was launched in 1952 and was selling 300,000 copies a week from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. It saw off its ‘inkie’ rivals as the tabloid music papers – Melody Maker (the grande dame of the sector, lasting from 1926 to 2000), Record Mirror, Disc and Sounds – lost out to the colour A4 magazines such as No 1, Smash Hits and The Face.

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with bands and musicians holding past copies on the cover. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with eight different covers of the September 26 issue showing bands and musicians holding past copies. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

The title was abbreviated to NME for the issue of 2 December 1978. A few weeks before, Barney Bubbles had redesigned New Musical Express with a colour punk cover, but the publishers (then IPC) had feared too much change, and not wanted to used the NME moniker on that issue (7 October 1978)

It followed the trend to become a full-colour magazine, though it has outlived the A4 magazines that led that trend.

Time Inc is itself in the throes of change, having been bought up by a private equity group, a fate that IPC, then Britain’s biggest publisher, suffered before it was brought up by Time Inc to become the UK arm of the US company.

History of music magazines at Magforum.com


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


 

One for Madonna fans

February 13, 2018
Madonna strip cartoon of her life 1986

Madonna strip cartoon of her life: The Story So Far

Hotspot-5 has 156 Madonna issues up on ebay at prices ranging from £4.95 to £24.95.

One of the earliest issues dates back to January 1986. It’s issue 2 of Look-In, the weekly TV magazine for teenagers, which carried a cartoon strip of Madonna’s life called ‘The Story So Far’.

In response to queries, I’ve done several Madonna posts, including identifying the first Madonna magazine cover (and it’s not Smash Hits or i-D).

Madonna front cover Esquire magazine 1994

Madonna on the cover of Esquire magazine in September 1994, dressed up to meet Norman Mailer!

Hotspot-5’s Madonna issues.

 


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

 

 

 


 

Beano: a cheery cover for grey days

January 12, 2018
Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?

Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?

Here’s a cheery cover for a rainy day (and I’m off to a funeral today for Tom Pride, a Times journalist I first worked with in 1980).

Beano comes from B ‘n’ O, the abbreviation for  Nalgo’s benevolent and orphan fund (B&O).  Nalgo – the National Association of Local Government Officers trade union – was founded in 1905 and is today part of Unison. It appears to have been produced in Scarborough, described as the ‘conference town’ because of the number of big meetings held there, such as political party annual conferences.

The NCTJ used to hold training courses there – on one of them, I met Tom Baker, the would-be monk and former Doctor Who star; the Yorkshire boxer Richard Dunn, who took on Muhammad Ali in 1976; and Brian Glover, the wrestler, teacher and actor best known for his role in Kes. All in the same hotel bar. What a night that was!

Winter's Pie, an edition of Printers' Pie, magazine cover from 1913. The cover is by John Hassall

Winter’s Pie, an edition of Printers’ Pie, magazine cover from 1913. The cover is by John Hassall

Producing special magazines to raise funds for charitable purposes was a popular strategy right into the Eighties. These included Printers’ Pie, where the funds went to printing charities, Christmas Pie, ‘All profits to King George’s Jubilee Trust’ in 1939, and Blighty, which raised money for the troops in both world wars. The most famous writers and illustrators would provide work for these and volunteer printers would produce them on Fleet Street presses.

The Nalgo Beano cover appeared in 1934, four years before DC Thomson launched the famous  Beano comic on 30 July 1938 in Dundee. And, of course, its most famous strip – The Bash Street Kids – was about the perils of a group of public service workers – teachers and janitors – in a state school.

The Oxford Dictionary relates the word ‘beano’ – a rowdy celebration – to the printing industry, going back to 1888:

CT Jacobi, Printers’ Vocab. 7 Beano, a slang abbreviation for ‘beanfeast’, which is, however, usually termed ‘goose’ or wayzgoose by compositors.

So, a trade union – Nalgo – was the inspiration for the Beano comic. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

 


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

 

 

 


 

London Life prices go through the roof

November 1, 2017
London Life magazine front cover from 1966 with Laurence Olivier, blacked up for Othello

London Life magazine front cover from 1966 with Laurence Olivier, blacked up for Othello

The weekly listings magazine London Life, which was developed to replace Tatler in the 1960s, has long been a good seller on eBay, but a 1966 copy with a Laurence Olivier cover – with the actor blacked up for Othello on the cover – has just gone for £91. A Julie Christie issue from the same year fetched £71 and another issue £57.

London Life was ‘a comprehensive guide to the entertainment scene: films, theatre, restaurants, night life, music, sport’; a Time Out for the Swinging Sixties. It’s usually the earlier issues of London Life under editor Mark Boxer that fetch such high prices.

London Life profile at Magforum

London Life magazine cover checklist


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


 

Maurice Rickards: ephemera and magazines

October 14, 2017
Maurice Rickards merged two images in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards merged two photographs in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards is one of the unsung heroes of graphic design. Although he wrote several books – and Michael Twyman completed his Encyclopedia of Ephemera – the godfather of modern-day ephemera is rarely written about. Even Wikipedia, that great hoover-upper of everybody else’s research and websites, has yet to acknowledge his existence. Only the Independent gave him an obituary (by Patrick ‘Book of Firsts‘ Robertson, a former chairman of the Ephemera Society who claims to own the largest private collection of vintage magazines in Britain).

Rickards trained as a photographer but collecting the fleeting printed objects of everyday life – particularly posters – was his joy and he appears to have made a living from his Fitzrovia basement studio as an illustrator, photographer and magazine designer. It was his enthusiasm that led to the creation of the Ephemera Society, its offshoot in the US and the Centre for Ephemera Studies at Reading University under the direction of Professor Twyman.

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

I never met the man, but came to some idea of his approach to design through the pages of Man About Town under the editorship of John Taylor in the 1950s (before it was bought up by Michael Heseltine’s Cornmarket). Later, when researching books about British magazine design and Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster, I discovered his books on posters.

The spring 1956 poster-like cover of Man About Town is credited to Rickards, as is autumn 1958, so he was probably working as a freelance designer on the magazine in those years. I particularly like the latter example, which is described as being inspired by the squiggle shape that he came across.

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

The autumn/winter i959 issue at the top of this post was the last Man About Town under Taylor and perhaps that is why it gives a big showing to Rickards’ work. He had done several earlier covers designs but this one gives an opportunity for his ‘crackpotography’ ideas, along with a five-page article.  The text reproduces some of his ‘eccentricities’ in ‘Rickards’s howdoneit’, an article based on his book, Off-Beat Photography (The Studio, 1959), about image manipulation. In Man About Town‘s inimitable style, the magazine  describes that the woman sitting on Rickards’s head cover is easily explained:

It is not that we used a particularly small girl; it is merely that Rickards himself has such a big head.

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards shows Rickards with an axe in his head on the dust jacket

In the article, the captions explain how each photograph was composed and how shadows were added using an airbrush or avoided. A man shown balancing on a glass using just one finger needed 50 or 60 exposures before Rickards got it right. A skull and Luger photo was for a book, named as Skeleton Island. In fact, this looks to have become A Twist of Sand (1960) by Geoffrey Jenkins and was made into a film eight years later starring Richard Johnson and Honor Blackman. The cover used a variant of the photo, without the gun.

Another photograph of what looks like the aftermath of a massive road accident  harks back to a poster campaign he did right at the start of his career in 1953 – Lives Matter. Three posters were commissioned by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, showing a woman collapsed over a telephone, a one-legged boy on crutches, and a little girl in the arms of a policeman. According to Patrick Robertson’s obituary, such was the horror they generated that they were banned by various local authorities, were defaced on hoardings and prompted ‘harsh letters’ to editors and MPs.