Archive for the ‘first issues’ Category

This day in magazines: Woman’s Realm launch

February 22, 2017
The first issue of Woman's Realm dated 22 February 1958

The first issue of Woman’s Realm dated 22 February 1958

Woman’s Realm was launched on 22 February 1958 to take sales pressure off Woman – which was selling three million copies an issue – and use printing capacity at the Odhams plant in Watford, Herts.

It was an updated version of the old formula of fiction plus domestic tips and information. By 1960, the latter dominated. It added a medical page, personal problems, fashion and regular spots for children. The Odhams publicity machine took sales to over a million. Clarity of hints on domestic matters, particularly cookery, kept those readers.

There was intense rivalry between Odhams with Woman, George Newnes with Woman’s Own and Amalgamated with Woman’s Weekly (the oldest of the women’s weekly magazine trio, dating back to 1911. There was also a printing rivalry with both Woman and Woman’s Own being printed in Watford, at Odhams – the Art Deco building is still print works today – and Sun Engraving. All that is left of the Sun plant – the biggest printing works in Europe in the 1930s – is the clock building that stood at the factory entrance, some road names and a Sun bar in a hotel built on the site.

Woman’s Weekly has proved its staying power, having overtaken its more lavishly designed rivals, to register an ABC figure of 276,208, with no freebies, against Woman (208,145) and Woman’s Own (185,172). Today, all three are published by Time Inc UK, with the companies having merged to form IPC in the 1960s.


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: Grazia goes with Kate Moss in 2005

February 21, 2017

 

First issue cover of Grazia magazine, the weekly fashion glossy. The cover feature for the 2005 February 21, issue was Kate Moss saying she will never marry

First issue cover of Grazia magazine, the weekly fashion glossy. The cover feature for the issue is Kate Moss saying she will never marry

Emap set out to change the face of glossy fashion magazines with Grazia, a weekly glossy, on 21st February 2005. The idea of having the production values of the big fashion glossies on a woman’s weekly is not original, having been tried, in vain, by Home Journal in the 1930s, Riva in 1988 and Real in 2001.

Kate Moss is the cover model, with a newsy story about her views on marriage to provide the topicality – and the celebrity interest – a weekly needs today. Take a look at the Evening Standard, one of London’s free papers, these days and you’ll see there’s barely a story without a celebrity angle.

Inside, Grazia is printed gravure, which gives a silky feel to the matt paper pages, with lots of fluorescent yellow ink and black.

Grazia's contents page shows its signature colour, yellow

Grazia’s contents page shows its signature colour, yellow, with a Tod’s advert opposite

A large format and gravure is the formula that works for Grazia, now published by German-owned Bauer, attracting fashion advertising and selling an average of 117,597 copies of its 50 issues a year, at a cover price of £2 (89.8% purchased).

Grazia‘s success has helped gravure printing become more popular against offset litho, with Cosmopolitan switching over last year when its adopted its ‘midi’ format, and stopped printing at two sizes, handbag and A4. Condé Nast rival Glamour – which popularised the monthly handbag format when it launched – adopted a midi format (276 by 203mm) with its February 2017 issue, and has been printed gravure at Prinovis in Nuremberg, Germany, since 2004. Glamour sells 256,466 copies a month (91.4% purchased; now £1 on the news-stands, against £2 last year); and Cosmo 400,547 (77.7% purchased; £1 on the news-stands).

Bauer has a Grazia data page and Grazia media pack. See Grazia’s ABC sales certificate.


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

 

 


This month in magazines: Oz in 1967

February 17, 2017
The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

Oz was an underground magazine launched in London in February 1967 that became a leading part of Britain’s counterculture. Notice the word ‘London’ at the top left of the Oz title above. It’s there because Oz was originally an Australian magazine, founded by Richard Neville, Martin Sharp and Richard Walsh. They were prosecuted in Australia and Neville and Sharp came to London, where they launched another version of the magazine with Jim Anderson.

It was not the only magazine of its type – International Times, Ink and Friends were also influential – but Oz gained mainstream notoriety for the obscenity trial that followed the publication of the Oz School Kids issue (number 28).

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The three editors (Sharp had left and been replaced by Felix Dennis) selected a group of youngsters aged between 14 and 18 to edit issue 28. The magazine’s offices were raided by the Obscene Publications Squad, the issue was seized and the editors were charged with conspiring to ‘debauch and corrupt the morals of young children’ because of some of the cartoons and discussion of sexual freedom and drug use.

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

For Felix Dennis, the Oz trial was the ‘finest hour’ for John Mortimer, their defence lawyer and later author of the Rumpole of the Bailey TV series and books. Although they were found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act, the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Like Private Eye, Oz might have looked crude, but it was an innovative user of the latest production techniques such as lithographic colour printing. It produced some amazing imagery by people such as Peter Brooke – now the leading political cartoonist on The Times – and Sharp’s iconic imagine of Bob Dylan, the Tambourine Man.

Another Australian who worked on Oz, in Sydney and London, was Marsha Rowe, and Germaine Greer wrote for it, too. Greer wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970 (and was gardening correspondent of Private Eye with the byline Rose Blight!) and Rowe was a co-founder of Spare Rib in 1972. She condemned a plan by Charlotte Raven to relaunch Spare Rib in 2014. The archive of Spare Rib can be found through the British Library’s website.

Felix Dennis went on to found Dennis Publishing, which launched Maxim and The Week. Since Dennis’s death, the profits from the company have been put to creating a massive forest. As well as the people behind Oz becoming mainstream, so have many of the ideas it, and the other undergrounds titles, argued for.  Oz is also one of the most collectable magazines.

The last issue of Oz - November 1973

The last issue of Oz

The University of Woollongong holds an online archive of the Australian issues of Oz, which was first published in Sydney on April Fool’s Day 1963 and continued until December 1969.This was set up with Neville’s co-operation after he returned to Australia and became a writer.

Woollongong also has all the London editions of Oz, from February 1967 to November 1973. The last issue cover carries a photo of the Oz staff naked overlaid on a background of disgraced US president Richard Nixon.

 


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: Sunday Times supplement 1962

February 5, 2017
First issue cover of the Sunday Times Colour Section on 4 February 1962

First issue cover of the Sunday Times Colour Section, 4 February 1962

The first Sunday of February 1962 saw the advent of the Sunday Times Colour Section. It could not call itself a magazine then because the law prohibited magazines being published on a Sunday.

However, the colour supplement was a big factor in changing the nature of the magazine industry. The advent of commercial television in the mid-1950s had brought down general weekly magazines such as Picture Post, Everybody’s and Illustrated. And monthlies too, such as Lilliput. From 1962, the Sunday papers became another nail in the coffin of weekly magazines. John Bull had relaunched itself as Today but would last just another two years;  Tit-Bits, Reveille and Weekend would soldier on before eating each other up and closing in the 1980s. It was a story of slowly falling sales for women’s weeklies too, with their circulations having peaked in 1960.

Yet it was not all plain sailing for the first 1960s colour section. Mark Boxer had been tempted across from the upmarket monthly Queen as launch editor. He said he had only seven weeks to produce the first issue and would later say he was ‘amazed by its success’. He wanted to change the name to Sunday Times Colour Magazine but aside from the legal question, he was told that this might be interpreted as a sign of losing confidence. A few weeks after the launch, he said: ‘The supplement is still not being taken seriously. It is like the toy in the cornflake packet.’

The art director was John Donegan, who had worked in advertising and later became a cartoonist for Punch and the Sunday Express. The  cover for the first issue shows 11 photographs taken by David Bailey of Jean Shrimpton wearing a Mary Quant dress. They encircle a colour shot by photojournalist John Bulmer of Burnley’s legendary striker Jimmy McIlroy. The issue also published the Ian Fleming short story ‘The Living Daylights’, but was described ‘a crashing bore’ in the news weekly Topic.

At the start of its second year, the Colour Section began calling itself a Colour Magazine. That word ‘colour’ was the magic ingredient, enabling the Sunday Times to offer a colour national advertising vehicle to big advertisers.It finally became the Sunday Times Magazine in 1964.

The idea of supplements is not new, of course. The Times launched a women’s supplement in 1910, and a colour version a decade later, though bother were short lived. And the Times Literary Supplement and the paper’s Education and Higher Education supplements are still published. But these are exceptions to the rule that supplements cannot make it as magazines. The last one to try – the Mail on Sunday‘s You, was an embarrassing failure when it tried.

Roy Thomson starting the presses at Sun Engraving for the Sunday Times Colour Supplement in January 1962

Roy Thomson starting the presses at Sun Engraving for the first Sunday Times Colour Supplement in January 1962

‘Bore’ it might have been, but it pulled in the advertising revenue for Sunday Times owner Lord Thomson (a tycoon often remembered for saying that television was ‘a licence to print money’). Other papers took notice, with The Observer following suit on 6 September 1964 with a cover portrait of Lord Mountbatten by John Hedgecoe, who established the photography department at the Royal College of Art the next year. It took its inspiration from magazines such as Life and Paris Match as well as the Sunday Times supplement. A Daily Telegraph supplement was launched the same month. Late in the decade, the Mirror had a ago, but this did not last long. Nowadays, however, most of the national papers have several magazine supplements, as do many local and regional papers.

Mini painted by Alan Aldridge for the Sunday Times 1965

Painted Mini by Alan Aldridge for the Sunday Times 1965 Automania special

Under editors such as Godfrey Smith, Hunter Davies, Ron Hall, Philip Clarke and Robin Morgan, the Sunday Times Magazine was a breeding ground for photographers, editors and designers, with people such as Peter Crookston, the future Nova editor; David Hillman, the Nova designer and later Guardian redesigner; and Peter Fluck and Roger Law (Spitting Image puppet makers); and art editor and Soviet archive owner David King all going through its doors.

Michael Rand ran the art side of the supplement between 1963 and 1993. In a commemorative issue (5 February 2012) he said:

I never attempted a style for the magazine. I just wanted it busy but simply laid out, and there had to be tension there: grit and glamour. I realise now my unconscious influence was Picture Post. It had those great covers and was unashamedly a picture magazine. And I used a lot of illustration — David Hockney, Peter Blake and Ian Dury did front covers. There was a feeling that, creatively, you could do anything.

And the supplements could do pretty much anything. The October 1965 front cover above – an Automania special issue – is an example. It is a real Mini painted in his psychedelic style by Alan Aldridge. The car was white-washed and painted with 100 tubes of designer’s gouache, six cans of silver spray from Woolworths and checkered tape. It took five days. And then Denis Rolfe took the photo.

To encourage advertisers to prepare better artwork, the Telegraph group produced the Daily Telegraph Magazine Guide to Gravure Printing, a book written by its technical adviser, Otto M Lilien, in 1968. The expensive, 100-page guide was printed by Eric Bemrose, Aintree, the company that printed the magazine, with acetate pages produced by Harrison & Sons (High Wycombe) and binding by Tinlings of Liverpool.

The process and its technical differences from Letterpress and offset [lithography] are fully set out and illustrated In the following pages. Explanations are given to assist the achievement of the best possible results from the use of gravure through suitable basic design, typography, Artwork, photography and layout

The cost of printing the Mirror Magazine lost IPC millions of pounds in 1970

The cost of printing the Mirror Magazine lost IPC millions of pounds in 1970

Supplements had massive print runs on the country’s biggest gravure presses, and budgets to match because their economics were not the economics of a paid-for magazine.

However, get it wrong on a supplement and the printing costs could kill you – as it did the Mirror Magazine. IPC launched the supplement but the massive 5 million print run was too long for the  copper cylinders on the gravure presses at Odhams Press in Watford. That meant two sets of very expensive cylinders – and the Mirror Magazine closed within a year having lost £7 million.

 

What’s a copy of the Sunday Times Magazine worth?

 


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

 

 

 


Trump magazine forecasts president’s hairstyle in 1957

January 13, 2017

 

Trump magazine cover from 1959. It was a cross between Mad and Playboy

Trump magazine from 1957. It was a cross between Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad and Hugh Hefner’s Playboy

Nostradamus had nothing on this: magazine advert forecasts president's hairstyle in 1959

Nostradamus had nothing on this: magazine advert forecasts president’s hairstyle in 1957

All this fuss about Donald Trump has done great things for the price of a satirical magazine first published in January 1957 when Donald John was just 10 years old. It was called Trump – and on the back cover is a spoof shampoo advert that forecasts the US president’s hairstyle. It even gets the colour right!

A copy of this first issue of Trump has just sold on eBay for just shy of $200. The listing described the magazine’s history, and, as with so many stories to do with today’s US president elect, there’s porn involved, with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner being the publisher:

Harvey Kurtzman was the creator of Mad magazine which become a huge success. Hugh Hefner (Playboy) approached Kurtzman and told him that if we were to leave Mad he would publish him himself. The result was Trump, a more risqué version of Mad. The magazine was printed on the glossy paper that Playboy was printed on and Kurtzman hired Mad contributor Will Elder and Jack Davis as well as a number of new talent such as Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth. Despite a 50¢ cover price (which was expensive at the time), the magazine was a success on the market but was cancelled after only two issues because of how costly it was to produce. Kurtzman later created similar magazines Humbug and Help but had been quoted at saying that Trump was the closest he ever came to producing the perfect humour magazine.

The condition was described as very fine, with the pages ‘white and crisp’ and the cover being ‘amazingly clean considering how unforgiving white covers from that era could be’.

Breck shampoo advert from 1960

Breck shampoo advert from 1960

But the real value of this magazine to me is that back cover – it’s for ‘Beck’ shampoo. There was a real shampoo called Breck and the spoof advert pulls off its advertising style and typography to a T. But just look at the hair in the spoof advert! Truly, Trump magazine rates with Nostradamus in the way it has forecast the look of the next US president!

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.

The Red Poppy in Scotland in 1931

November 7, 2016
Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

The Red Poppy is a rare and unusual magazine. It was produced for several years by the West of Scotland committees of the Earl Haig Fund to raise funds for disabled veterans. It is not dated by month, but will presumably have come out in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

The poppy was adopted in the early 1920s by the British and Canadian Legions as the symbol of remembrance of World War One, inspired by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae with his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Lady Haig established a poppy factory in Edinburgh in 1926. Both the Haig Fund and the poppy factory are still active.

Charles Davidson's signature

Glasgow artist Charles Davidson’s signature

The cover is by the magazine’s staff artist, Charles L Davidson. It shows the positions of the Allied and German lines on three dates during the Great War and marks the sites of the greatest battles during the conflict in France.

Davidson studied at Glasgow School of Art and served in the war as a captain in the Seaforth Highlanders. Davidson also produced several posters for the war effort that aimed to encourage men at the front to salvage materials.

This logo was used as a strap on the pages of Red Poppy magazine

This logo was used as a strap on the pages of Red Poppy

Among the magazine’s cartoonists were Charles Allen Oakley, who took the name Ochre as his nom de crayon; Arthur Ferrier, who drew for Blighty magazine in the First World War and would do so again in the Second World War; T Grainger Jeffrey; and Berwick painter Frank Watson Wood, who painted the surrendered German fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

The precursor to Bottomley’s John Bull

June 24, 2016
The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

Horatio Bottomley is rightly regarded as one of the biggest swindlers in British history, using the pages of both the Financial Times, which he helped found, and John Bull magazine to help promote his financial schemes.

Bottomley was at his most bombastic in the pages of John Bull, which was one of the best-selling magazines during the Great War. It’s the magazine with which he is associated as editor, but, in fact, there was a humorous magazine by the same name launched just a few year before Bottomley used the name, as can be seen above.

The first issue of that John Bull was in 1903 – dated April 1st –  and the editor was Arthur William À Beckett, a magazine veteran who had worked on several titles, including Punch, though perhaps not very successfully. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes A.W.’s deputy editorship on Punch from 1880 as presiding over the magazine‘s ‘decline into decrepitude’ because he would change nothing and refused to introduce new blood. Eventually, in 1902, was asked to resign.

A.W. wrote The À Becketts of Punch, about his time on the satirical weekly with his father and brother (Gilbert Abbott and Gilbert Arthur), which was published by Constable in 1903.

The inside masthead for John Bullfeatured famous names such as Louis Wain and Max Beerbohm

The inside masthead for John Bull featured famous names such as Louis Wain, Harry Furniss and Max Beerbohm

The masthead inside the first issue of John Bull by W. Reynolds shows a fabulous roll call of contributors: A.W. carries a bull on his back ahead of a cast made up of A.P. Graves (Irish writer, assistant editor of Punch and inspector of schools), caricaturist Max Beerbohm, cartoonist Harry Furniss, lyricist and writer Adrian Ross, Louis Wain – renowned for his anthropomorphised animals – as Dick Whittington with a devilish-looking cat, Cyril Pearson as a sphinx, Percy Fremlin, adventure writer Sir Gilbert Parker, Sir William Robinson and the Welsh poet Sir Lewis Morris.

A.W. died in 1909, but John Bull appears to have predeceased him, with the British Library holding just one volume, with the final issue dated 25 June 1903.

The magazine was based at 5 Henrietta St in London’s Covent Garden. The street has long associations with publishing. Jane Austen lived at No 9 in 1813-14, the Royal magazine was at No 19 in 1914, along with C. Arthur Pearson’s other titles. In the 20th century, it was the home of Dorling Kindersley for many years.

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

Smash Hits first issue is an eBay hit

June 6, 2016
Debbie Harry and Blondie on the first issue cover of Smash Hits from November 1978

Debbie Harry and Blondie on the first issue cover of Smash Hits from November 1978

Blondie was ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ all the way to the top 5 of the charts back in 1978 and that success was helped by Debbie Harry and the band being  on the front cover of the first issue of Emap’s Smash Hits in November that year. The back cover was a poster of Abba and the centre spread was of Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats.

When the magazine closed its doors 10 years ago, copies went up on eBay and one fetched £30. Now, a copy of Smash Hits has beaten that figure, going for £31.80 plus £1.50 postage after 14 bids from four people.

That makes four copies of the nigh-on 40-year-old issue that have sold in the past month, the other three selling for £5.99, £11.61 and £31. The cover had come apart on the cheapest of the three, but the other two looked to be in similar condition – the £20 difference showing how much of an eBay selling figure is down to luck.

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

Kitchener, Ernest Noble and the Nignog Club

April 25, 2016
First issue of Kitchener's Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

First issue of Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

Pick up a magazine and you never know where you’ll end up next. A copy of the first issue of the 6-part Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces arrives in the post. This was a part work published by George Newnes, probably starting in January 1915, though it does not carry a date.  It was written by Fleet Street legend Edgar Wallace.

Magazine's back page advert for Fry's Cocoa by Ernest Noble

Magazine’s back page advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo’

On the back cover is an advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo‘. A search on Noble and the Echo took me to a website about the comedians Morecambe and Wise – and a page dedicated to Ernie Wise and the Nignog Club! As it says:

It is a well recorded fact that Ernie Wise was part of a variety concert party in his youth. Its name has gone into Morecambe and Wise folk law, and is often spoken in hushed tones. It was known as the Nig Nog club, and in these days of political correctness and over-eager internet filters, it’s not a phrase you type into Google with carefree abandon.

The site explains on a page based on material from reporter Chris Lloyd that the club originated in County Durham and was launched by the Darlington-based Northern Echo in 1929 as the Nig-Nog Ring, a children’s club. The ‘Chief Ringers’ were Uncle Mac, BBC broadcaster Derek McCulloch who hosted Children’s Hour, and Uncle Ernest, the Noble of my query who it turns out was from Darlington.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Beale Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang suggesting that the word was found in army contexts in the sense ‘fool’ from the late 19th century (a ‘nigmenog’) and as a ‘raw recruit’ from c1925. It also notes a possible connection with the Nig-Nog children’s clubs run by local newspapers, ‘following the model of the children’s page of a Birmingham newspaper’, the Evening Dispatch of 1 November 1929:

My Dear Children, I am sure you must be getting awfully excited … about becoming members of the Children’s Ring … The girls will be called ‘Nigs’ and the boys will be called ‘Nogs’ — and if any of you are twins there will be a special name for you. You will be called ‘Nig-Nogs’!

But this policy was changed a few days later:

After Uncle Ernest and I … talked yesterday … we made up our minds that you should all be called Nignogs, so that there will not be any distinction at all between girls and boys.

I leave the Northern Echo and the Evening Dispatch to argue over who came up with the idea. However, ‘uncles’ running children’s cartoons were a traditional form in newspapers – the Daily Mirror‘s ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ were incredibly popular from their founding in the early 1920s, for example.

The Northern Echo is a legendary paper, the place where Sunday Times and Times editor Harry Evans made his name, and before him Ted Pickering, a 1950s editor of the Daily Express, and WT Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was one of the great Victorian crusading journalists and who died on the Titanic. Unfortunately, the Evening Dispatch is no more.

The Lord Kitchener poster

Britain’s national newspapers