Archive for the ‘IPC’ Category

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


 

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Britain’s princes – cross-dressing in Marie Claire magazine

October 26, 2017
The royal twee: Prince Charles as urban ethnic nomad by Joe Casely-Hayford. In the bottom right the heir to the throne is out to lunch in Franco Moschino

The royal twee: Prince Charles as urban ethnic nomad by Joe Casely-Hayford. In the bottom right the heir to the throne is out to lunch in Franco Moschino

September 1988 saw the arrival of a new magazine, IPC’s interpretation of a French title that dated back to the 1930s, Marie Claire (I know Wikipedia says it came to the UK 1941, but that just shows how unreliable it is!) It was a breath of fresh air under the editorship of Glenda Bailey. She was seen as an unlikely choice, but talked her way into the job and made a great fist of it, bringing in investigative pieces alongside the fashion. Bailey has since joined the long list of British editors to cross the Atlantic, heading up Harper’s Bazaar since 2001.

 

Hallo tailor: Prince Andrew as ship's matey in Byblos. Right, Charles at home in Moschino

Hallo tailor: Prince Andrew as ship’s matey in Byblos. Right, Charles at home in Moschino

It’s worth getting out these old copies of Marie Claire for articles such as ‘Royal makeover: The princes’ new clothes’. It wasn’t an original idea, Nova ran a piece in 1968 that had French fashion designer André Courrèges giving the Queen a makeover (it caused a storm at the time!). Marie Claire went a step further in tackling Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward – and … well just look at the cross-dressing pictures!

Boys will be boys. Prince Andrew in English Eccentrics. Edward in Rifat Ozbek and John Flett

Boys will be boys. Prince Andrew in English Eccentrics. Left, Edward in Rifat Ozbek and John Flett

Here’s what Marie Claire said at the time:

If the Royal family has become nothing more than a collection of clothes-horses, we know who to blame, don’t we? The Princess of Wales (5ft 10in, pencil slim) transformed herself from little-girl-lost into Miss United Kingdom as if she’d been anticipating the event since birth. The Duchess of York (5ft 8in, rolling gait) exacerbated the situation by contrast: she caught the public imagination as the All England land girl. Even the Princess Royal (5ft 7in, very ordinary) has suddenly acquired an incongruous interest in fashion.

The Princes, however, have been cruelly denied the opportunity to follow in the wake of their womenfolk. Protocol decrees that these unfortunate patricians should appear publicly in sub-Next and privately in the limited shades of country compost. Sympathetic to their predicament, Marie Claire asked designers Joe Casely-Hayford, Franco Moschino, Rifat Ozbek, John Flett, English Eccentrics and Byblos to give Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward the same equality of opportunity as their female counterparts.

Knowing that this would be a difficult creative task, we did not ask them to design for the actual Royal physique, nor did we specify whether the ensembles were for state occasions or intimate At Homes, but our philanthropy may result in a new age of elegance for the Royal male. Windsor change?


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

 

 


 

Sad times for great magazines in uncaring Time Inc hands

June 23, 2017
Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan

Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan – but are now half

Had an email yesterday morning from the editor of one of the biggest Time Inc UK weeklies asking for a correction to my listings – I had mistakenly said the title had closed. No problem I thought, but the request seemed a bit odd until I saw this Press Gazette headline later in the day – ‘UK magazine giant Time Inc puts 111 journalists at risk of redundancy‘.

Time Inc wants to group editorial staff on some of its biggest titles into one central ‘hub’, says Press Gazette. Really bad move – the result will be to blandise the titles and diminish their identity. No doubt it will also be the harbinger of more cuts to come. Central subbing units tend to be ideal targets for ‘outsourcing’ or moving to the far corners of the country.

The magazine titles involved include Woman & Home (£4.30; sales 319,000; 36% subs; about 10% multi-packed), Marie Clare (£3.99; 153,000 sales; 20% subs; 15% frees) and Look (90,000 fortnightly; 3% subs; 11% frees). Digital circulation adds about 1,000 to each figure. That’s two very different monthlies and a fortnightly all expected to be put together by the same people. I’m surprised the French owners of the Marie Clare name haven’t objected.

The company wants to cut 300 staff globally.

I felt it was bad news when the IPC owners sold the company to US-based Time Inc, and particularly when they dropped the IPC name. The moment you become a bracketed subsidiary of a company that ends in ‘Inc’, it never ends well (is it Time Inc (UK) or Time (UK) Inc? Should there be a Ltd at the end of that too?). So it has proved. The US owners have done nothing but sell off titles and have even sold their Blue Fin headquarters building in Borough, London, to lease it back. hardly the actions of a company in it for the long term.

In a recent post, I identified Country Life as a title that would be better off in other hands, rather than the business park in Farnborough that it gives as its address nowadays.

It’s a sad day that once-great names such as Newnes, AC Pearson, Odhams, Amalgamated, Fleetway and IPC – the ‘Ministry of Magazines’ of the 1970s – have been reduced to a ‘garage sale’ of brands in the hands of uncaring American masters.


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

 

 


 

 

 

New Scientist sale is good news for Relx investors

April 15, 2017
New Scientist magazine front cover

New Scientist magazine has been sold for an undisclosed sum

The sale of New Scientist magazine is seen as good news for Relx, an Anglo-Dutch company that has moved from print to online delivery of information in the past 20 years.

The FTSE 100 company was once known as Reed International, and owned paper making and building materials companies such as Crown Paint and Polycell. It then bought IPC Magazines and book publishers and switched its focus to publishing. In 1993, it merged with Elsevier, a Dutch group, to concentrate on academic and professional publishing.

Reed Elsevier sold off both the consumer books and IPC’s consumer magazines, which were seen as low-margin businesses, to concentrate on digital delivery of data and information to academia and business. It held on to trade and business magazine titles, such as Variety and New Scientist, but has spent the past 10 years selling these to invest in digital assets such as Lexis Nexis.

Now, New Scientist has been sold to Kingston Acquisitions, an investment firm led by Sir Bernard Gray. He was part of the £230m buyout of the Times Educational Supplement from News Corp in 2005 by private equity group Exponent. Hopefully, a third of the company’s staff won’t take up an offer of voluntary redundancy, as happened after that deal.

The recent history of Relx and Pearson makes a fascinating comparison. Both were conglomerates in the 1980s that decided to concentrate on publishing and media. However, Pearson always seemed a decade behind Reed. That gap has accelerated since Marjorie Scardino left Pearson. New MD John Fallon has seen Pearson’s share price fall by half in the past five years, while Reed’s has more than doubled. The big mystery is how Fallon has kept hold of his job.

 

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: Aeroplane and Eric Fraser in 1960

February 12, 2017
Eric Fraser cover for Aeroplane magazine of a Lightning jet from 11 February 1960

Eric Fraser cover for Aeroplane magazine of a Lightning jet 

Apologies for the small illustration, but I can’t find the actual issue of  The Aeroplane and Astronautics from 12 February 1960.

I wanted to use this cover for two reasons. First, as an example of an advertising cover, and second as an example of Eric Fraser’s artistry, outside the magazine for which he is best known, Radio TimesAeroplane, a ‘weekly magazine for the aviation enthusuiast’, invariably used illustrated covers. I don’t know how they were commissioned but there must have been co-operation between the advertiser and the magazine.

The Eric Fraser cover here is for the English Electric Lightning – Britain’s main fighter jet in the days when the country could afford to build its own rather than buy from the US or go into co-operation with Europe.

The Chris Beetles gallery  has held exhibitions of Fraser’s work. This is how the gallery describes him:

Eric Fraser is one of the most significant British illustrators and designers of the 20th century, who produced work that is at once wide-ranging and highly distinctive. Developing an assured technique and an impressive general knowledge, he could adapt his style to almost any subject matter, from ancient to modern, and any mood, from the whimsical to the tragic. He was also industrious, meticulous and dependable. As a result, he defined the look of Radio Times for over four decades and became a mainstay of JM Dent’s Everyman’s Library while also creating impressive murals and stained glass windows and an astonishing variety of advertising.

Fraser was also chosen to illustrate the May 1953 coronation number of the Radio Times. This was an unusual issue because he drew not only the heraldic illustration on the front, but also the back cover advertisement for Batchelors Foods in a similar style. The event marked the first time the BBC’s listings weekly had used colour since before the war. The Batchelors advert was also used on the back of that week’s Listener. Fraser drew for the Radio Times from 1926 until 1982, the year before his death.

He was a member of the Society of Industrial Artists, which was founded in 1930 at the Ye Olde Cock Tavern in London’s Fleet Street, and has evolved into today’s Chartered Society of Designers, complete with royal patronage.

An Aeroplane magazine cover of a Fairey Battle from 13 April 1935

An Aeroplane magazine cover of a Fairey Battle from 13 April 1935

The Aeroplane and Astronautics was published by Temple Press and in the 1940s claimed to be ‘the most influential aviation journal in the world’. Temple was founded in the Victorian era with titles such as Cycling and Motor. In 1949, it became part of George Newnes and then part of the IPC conglomerate in the 1960s.

Aeroplane has a history of great covers, which like many trade and technical magazines, carried advertising.

Although the cover is the prime place for gaining such revenue, most consumer magazines and newspapers moved away from front page advertising, a trend that accelerated after the Second World War. However, it’s a tactic that is returning, particularly among free titles, but even the biggest newspapers are now giving their covers away as wraparounds, and back covers are now often adverts.

 


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: holographic cover

February 6, 2017
Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Front covers don’t come much rarer than this one from 4 February 1988. A bust of Newton is looking at itself in a hologram that is embossed on the front cover of IPC’s New Scientist.

The hologram discs were originated by Advanced Holographics and Markem Systems. The covers were then printed as usual with a space left for the disc. At Malvern Press, the covers were then stamped with the holographic foil disc using a ‘hologram registration unit’.

There was a lot of interest in the technology at the time. A couple of years earlier, Venture, a magazine run by Redwood Publishing had stuck a hologram on its cover. Later in 1988, National Geographic did a whole cover hologram (December issue) and it had done a smaller hologram cover in March 1984 and November 1985.

Last year, Another magazine did a Karl Lagerfeld hologram for its 150th issue. Like lenticular covers, the concept is expensive and gimmicky.

The Jonathan Ross Collection lists 12 magazine covers with holograms.


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

 

 

 


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


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


 

The first Madonna magazine cover

December 17, 2015
The first Madonna magazine cover - No 1 from 4 February 1984

The first Madonna magazine cover – No 1 from 4 February 1984

A question comes in: when did Madonna first appear on a magazine cover? I can’t claim to have a definitive answer, but the first British example I can find is the above No 1 cover from 4 February 1984. The fortnightly IPC magazine beats the better-remembered Smash Hits published by Emap by 12 days.

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, also in February 1984

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, two weeks later in February 1984

i-D then followed with its March/April issue (which may well have also been in the shops in February).

Madonna cover from i-D dated March/April 1984

Madonna proves she can wink for the cover of i-D dated March/April 1984

It was another five years before Madonna began to appear on Vogue covers in the UK and US, but Tatler had given her its front in 1987.

Madonna fronts Tatler with a sophisticated look in September 1987

Madonna fronts Tatler with a sophisticated look in September 1987

And Playboy got in pretty early on Madonna’s act too with this September 1985 cover. Note the headline: ‘Madonna nude: unlike a virgin  … for the very first time.’

Madonna was pretty quick in getting her kit off for Playboy in September 1985

Madonna was pretty quick in getting her kit off for Playboy in September 1985

Looking at these covers, it’s noticeable how quickly she changes her style to give a different look for each audience – the teens in No 1, the rich sophisticates for the upmarket Tatler, and the goggling male readership of Playboy.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)