Archive for the ‘magazine history’ Category

How to spot a magazine reproduction

July 12, 2020
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Letterpress impression on this 1866 issue of Sharpe’s London magazine is clear

Country Life, Women’s Weekly, Time Out, The Face – all magazines that have published reproductions of their first issue. In the case of the latter two, the fact that they are celebratory facsimiles is made clear, but there is no such indication in the others.

So, if you’re buying a copy of Country Life that seems to be a first issue from 1897 or a premier Women’s Weekly from 1911, you need to watch out for clues, because the real thing is worth far more than a repro.

As I mentioned in a post about buying and selling copies of Country Life magazine, 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. With letterpress, the metal type is raised and often makes an impression on the paper.

The scan at the top of this page shows the detail from a copy of Sharpe’s London magazine from 1866. The impression from the printing of the reverse page can be clearly seen. This is a particularly obvious example and better techniques as the century progressed greatly reduced the excess pressure, so it’s unlikely to be this clear.

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Facsimile of first Woman’s Weekly

The first issues of both Country Life and Women’s Weekly were letterpress, so should show some signs of the impression of the type on the pages. Modern copies using offset lithography will be perfectly smooth.

 

Also, the real issues are unlikely to be in good condition. Women’s Weekly was printed on newsprint, which will have turned brown and brittle because of the acid in the woodpulp paper. The facsimiles are printed on brown paper, but the colouring is very even, which will not be the case with the real thing, because these usually brown from the outer edges in.

Country Life is tricker in this regard because it was printed on good paper, but it will have picked up dirt. Finally, the staples will have discoloured the paper on the centre pages and will probably have rusted, particularly on Women’s Weekly.

So, if you’re selling one of these, be careful in your description. If you’re buying, ask about the provenance. If in doubt, assume it’s a repro.

Arthur Rackham’s magazine masthead

May 30, 2020

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The best publishers stay that way by using the best suppliers, from writers to illustrators to paper merchants. And front page titles, mastheads as they are now known, are a case in point. I was struck by this one, which is from the first issue of The Ladies’ Field from 1898.

The magazine was a spin-off from Country Life, which had been launched the previous year by Edward Hudson, who owned the printers Hudson & Kearns, and George Newnes, publisher of Tit-Bits and The Strand. As was common at the time, the cover was a protective ‘wrapper’ dominated by advertising.

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And a close inspection shows that the masthead artwork was by no less than Arthur Rackham, renowned as one of the best illustrators of the era for his work on books such as Peter Pan and Grimms Fairy Tales.

 

 

How Radio Times marked VE Day

May 8, 2020

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This is the front cover of the Radio Times listing VE-Day celebrations in Britain to mark Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Special victory radio programmes on the BBC marked the week, celebrating each of the armed services and the civilian effort.

Beautifully illustrated as always, even the advertising, such as this Nestle advert, drawn, I reckon, by Mabel Lucie Attwell. She was an incredibly successful illustrator, renowned for her drawings of cute children.

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Lockdown – the magazine

May 6, 2020
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Hand-drawn cover for a 1924 school magazine

I took a good look and I can find no trace of a magazine called Lockdown. Which was a bit of a surprise, because there tends to be a magazine about just about anything.

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British prisoner of war magazine from 1915

And there have certainly been plenty of magazines produced by people in much nastier versions of lockdowns than today’s. I certainly associate the word ‘lockdown’ with prison and The Wooden City was first produced in 1915 by British prisoners of war.

 

At around the same time, the hell of the mud and bombardment at Ypres inspired troops during the First World War. They found an abandoned printing press and came up with The Wipers Times or Salient News, which has been reprinted as a book and has been the subject of documentaries by the likes of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

And, in January 1915, Ernest Shackleton and his men got trapped in the South Pole ice in their ship, the Endurance, and lived on board for ten months. They scrubbed the decks, played football when they could get out but even so, ‘in May they all had a fit of madness and decided to shave their heads’. They had to bring in ice every day to melt for water. And had to kill their dogs when food ran short. But, in November 1915, things got worse – the ship sank, so they had to live in tents on the ice. That left them with no choice but to drag an open boat across the ice for seven days to the sea. Shackleton and five others left their 22 comrades behind and then rowed 750 miles across the ocean to South Georgia to get help from whalers there. It was August 1916 before everyone was rescued.

Luckily, Shackelton had taken books with him and a typewriter, which the men used to produce a magazine to entertain themselves.

Alongside diaries and ships logs, such journals were a Royal Navy tradition and Robert Scott and his explorers produced the South Polar Times, for both of their Antarctic exhibitions. Scott himself wrote several articles, ‘including Horticultural Notes’, a humorous piece, for which the manuscript survives. Twelve issues of South Polar Times were produced, including four from the second, ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. The issues are ‘marked by their jollity‘. However, the last issue was produced in 1912 at the expedition base hut, by men who would have known that Scott and his four companions were dead because their food would have run out. They were trapped in their tent in a blizzard, where they died, apart from Captain Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates, who walked out of the tent with words that have gone down in history: ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ Scott’s journal was found in his pocket after he had been dead for eight months.

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How Arthur Conan Doyle recorded his voyage to the Arctic

But it was a trip to the Arctic at the other end of the world that inspired a more mainstream writer. In 1880, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, took six months out of medical school to work as a ship’s surgeon on a whaling expedition. This has been published as a facsimile book. He produced a magazine-like journal of the voyage, something he had also done at school. And he carried on making such notebooks as research in his later work, such as The White Company.

 

Schools aren’t exactly prisons, but they’ve produced many magazines – often going back a century or more. The Lyttletonian from 1924 is one example, which recently went up for sale on eBay. It came from a girls’ school and is typical in using mimeographed pages (today it would be a photocopier), with an ink and watercolour cover – ‘I expect the girls made their own,’ said the seller.

And no doubt penned-in children and adults around the country are producing their own magazines, News from Over the Road or Our House Journal or Lockdown Fashion World. And these are far more likely to be accessible to our descendants another century from now than a website or blog post. After all, you probably can’t even read your emails from a decade ago, never mind a floppy disc from 20 years ago.

Magazines and adverts in Fleet Street

April 20, 2020

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Fleet Street has run with printing ink ever since Wynkyn de Worde moved Caxton’s press from Westminster into Shoe Lane, just off the east end of the street, in the 1490s. This coloured postcard tells of much of that history.

The view looks east along Fleet Street across Ludgate Circus and through the railway viaduct that once spanned Ludgate Hill up to St Paul’s Cathedral. The church spire in front of the cathedral’s dome is St Martin’s Ludgate, a church that, like St Paul’s, was rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the 1666 Great Fire of London. Ludgate Hill station closed in 1929, but the bridge was not demolished until 1990 as part of the construction of Thameslink, the line that crosses the capital to join the south coast with the Midlands.

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Newspaper seller by Poppin’s Court

Bride Lane is to the right and a newspaper seller stands on the left at the archway leading into Poppin’s Court. Shoe Lane would be behind to the left.

At least three pubs can be seen. The King Lud is in front of the rail bridge on the left. Today, it’s split into a Santander branch and a Leon fast food joint. There’s a plaque up on the wall on the Ludgate Hill side of the Leon marking the site of publication of the first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, in 1702. The pub was named after the king who, legend has it, founded London and gave his name to Ludgate. A statue of Lud and his sons that was once part of the gate now stands in the porch of St Dunstan-in-the West church at the other end of Fleet Street.

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A detail from the photograph used for the coloured postcard. Signs for Smith’s Advertising Agency (SAA), Quiver magazine and Tit-Bits, probably in May 1914

On the right of the postcard, can just be made out the square white sign for the Punch Tavern (No 99). It can be seen better, left, in the photograph on which the postcard is based. The Punch Tavern was called the Crown and Sugar Loaf, but took the new name after Punch magazine moved to 85 Fleet Street in 1845. The pub developers Saville & Martin rebuilt the pub in 1890s and it is now grade II listed. Smith’s, one of the biggest advertising agencies, occupied the offices above the Punch Tavern, named Publicity House. The SAA lettering can be seen on the corner of a building it occupied from 1885 to at least 1936. Coming back in this direction on the right is Bride Lane, home to both the journalists’ church and the  St Bride’s Institute and Printing Library. There’s then an awning with a shop frontage below and a white sign for Ye Olde Bell Tavern (No 95).

Today, the newsagents under the awning is gone and there is a fancy windowed frontage to the Old Bell, but photographs show there used to be just a tiled entrance way into the pub (like the Punch Tavern today).

Above the Old Bell are two hoardings. The lower one with a green background is for Tit-Bits, promoting ‘£500 in simple cricket competition’.

The larger hoarding shows a poster for The Quiver, a popular monthly, headed up with the words ‘Special mothers’ and daughters’ number’. The name Annie S Swan tops the billing. Swan was a famous romantic fiction writer, and editor of Women at Home from 1893 to 1917. She was also a founder of the Scottish National Party. The Quiver serialised Swan’s Corroding Gold from early 1914 and Cassell published the book that same year. The poster appears to be advertising the May issue, suggesting the photograph was taken at that time.

Other writers on the Quiver list include Amy B Barnard LLA (author of The Girls’ Encyclopaedia), the author Mrs George de Horne Vaizey,  Mrs Elizabeth Sloan Chesser MD, and Helen Wallace. 

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The Quiver, February 1914. The cover lines are for Arnold Bennett’s ‘mental stocktaking’ and the romantic serial ‘Heart’s Desire’ by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey

The Quiver, which ran from 1861 to1926, was published and printed by Cassell at La Belle Sauvage Yard, a few hundred yards away near the foot of Ludgate Hill. Cassell was a publishing house that pioneered cheap reprints of classic books and hit it big in 1883 with Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines two years later. The Quiver was originally ‘designed for the defence and promotion of biblical truth, and the advancement of religion in the homes of the people’, what would have been called ‘Sunday reading’, but became more general in its coverage in the Edwardian era. The name Cassell is now associated only with books, but the company was also one of the biggest magazine publishers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and sold its titles to Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press in the late 1920s. Its titles included Cassell’s Magazine, the short-lived Woman’s World (edited by Oscar Wilde), Cassell’s Saturday Journal, Chums, the Penny Magazine, New Magazine and The Story-Teller.

La Belle Sauvage Yard no longer exists, but John Cassell moved his publishing and printing offices there in 1852, when it was part of one of the oldest inns in the City of London, The Bell Savage, dating back to 1380. According to The Story of the House of Cassell, the name derives from a combination of William Savage and the name of the hostelry he owned, Savage’s Inn, otherwise called the Bell on the Hoop. It later became a theatre and coaching inn.

The book places the Francification of the name to La Belle Sauvage at the door of no less a literary figure than Joseph Addison, co-founder of the original daily Spectator in 1711. In issue 82 of the Spectator, despite customers finding their ale at ‘the Sign of a Savage Man standing by a Bell’ he writes about ‘the reading of an old Romance translated out of the French, which gives an account of a very beautiful Woman who was found in a Wilderness, and it is called in the French La Belle Sauvage.’

Cassell gradually took over the yard and rebuilt it. The entrance was through an arch off Ludgate Hill. The inn was demolished in 1873 to make way for the railway viaduct. The rest of La Belle Sauvage was destroyed, like much of Fleet Street, by bombing in 1941.

Notice how prolific the advertising signs are. The Bovril sign atop the building on the far side of Ludgate Circus was there from about 1900 for 40 years. Below are promotions for Schweppes and the Isle of Man office with its Legs of Man logo.

Finally, the postcard demonstrates image manipulation, not only because it was a black-and-white photograph that has been coloured, but part of the view has been edited. Compare the bottom-right corner of the postcard with the close-up photograph of the Quiver poster; you’ll see that the lorry with the Robin starch advertising on its canvas side has been removed and painted over with pedestrians, probably because it was felt to detract from the card.

Postwar crossword days at Elle

April 19, 2020

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Today, Elle magazine is renowned as a glossy fashion monthly licensed by its French owners and published globally from New York to Moscow. But it has its origins as a general women’s weekly founded in postwar Paris.

The cover here is from 1947 (dated October 21). It’s unusual for its crossword-based design with the woman and background taken as a single photograph with the masthead title added later. The cross words act as cover lines, describing the attributes of the magazine: gay and practical, but with work spelled out twice as downward words.

Inside was the actual mots croisés for the issue, which is reproduced below. Note the non-symmetrical grid, there being two or three clues for each words, and unusual numbering for the grid. In Britain, the crossword craze dates to the mid-1920s and the symmetrical shape and numbering style were ubiquitous in the 1930s.

The vertical numbers can just be seen on the left edge of the cover design, in Roman numerals. Answers on a postcard please …

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Black and white artists in London Opinion

March 5, 2020
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London Opinion cover, dated 11 April 1908

London Opinion was a popular weekly magazine of the Edwardian period that was heavily illustrated by various black and white artists, such as Alfred ‘Your Country Needs You’ Leete and Bert ‘Are a Mo, Kaiser’ Thomas. This cover, dated 11 April 1908, is signed, but heaven knows what the signature says!

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The cover by the unknown illustrator is unusual in that it combines both line illustration and halftone. The halftone reproduction is reserved for the face.

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Halftone reproduction is only used for the face on this London Opinion cover

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At this stage, Leete does not appear to be one of the star illustrators, though he was regularly doing covers by 1914 when he did the Kitchener image that became the famous recruiting poster. He has at least three illustrations in this 1908 issue, judging by his signature with its dropped ‘T’.

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Alfred Leete’s signature can be seen on this cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

When ‘Put-U-Up’ was a trade mark

March 1, 2020

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‘Put-U-Up’ is one of those expressions that’s a household phrase to me for a folding bed, but, as this pre-war colour advert shows, it was an actual brand, made in Clapton, east London.

The full-page advert is from a 1939 copy of the tabloid-sized Illustrated, one of the biggest-selling weekly magazines at the time. It was a rival of Picture Post, and later John Bull, when the latter adopted colour after the war. Its sales at the time will have been about a million copies a week. Illustrated was printed in Watford for its Covent Garden-based publisher, Odhams Press. It closed in 1957, a time when magazines were losing advertising revenue and readers to commercial television.

> General weekly magazines

 

Online conference focuses on national identity in magazines

February 1, 2020

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The Centre for Design History at Brighton University in running a magazine conference on 23 March – 5 April. Future States: Modernity and national identity in popular magazines, 1890-1945 includes academic presenters from 15 countries with free access for registrants to keynote addresses, panels, Q&As, abstracts, notice boards and contacts lists. 

The programme has yet to be published, but the conference theme is being developed in 35 talks on print cultures across the world. Topics include the Soviet satirical magazine Krokodil, Der Rote Stern (The Red Star), the weekly illustrated supplement of the German communist party daily paper, and the populist illustrated periodicals of fascist Italy published by Rizzoli. Panels are set to explore the magazine cultures of North America and Europe, Britain and Australia, Mexico and Peru, Turkey, Iran, and the Soviet Turkic states.

The presentations are being recorded in advance, and will be published over the two weeks of the conference and participants can contribute to discussions. Afterwards, all the material will be maintained as a permanent online record.

In what looks to be an interesting experiment, Future States aims to be a ‘nearly carbon-neutral conference’.

 

 

Harry Furniss: he Lika Joko

January 10, 2020
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Lika Joko first issue cover in 1894. It was ‘conducted’ by Harry Furniss

Harry Furniss was a popular black and white artist of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods who launched his own magazine, Lika Joko in 1894 after he left Punch. The name was a pun on ‘like a joke’ and one of his noms-de-crayon. Like many periodicals of the time, the cover was dominated by advertising.

Note how Furniss portrays himself alongside the magazine’s title with his quill pen piercing the artist’s palette and the nib appearing to be covered in blood – the pen being mightier than the sword. He is dressed in a kimono with sheets of paper held in place at his back by the belt. The patterns on the kimono are formed from parts of his signature. The lettering of the title also has a Japanese feel. Furniss had produced a series of cartoons, ‘Our Japanneries’, under the name Lika Joko in 1888, pretending to be ‘the celebrated Japanese Artist … who is now on a visit to this country’. In the late Victorian period, Japan had a huge influence of art in Britain, resulting in a phenomenon known as Japonisme. Japan and Britain were great allies until World War II.

Illustration from Lika Joko editorial page: How Harry Furniss portrayed Mr Punch and Toby

How Harry Furniss portrayed Mr Punch and Toby in the Lika Joko editorial

On Punch, Furniss was renowned for his quick-fire caricatures of MPs in parliament for the Essence of Parliament pages, which were collated into books, but he turned his pen to all sorts of subjects and illustrated many books. RGG Price in his History of Punch (1957) says: ‘During the years of his Punch work, Harry Furniss dominated the pages. He was all over the place with jokes, illustrations, dramatic criticisms, headings and parliamentary sketches … It is said that he would chat to a man and caricature him on a pad held in his pocket.’

One of his cartoons in the satirical weekly was a spoof on advertising for A&F Pears (now part of Unilever), which used endorsements from celebrities such as the actress and notable beauty, Lillie Langtry, to sell its translucent amber soap. The spoof (26 April 1884) showed a tramp writing a letter saying:

I used your Soap two years ago; since then I have used no other.

Furniss and Punch fell out when the magazine sold the copyright in the drawing to Pears for use in advertising. Price describes Furniss as being ‘dictatorial and slick’ over the issue and the Punch people as ‘patient and disinterested’ in their correspondence. Despite this, the Pears advert was carried on the back cover of the first issue of Lika Joko – see at the bottom of this post – though with a slightly different caption. Pears used the Furniss cartoon advert at least for 16 years – I have a copy of it in a 1910 issue of TP’s Magazine.

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Pears took the Millais painting ‘A Child’s World’, added a bar of soap by the boy’s foot to advertising reproductions, and called it ‘Bubbles’

Pears famously turned another image, the painting ‘A Child’s World’ by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Millais, into advertising – the  image became so famous because it was reproduced as colour lithographs millions of times over several decades. Thomas Barratt, the company’s managing director, bought the painting from Illustrated London News owner Sir William Ingram, who had reproduced it in the magazine as a colour poster for a Christmas issue. Pears had the image copied with a bar of its soap added and today we know it as ‘Bubbles’.

Barratt has been described as ‘the father of modern advertising’ for his innovative strategies. The boy in the painting was the artist’s grandson, Willie James, who later became a Royal Navy admiral. Like Pears’ soap, ‘Bubbles’ is now owned by Unilever and is on loan to the Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight, on the Wirral. Copies of the colour advertising can be seen online from the V&A museum catalogue.

Pear's soap took the back page of Lika Joko with its Harry Furniss advertisement

Pears took the back page of Lika Joko with its Harry Furniss advert

Lika Joko lasted for just 26 issues, from 20 October 1894 to 13 April 1895. Price describes how Furniss was refused a gallery ticket to parliament for Lika Joko – a disaster for a political caricaturist – and that this proved fatal to the paper. Later, Furniss went to the US, where the Internet Movie Database lists him as directing, writing and appearing in three films for Edison Studios, a company controlled by the inventor Thomas Edison: The Mighty Hunters and The Artist’s Joke (1912), and Rival Reflections (1914). Furniss returned to Britain and has been credited with helping to pioneer animated cartoon films in 1914 with War Cartoons and Peace and Pencillings. The BFI credits Furniss on 15 films.

There is a short film online at Brighton University, Winchelsea and its Surroundings. A Day with Harry Furniss and his Sketchbook, which shows Furniss at the cottage of Helen Terry and painting the actress. Other scenes are filmed in Winchelsea and Hastings.

Price reckons Furniss made a lot of money but lost most of it to making films. He died in 1925, in the seaside town of Hastings, where he is buried.

The National Portrait Gallery has a self-portrait of Furniss and more than 450 of his sketches for sale online as prints.

>> Harry Furniss profile in Tit-Bits, alongside Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’ of Vanity Fair) and the theatrical caricaturist Alfred Bryan

>> More on Punch, a weekly satirical magazine that lasted 150 years


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