Archive for the ‘magazine history’ Category

£1,750 for a copy of Oz magazine

May 13, 2017
This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

Prices for copies of Oz just go up and up. February was the magazine’s 50th anniversary and the buyers came out for several issues. Pick of the bunch was a copy of the first Oz that sold for £1,750, with 23 bids. A first issue of Oz went in 2012 for just over £1,000. The starting price this time was £400 and five bidders fought it out. A nice thing about it was the provenance. As the seller, sarahnegotiator, explained:

Published in 48 issues between 1967 and 1973, Oz Magazine was a revolutionary anti-establishment underground publishing phenomenon that triggered outrage, numerous police raids and the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, here is a unique opportunity to purchase an extremely rare copy of the very first issue of London Oz.
Owned by the current seller since it was bought at King’s Cross Station in 1967, the magazine is complete, and apart from some minor creasing and light wear on the cover corners, is in good condition throughout.

Another first issue of Oz sold for £1,000. The starting price was £500 and the seller gave a very limited description. One potential bidder, quite rightly, wanted to know more:

Q: Would you be so kind as to tell me a bit more about the condition? Are there any pen marks or rips? Has anything been cut out? Are there any creases or dog ears? How would you rate it: Mint, VGC, Good, Fair? I’m a collector so quality is very important.
A: I would say that the condition of the magazine is between Mint and Very Good Condition. There are no dog eared corners or creases to any of the pages, no pen marks, no tears, the staples and the fold-out calendar of Feb ’67 are still attached. There are a couple of very small stains on the front cover and overall the pages are very slightly yellowed with age. Thanks for your interest and please get in touch again if you need more information. Best regards and happy bidding,

I’m always wary of terms such as ‘mint’ – but the fact that the seller fills in the details shows that it clearly is not mint in any sense that a collector would understand (stains on the  cover?!).

Another issue, Oz No.11 from April 1968, The Sticker Issue, fetched £363. The seller here, silvantage925, also sold seven other issues of Oz. The description was very good , with photographs to back it up:

The magazine is complete, with no missing pages. There are some minor rips to pages, towards the back of the magazine, including the back page. Stickers are in good shape though. Please see photos.
Magazine does not display any major signs of discolouration or distress other than what has previously been mentioned.
Please check photographs and keep the condition in mind when bidding. I always try and be as honest and descriptive as I can, any flaws etc will always be photographed and added to description.

Four other issues have sold this year fetching prices of £200-£276 on eBay.

 

Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

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.

 

Mrs Bull and Farrow’s Bank for Women

April 10, 2017
Front cover of the first issue of Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Front cover of the first issue of Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Horatio Bottomley launched one of the most successful magazines of the 20th century, John Bull. He was less successful in launching this weekly magazine for women, Mrs Bull, in 1910. The launch cover of the magazine – by the artist Lawson Wood who is remembered today for his humorous animals, particularly the Gran’ Pop series – is shown above. It lasted until 1913, when it changed its name to Mary Bull, but that closed in March 1915.

Full-page advert for Farrow's Bank for Women in Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women in Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

As well as being a publisher, Bottomley turned out to be one of the century’s greatest swindlers, through his financial scams, which were promoted in John Bull. So it was interesting to find a full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women at 29 New Bridge Street in London, in the first issue of Mrs Bull. The advert describes the bank as:

The first and only Bank for Women in the United Kingdom which is entirely managed by women

This was the era of the suffragette and the image appears to exploit that connection, showing what could be Emmeline or Sylvia Pankhurst giving a speech at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, which was then a popular place for meetings.

The opening of the bank was noted as a ‘very significant event’ for the women’s movement in  an Australian paper, the Courier Home Circle, dated 18 May 1910:

THE FIRST LADY BANK MANAGER

A very significant event in the annals of the women’s movement was the opening lately of Farrow’s Bank for Women, the first women’s bank in England. Even more important, from a woman’s point of view, is the appointment of a woman to the responsible billet of manager, as well as of a staff composed exclusively of women.

To Bliss May Bateman, well known in literary circles as a writer of poems, novels, and articles on foreign literature in the reviews, has fallen the pioneer honour of directing Great Britain’s first bank for women.

In June 1913, the feminist journal The Awakener carried a full page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women, where ‘ladies find a courteous and obliging staff of their own sex, ready to assist them in any and every detail of Banking and Finance’.

Farrow’s Bank at 1 Cheapside in the City of London, the owner of the women’s bank, described itself as ‘the people’s bank’. However, Farrow’s collapsed just ten years later and has been cited in academic journals as an example of management hubris:

Farrow’s was in a complete state of insolvency when it opened its Women’s Bank, which was merely a desperate attempt to pull in more money. The bank was only kept open through an elaborate system of accounting fraud, which was finally exposed in 1920.

There are some later adverts for Farrow’s Bank for Women online, for example from Weldon’s Ladies Journal in April 1911.

 

Radio Times and the dark recesses of the web

March 31, 2017
The Radio Times has been around since 1923

The Radio Times celebrated its 70th anniversary in 1993

One of the Radio Times gurus contacted me after seeing my post about tracking down copies of magazines. He makes some interesting points about the post, which used the example of tracing a copy of the Radio Times that carried  an article about a 1974 play, Penda’s Fen:

A link to your blog post was given on a Facebook page that I dip into and I was immediately hooked as I noticed the graphic of the first issue masthead at the top. An interesting post, but one thing most miss with Genome is the facility to see the listing result in context within the day’s listings for that channel:

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/bbcone/london/1974-03-21#at-21.25

Scroll right up to the top of that page, and there, on the right, are the details of the issue and page numbers for the listing, making life very easy if you are then planning to look for a copy of the magazine that contains the information, either to buy or in a library:

Appears in
Issue 2627
14 March 1974
Page 43

Lynda Kelly’s website, RadioTimesBackNumbers.com, has thumbnails of all the editions she has for sale, but she does have unlisted stock, so it is always worth giving her a call to check. Even if she no longer has a copy, but once did, the thumbnail may be lurking on the web, so a quick search on Waybackmachine or just Google with the right publication date or schedule range may grab it from the dark recesses of the web.

Some nice tips there.

When Brad Pitt celebrated his wedding in Soho’s French House pub

March 14, 2017
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Watched the film Allied on the jet from Sydney to Hong Kong the other day in which the Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard characters get married and celebrate in the York Minster pub. She’s French (in the film as well as in real life) and it’s in London. I thought, can that be Soho? Sure enough it was the York Minister in Dean Street, as became clear from the interior scenes – though it’s amazing how they made it look so big!

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The French House in Soho 

The York Minister was the meeting house for the Free French in London during the Second World War but had gained the nickname ‘The French House‘ because of Gaston Berlemont, the landlord (though he was, in fact, Belgian). De Gaulle is supposed to have written his famous BBC rallying speech there. In 1984, it changed its name to the nickname.

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town magazine drank in the French House, York Minster, in Soho

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town

The Minster was always popular with writers and artists. Also, among the many pictures that cover the walls is supposed to be a photograph of John Taylor, the founder of Man About Town magazine and editor of Tailor & Cutter, the world’s most influential style magazine for much of the past century. I’ve never spotted it though.

I was in The French House a few weeks ago with a couple of friends. Highly recommended is a bottle of the house red and a plate of bread and cheese with homemade chutney. Lunch for three for £30!

It was also The French House that gave me my favourite piece of graffiti, on a theme that has been much in evidence since the US presidential election.

David Deutsch’s quantum computing

March 14, 2017

Acorn User form October 1986 with the Spider curve-plotting program

A discussion of quantum computing is not what many people expect from a blog about magazines, but then they forget that magazines have a habit of going anywhere and discussing anything.

Back in 1986, I commissioned an article for Acorn User magazine, which was later dubbed ‘Spider Power’, from David Johnson-Davies and David Deutsch. The blurb on the contents page read: ‘The Davids present their Spider curve-plotting program to plot almost any equation.’

The Spider was an incredible BASIC program that really did do what it said it would. It was my favourite program – even over the breakthrough fractal routines and Mandelbrot listings we ran. You could type in an equation – even a mix of cartesian – x and y – and radial – r and θ – and still it would print the equation. Raise x to the power of θ, y to the power of r, whatever you typed in, the Spider plotter went away and did it.

One example it plotted was a a set of circles arranged at regular intervals. Don’t ask me to remember the equation. But get hold of a copy of Acorn User from October 1986, issue 51, on eBay and you can see it all there. Type the listing into a BBC Micro emulator and you can run it too.

It was worth buying a £400 BBC Micro just to run this program. There was nothing like it on a £3000 Apple Mac. You’d have had to go to a minicomputer. The only problem was the time it would take – days, weeks even. I gave up on several plots. Even with a second processor attached (which probably tripled the processing speed).

David Deutsch quantum computing

David Deutsch – ‘father’ of quantum computing

But what about quantum computing? Well, the Davids behind the program were the MD of Acornsoft and a researcher at Oxford University.  David Deutsch, the latter David, was tricky to get hold of because he never got up till 3pm (typical student I remember thinking!). When you did get hold of him, you learnt of his theoretical world of computing using the states of atoms for computation and data storage. Given the billions of atoms in a grain of sand, the possibilities are incredible.

Deutsch had recently published his landmark paper on the topic –  ‘Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer’ – and today he’s regarded as the father of quantum computing. The only problem with such machines, I’m sure someone told me at the time, was that they might disappear because they had moved into another dimension (unlikely, but theoretically possible).

All this has been sparked by The Economist‘s quantum computing  technology quarterly (QC in TQ). The TQ is entitled ‘Here, there and everywhere’ and I read it on a a plane from from Sydney to Hong Kong. The theme of the articles is that the technology is at the stage where it is about to be commercially exploited.

But keep hold of that 1986 Acorn User magazine because it gives an insight into the thinking of one of the greatest minds of this century. When Dr Deutsch wins a Nobel is probably the time to sell it.

Mods live on in magazines

March 7, 2017

 

The article about Mods in this Sunday Times Magazine from 1964 makes it valuable to collectors

The article about Mods in this Sunday Times Magazine from 1964 makes it valuable to collectors

‘We are the Mods! We are the Mods! We are, we are, we are the Mods.’ That was a chant of the fashion-focused, scooter-riding, parka-coated Mods in the 1960s. You hear it in the film Quadrophenia – in between The Who numbers that litter the sound track. The actors are a roll-call of Londoners and Essex boys such as Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone and Phil Davis – though with the ultra stylish ‘Ace Face’ played by Tynesider Sting, just before he found even greater fame with The Police. Birmingham-born Toyah Wilcox also has a part.

The film was shot in London, and in Brighton for the climactic clash with the letter-clad bikers.

However, the film was not made until 1979. To get a contemporary feel for what real Mods looked like, fans of the cult group and the era can turn to magazines that printed colour photographs alongside their articles and covers. One of the most valuable articles about Mods is in the Sunday Times Magazine above from 22 August 1964. One copy has sold on eBay for £110. As well as the cover, over eight pages, the article ‘Changing Faces’ by Kathleen Halton with photographs by Robert Freeman document the cult. The standfirst sets out the Mods’ attitude:

They have been called the ‘anti-hoorays’.
‘You can tell us by the way we walk – flat out,’ said one Mod.
‘Rockers are hunched. We hope to stay smart for ever, not shoddy like our parents.’

Two years later, the Observer Magazine ran The Who on its cover with the long-faced Keith Moon fronting the group in a Union flag jacket.

The Who were pop's front men for the Mod scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover

The Who were pop’s front men for the Mod scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover

The Who were pop’s front men for the Mods scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover. A copy of this issue sold for £40 in December.

And such powerful trends never go away. Later Mods include Janet Street-Porter (‘a sullen mod who lived largely in her head‘), Steve Marriott (‘The term ‘Face’ was a top mod, a face about town, a respected chap!’) and Paul Weller (‘I’m still a mod, I’ll always be a mod, you can bury me a mod’).

 

Gerry Dammers, a founder member of punk band The Specials was a Mod and it is in Mod gear that he fronts the first issue cover of The Face. Paul Weller was on the cover of the second issue. Bryan Ferry is on issue 3 – was he ever a Mod?

British Library celebrates Russia’s revolution

March 6, 2017
A Russian revolution version of Alfred Leete's Kitchener poster and magazine cover from 1914

Russian revolutionary propaganda based on Alfred Leete’s Kitchener magazine cover

The British Library has chosen one of the many derivatives of Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image to front its latest exhibition, Russian revolution: hopes, tragedies, myths. The exhibition will also show Lenin’s handwritten application for a reader pass to the library.

British Library. Index slip recording the issue of a reader ticket for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Karl Marx

Record of the issue of a pass for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Marx

Anyone fancying seeing more Lenin relics can pop across to the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School in nearby Clerkenwell, where you can visit the room where Lenin worked, which has been kept as he left it. Next year marks the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, which both the Marx Library and the British Library are gearing up to celebrate.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover

The Kitchener image was first seen on the cover of  London Opinion magazine.  Don’t pay any attention to the British Library captioning it as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. It’s an error that people and institutions have spent a century making, from Picture Post in 1940 to the Royal Mint in 2014.

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

On this day in magazines: Magazines try to change their names in 1920 and 1959

February 28, 2017
Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Two magazines here demonstrate a similar approach to refocusing a magazine on a new audience – though exactly 39 years apart. One failed, one worked.

The first, New Illustrated of 28 February 1920, had already changed its name on 15 February the year before from War Illustrated. Now it was changing to The Record Weekly. Quite a challenge for a weekly magazine. And it did not work. Despite one of the most acclaimed editors of the era, John Hammerton, being in charge at Amalgamated Press, the biggest publisher of the era, the last issue was dated March 20. Clearly, it a was desperate change that was given little time to succeed.

Blighty Parade magazine was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

Blighty Parade was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

In 1959, the magazine environment was changing quickly. A men’s weekly magazine that still had a military feel – Blighty – needed to change tack and respond to the threat from television and the new men’s magazines such as Spick and Span. Blighty had been founded as a free weekly for the troops in the First World War, and the idea was resurrected for WWII.

The magazine had long run a feature called ‘Picture Parade’ and some bright spark reckoned ‘Blighty’ was outdated as a name. So Parade it would be. However, simply changed the name was regarded as too big a step. So, a plan was put in place to do it in stages over several years:

  • 1959: The name becomes Blighty Parade, at first with the Parade very small.
  • By the end of February 1959 , they were about an equal weight.
  • This continued until November, when the Parade dominated, but the Blighty was retained throughout 1960.
  • By January 1961, the Blighty was dropped and the Parade title was run right across the top of the cover and down the left side.

This change was obviously done far more slowly than on Record Weekly. The strategy worked, with Parade soldiering on into 1970. It became more aggressive in its pin-ups, with topless shots in each issue. However, the likes of Penthouse, Mayfair and Playboy were even more aggressive and Parade folded. The title was bought by a pornographic publisher and continued on the top shelf.

 


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