Archive for the ‘magazine history’ Category

What to do with old magazines

July 30, 2019
Tommy Handley, a famous face in 1955, on the cover of weekly magazine Tit-Bits

Tommy Handley was a famous face in 1955

 

People often ask me about selling old magazines and I’ve done several posts about selling on Ebay and the rare titles that are worth taking to auction.

But what about those that don’t sell or even the charity shops don’t want?

Chatting on eBay with a woman from Oxfam reminded me that care homes are another option.  I had a correspondence a few years ago with a dementia nurse who was trying to trace a particular magazine that one of the women in her care had appeared in. It was a needle in a haystack and we never found the specific issue. However, in the process I sent her some 1950s women’s weekly magazines. She said the result was amazing when she passed them around!

The people there, particularly the women, kept each other entertained for weeks afterwards with their reminiscing sparked off by the magazines. Pop and film stars, celebrities and household names they were then, but they are hardly known today. The likes of George Formby, Tommy Handley and Frankie Vaughan have all long since died, but these women were teenagers at the time and the oldest memories live on the longest.

 

 

George Newnes and his Millionaires

July 25, 2019

1892_million_1892_3mar26_1000

The valiant attempt by George Newnes to bring colour to the masses, ‘the million’ as they were described in the early 1890s, was the subject of a paper I gave in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.

The Million, an ambitious penny weekly, is rarely discussed*, but was a rare failure for the man who pretty much invented the modern magazine industry – and became one of the richest men in the country in the process. Magazine publishers such as Cassell and Hodder & Stoughton would soon become, in today’s parlance, legacy brands, and were left to concentrate on book publishing.

But Britain was slow to adopt colour printing. Although the Illustrated London News had started at trend for colour supplements at Christmas in 1855, colour was still reserved for special occasions and papers for children. There were colour weeklies in France and the US, however.

Newnes had launched Tit-Bits, the best-selling weekly, in 1881, and The Strand, the best-selling monthly thanks to Sherlock Holmes, ten years later. The Million started as a tabloid-size magazine in 1892 and lasted for about three years, though it halved its page size during that time and had two redesigns (usually a sign of problems). Its readers were called, of course, ‘Millionaires’ – Newnes was nothing if not aspirational for his audience.

coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

Coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

The size, quality and number of colour engravings falls sharply in the final year, though there are some surprises; a coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in September 1894 is particularly striking.

The Million was printed on letterpress machines – so did not have to use expensive paper – by the London Colour Printing Company at their works in Exmoor St, Notting Hill. The same printer later produced Puck, a colour cartoon paper launched by Harmsworth in 1904 and seemingly modelled on a US paper with the same format and title. Harmsworth’s Amalgamated had also tried colour for a one-off edition of a comic paper called The Funny Wonder in 1898 (May 28).

In fact, Guy Lawley, a fellow researcher at the conference, told me that the colour presses used by Newnes were bought from Hippolyte Auguste Marinoni, who already used letterpress for a supplement to his French daily tabloid Le Petit Journal. This was the best-selling paper in France – probably the world – claiming a million print run in the early 1890s.

Le Petit Journal appears to have started publishing an eight-page colour illustrated supplement on Fridays in November 1890, judging by adverts on the front page of online digitised copies of the daily edition at the French national library. The price was 5 centimes, the same as the daily edition. Soon after, the supplement itself was claiming print runs of just over a million.

Guy adds that the success of Le Petit Journal and The Million inspired US newspaper publishers to turn to colour. The Chicago Inter Ocean added a free Sunday colour supplement in 1892, three months after The Million; The New York World added colour pages from 1893 and later a colour section. The Inter Ocean referred to the success of both Le Petit Journal‘s Supplément Illustré and the Million in its editorial announcing the coming of colour.

The New York supplements evolved into colour Sunday comics section, a development that was then copied across the country, giving birth to a new form of mass entertainment in the US.

As for the US Puck, that was printed using a different printing technology, lithography, until it was taken over by William Randolph Hearst in 1917, and closed down. However, in 1918, he resurrected the name Puck on his own Sunday comics supplement for the New York Journal, so it was also printed on newspaper-type colour letterpress presses.

Guy is working on a PhD thesis about colour printing and US newspaper comics.

Print Networks and the Centre for Printing History & Culture organised the conference, Dregs, dross and debris: the art of transient print. Discussions are under way about collating the talks as proceedings, or publishing them in Publishing History or Printing History and Culture.

*Kate Jackson’s Newnes and the new journalism in Britain, 1880-1910 has the most to say about it; Dave Reed doesn’t mention it. My British Magazine Design shows one of the smaller format covers. The issues are available in the British Library as bound volumes

General weekly magazines

The Strand magazine

 


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


Last chance to see – the trailblazing iconoclast magazines

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

Recognise many of these magazines? One wals at Somerset House

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

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

The editor of British Values gives talk on Wednesday

The editor of British Values gives a talk on Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mayfair magazine, Lord Desborough and The Thames

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

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

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

The masthead of Mayfair magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


To learn about almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

The innovative past of magazines

August 6, 2018

There much talk of innovation in the publishing industry at the moment, but an often-overlooked place for ideas is the past 150 years of magazine publishing. And here’s one from the Boy’s Own Paper (BOP).

Until the Second World War, a strategy for some magazines was to publish a magazine as a weekly, and then collate those four issues as a monthly, and also as a complete annual.

So, this BOP from Jan 1908 is actually the December issues with their covers removed, some fresh advertising pages and all in a new wrapper. The price was half as much again as for the four weekly issues at 6d. However, the part carried ‘added value’ in the form of a fold-out colour plate.

The plate was of a painting, ‘?Companions in Tribulation’ by Miss N. Joshua, which showed two men in the stocks. It was printed separately by Tom Browne & Co in Nottingham, a colour lithographic printer founded by Tom Browne, then one of most famous cartoonists.

Magazine mastheads and typography

August 6, 2018

Drawing title, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, June 1915
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

Nowadays, type and magazine title pieces – mastheads – are created by designers on computer screens but right into the 1990s, drawing unique lettering and fonts by hand was the standard way of doing things. It might have been cheaper to rely on Letraset rub-down lettering or manipulating photoset typefaces, but nothing could beat the typographer’s pen and creativity for originality.

Until the 1960s and the dominance of photography for magazine covers, illustrators would often draw the lettering for each issue as part of the overall design. The three titles here scanned from different issues of Drawing date from 1915 and 1916, at the height of the first world war.  At first glance, they may look the same, but take a closer look and you’ll soon start to see the differences. The top one is damaged.

Take a look at theses online videos by typographer Davey Farey – whose work includes designing the Times, the Maxim masthead and Blackadder credits – to get a feel for the way it’s done.

Drawing title, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

 

Magazines at the Art Book Fair

July 29, 2018

Indie magazines venue: Whitechapel Gallery and Passmore Edwards Library building next door

This year’s London Art Book Fair is running a section for indie magazines. Tables cost £75 and there will be a chance for exhibitors to make 30-minute presentations. The deadline for stand applications at the event, on  6-9 September, at The Whitechapel Gallery is this Friday, 3 August.

The gallery has a strong, but not immediately obvious, link with magazine history.

The picture shows the Art Nouveau Whitechapel Gallery (1902) with the Jacobethan-style Passmore Edwards Library (1892) and Aldgate East Tube station entrance next door (added in 1937). While Andrew Carnegie’s libraries and philanthropy are well known, John Passmore Edwards is relatively obscure, but he also paid for dozens of libraries and other buildings, including the Whitechapel Gallery itself. The library closed eight years ago and the building was taken over by the gallery.

Masthead titles: John Passmore Edwards made a fortune from Building News

John Passmore Edwards made a fortune from Building News

Unlike Carnegie, Passmore Edwards was not the richest made in the world, but he made a fortune from the weekly trade magazine Building News. He used this to buy The Echo, a London newspaper, in 1876, and become MP for Salisbury. Passmore Edwards formed a partnership with Carnegie to publish The Echo, though they fell out and the paper closed in the early 1900s. Building News carried on until 1926, when it was taken over by The Architect.

The editor of Building News, Maurice Adams, was himself an architect and worked on several projects for Passmore Edwards. He published some of his own designs in the magazine, also wrote books, such as Modern Cottage Architecture (1912).

The Building News title has since been revived by McDermott Publishing in Birmingham.

News magazines profiled


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

The Economist magazine milks its past covers

May 9, 2018
The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Thatcher

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

News magazines profiled


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

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

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

The TLS on comics and graphic novels

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

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

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

Desmond Morris on the surrealists he knew

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

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


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

Artists, their signatures and monograms

April 12, 2018
Alfred Leete's monogram

Alfred Leete’s monogram

Alfred Leete, creator of the Your Country Needs You poster of Kitchener, had a distinctive signature for his work, as did one of his artistic contemporaries, Lawson Wood, the creator of the Gran’pop chimpanzee character. Both were famous illustrators and in both cases, the signature evolved over time.

Richard 'Dicky' Doyle's monogram on Punch

Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle’s monogram from Punch

Other illustrators and cartoonists used a monogram, a graphic device made up of their initials. A great example of this was the Punch illustrator Richard Doyle. He used a reversed R to share the upright of the D, with a bird on top to symbolise his nickname, Dicky Doyle. Monograms seem to have become less popular in the 20th century, but Simon House has a spread of Victorian examples in his book, The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators.

Leete’s and Wood’s signatures are easy to make out, whereas Doyle’s is a rebus. However, some cartoonists’ signatures seem perverse in their illegibility – Gilbert Wilkinson being a prime example with his covers for Passing Show and Illustrated weekly magazines.

To help get my head round them all, I’ve started a page of signatures and monograms on Magforum with 100 examples. Another illegible example is East on a Health & Efficiency cover – pointers as to what it says or in identifying some others would be appreciated!

east monogram from 1928 Health and Efficiency

Illegible signature for part of ‘East’


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