Archive for the ‘printing’ Category

The printing revolution in India

April 13, 2017

early printing in India explored

Anindita Ghosh explores the ‘Renaissance’ that came about through the medium of print in India

BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting the first in a series celebrating India’s independence in 1947 with a programme about the effect of the first wooden printing press being brought to Kalkota by the British in 1799.

In Printing a Nation, Anindita Ghosh from the University of Manchester argues that print was far more important than the railways in shaping the Indian nation. The setting up of the first presses by missionaries led to a search for a putative ‘Indian’ identity – the Bengal Renaissance – that was shaped through the exchange of ideas via printed texts.

This was particularly because of the sea of Indian-run presses, printing in local languages, that furthered ‘a cacophonous print revolution’. By the end of the nineteenth century, ‘more titles were produced in India than in France during the Age of Enlightenment’.

 

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This day in magazines: Woman’s Realm launch

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 


On this day in magazines: Grazia goes with Kate Moss in 2005

February 21, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

Grazia's contents page shows its signature colour, yellow

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

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

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

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


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

 

 


This month in magazines: Oz in 1967

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

The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

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

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

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The Oz Schoolkids issue

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

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

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

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

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

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

The last issue of Oz - November 1973

The last issue of Oz

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

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

 


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

 

 

 


This month in magazines: Vogue’s 1977 green jelly

February 9, 2017
Vogue's February 1977 green jelly cover was by Terry Jones

Vogue’s February 1977 green jelly cover was by Terry Jones

I always get something out of interviews with Terry Jones because he always wants to spill the beans about something. The details make life at Vogue come alive behind the oh-so-made-up corporate face of Condé Nast, with stories of cover transparencies being lost in bins, rows with all the ‘suits’ who want to push in and change things, and his attempt to get a nipple onto his last cover as art director.

I wrote a piece last year for the sold-out last issue of Gym Class about cover design rules, and Jones epitomises the final rule – break them all!:

For every rule, there’s a cover that broke it yet was a tearaway success. Black for the cover didn’t work for Talk in the US – yet it was the signature colour for Willy Fleckhaus on Twen. He produced a classic, but who’s done it since? … One day the rules here will be built into InDesign and Photoshop. For now, and probably even then, it’s up to you to test the rules, make mistakes and learn what works for your magazine.

Jones – who was made an MBE in the 2017 honours list for services to fashion and popular culture – founded the punkish, dot-matrixy i-D magazine after he left Vogue, with later help from Tony Elliott to turn it into a  mainstream title.

Jones has identified his favourite Vogue covers in interviews with Ludovic Hunter-Tilney (FT, ‘Happy birthday i-D magazine’, 19 November 2010) and for i-D/Vice. Among his three favourites is the green jelly cover from February 1977 shot by Willie Christie:

The image was originally for an inside editorial that Grace [Coddington, fashion editor, who was previously a model] and I convinced Beatrix [Miller, then editor] to run with. We got approval from Bernie Lazer, the managing director at British Vogue, who had to defend the decision when Daniel Salem, the European company director, demanded to have it stopped on press.

Vogue itself described the issue so:

The cover is entitled ‘first taste of spring’ and features ‘Rowntree’s jelly… full of gelatine, a valuable source of protein and good for strengthening nails.’ Green is the colour of the fashion moment inside, modelled by Jerry Hall, while Maria Schiaparelli Berenson’s wedding to James H Randal is featured, wth Anjelica Huston, Jack Nicholson, Liza Minelli, Halston and Andy Warhol all there to see it. ‘If there was ever such a thing as a groovy wedding, that was it,’ said Nicholson.

So un-Vogue: the full-length January 1974 cover shot by David Bailey for Terry Jones

So un-Vogue: January 1974 cover shot by David Bailey for Terry Jones

Jones was given space to experiment on covers, but he was also aware that ‘there were rules you were meant to abide by’.

Another cover he’s amazed that he and Coddington managed to ‘smuggle’ through was a full-length portrait by David Bailey of Anjelica Huston and Manolo Blahnik drinking champagne on a beach at sunset (Jan 1974).

As he says, ‘It was so un-Vogue. I don’t think Vogue have done a full-length since.’ Sometimes, it’s by breaking the rules that you set them.

 

So grainy: Vogue 1974 cover of Bianca Jagger blown up from a 35mm transparency

So grainy: Vogue 1974 cover of Bianca Jagger blown up from 35mm

The third cover he rejoices in is ‘the accidental cover’ of Bianca Jagger photographed by Eric Boman (March 1974). Boman took a 35mm shot of Jagger at the Paris Opera that Jones liked, but the model was very small in the photo.

So Jones had a 10×8 transparency made up that was cropped to the head and then blown up to the cover area. This blow-up made the image very grainy, a feature that Jones wanted but that would have been regarded as unusable by the normal production standards at Condé Nast.

‘The print production manager still complained,’ said Jones, ‘but it remains one of my favourite covers alongside the the green jelly cover from February 1977.’

 


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

 

 

 


On this day in magazines: Picture Post 1941

February 1, 2017
Picture Post from 1 February 1941 with a Bert Hardy photography of Blitz firefighters

Picture Post from 1 February 1941 with a Bert Hardy photography of Blitz firefighters

I’ve spent much of the past few years perusing collections of magazines in places such as the V&A’s National Art Library, the British Museum and St Bride’s. In the process, I’ve built up a collection of 40,000 images of magazines to add to a physical collection of several thousand issues.

So, this month I’m delving into this archive to show what publishers have been producing for their readers in the month of February over the past 150 years. It runs the gamut from Dickens’ Boz to Oz, from Good Housekeeping to Sublime, from Madonna to green jelly.

First off the storage stacks is the legendary Picture Post from 1 February 1941. The cover is iconic – two men struggling with a hose in the burning streets of London. ‘Fire-fighters!’ was an example of photojournalism at its best – and saw Bert Hardy’s photo-essay about Blitz-stressed fire-fighters win him his first credit in the magazine. Stefan Lorant, Picture Post editor, had never credited photographers. One oft-cited reason for this was that they were mainly fugitives from the Nazis, like himself, and he was afraid they would be interned by the authorities (he was right, they were; and he fled to the US). In print, the magazine wrote:

From our rule of anonymity we except these pictures. They were taken by A. [Albert] Hardy, one of our own cameramen.

Hardy became the most popular photographer of the 20th century, and you’ll recognise Hardy’s images. The house in South London where Hardy was born carries a plaque that was voted for by local people.

strand_1942feb_blitz_nelson660.jpg

The Strand in February 1942 showed how the area around St Paul’s and Fleet Street was devastated

The London Blitz hit at the heart of the publishing trade, for books, magazines and newspapers, because all the books, paper and oil-based printing inks stored along Fleet Street and The Strand – from St Paul’s to Charing Cross – made it a prime target for the Luftwaffe. It should also be remembered that the Nazis started burning books in 1933, an event that led the printing and typesetting companies a mile away in Clerkenwell to found the Karl Marx Memorial Library. Also, the area was easy to identify because the nearby Thames river could clearly be seen from the air.

The War, a weekly from Nelsons, from 31 October 1914

The War, a picture-based weekly from Nelsons, from 31 October 1914

The Strand of February 1942 ran an article ‘Beauty in the Blitz’ with three pages of photographs by Cecil Beaton. The image above looking north shows how Paternoster Row, running east-west on the north side of St Paul’s Cathedral, was destroyed in the bombing. Picture Post‘s office were just a few hundred yards away in Shoe Lane.

Note the nameplate to the left of the doorway – Nelson & Sons. Nelson is today known as an educational book publisher, but is has published magazines, particularly artworks. The War, a weekly during the First World War, being an example.

The area north of St Paul’s is today focused on the modern Paternoster Square. This includes a monument marking the 1666 Great Fire and the Blitz of December 1940. The route of Paternoster Row, which old maps show going east-west to Amen Corner, has been re-routed south round the west side of St Paul’s.


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

Gravure printing at The Telegraph – 3 days on the presses

December 30, 2016
The first of the DailyTelegraph's colour magazines in 1964

The first of the Daily Telegraph’s colour magazines in 1964

The Daily Telegraph launched its colour supplement on 25 September 1964. It was christened the Weekend Telegraph, and came out with the Friday paper. By 1968 it was printing 1.5 million copies a week. The supplement was first called The Weekend Telegraph and later The Daily Telegraph Magazine.

Of course, it was not the first of the 1960s newspaper supplements, The Sunday Times having led the way with its colour section in 1962, but September 1964 was a busy month with The Observer launching its version on Sunday, the 6th. The Observer‘s supplement launch can be seen in the context of the launch of The Sunday Telegraph, which had hit the streets on February 5, 1961, though it had no magazine and would not get one until the 1970s. The aim of these supplements was to enable the papers to offer colour advertising across the nation – and it was a strategy that damaged revenues at magazines.

The Telegraph‘s printing was handled by Eric Bemrose in Aintree, Liverpool, on gravure presses. This was a massive operation, producing magazines of up to 80 pages, 60 of which could be printed in four colours.

The Daily Telegraph produced a 1968 book written by Otto Lilien, its printing consultant, which described the process in depth. A diagram at the heart of the volume shows a press configuration of 13 units, with each unit printing one colour on one side of a massive ‘web’ of paper. There were two of these giant ‘toilet rolls’ feeding paper into the presses.

Each gravure printing cylinder was 70 inches wide, with a circumference of 42in, meaning it could carry the engraving of five pages across and four pages round – 20 pages in all.

The press configuration used five units on one web. This  printed black only on one side of the paper and four colours on the other (4/1 or ‘four back one’ printing). The second web used eight cylinders to produce four colours on both sides of the web (4/4).

Once up to speed, the presses produced 18,000 copies an hour. So it would take about 83 hours – more than three days of the presses running round the clock – to print the whole run.

The issues were ‘self-cover’, so the covers were printed on the same paper as part of the same run. Once the two webs, each printing 40 pages, had gone through the presses, they came together and were folded, trimmed and ‘saddle-stitched’ (stapled) to make an 80-page issue. The binding machines operated at 20,000 copies an hour.