Archive for the ‘Tit-Bits’ Category

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

 

 

 


The strange ways of Fleet Street: Jack the Ripper expert paid in unused £1 notes

October 12, 2016
Weekend magazine cover in 1959 (jan21). At this time it was published in a tabloid format

Weekend magazine cover in 1959, when Richard Whittington-Egan began working there. At this time it was published in a tabloid format

A recent obituary in the Telegraph for Richard Whittington-Egan, mentioned an interesting tit-bit about Fleet Street practices. Whittington-Egan was known as a ‘towering authority’ on Jack the Ripper, but earned his living as a journalist on Weekend, a popular general interest magazine.

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

He worked at Weekend‘s offices at Northcliffe House off Fleet Street  between 1957 and 1986 – in ‘a job he detested’, but it must have paid the bills and gave him the time to indulge his passions. And a condition of his contract was that ‘he was paid weekly, every Friday, in unused £1 notes’!

In that time, Weekend moved from a tabloid newspaper format with a colour cover to an A4 magazine, a strategy also used by rivals John Bull (which became Today in 1960) and Tit-Bits. Weekend took over Today in 1964 and Tit-Bits in 1984, but closed down itself five year later.

The obit makes him out to have been quite a character whose work ‘was as remarkable for its singularly convoluted style as it was for his probing, almost obsessive, research’:

A kinsman of Dick Whittington, the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Whittington-Egan, with his signature pipe, stiffly starched collar and lined cape, cut an old-world figure of studied manner and speech. To some, however, his rich prose was no less fussy and idiosyncratic: a contemporary marked him out as ‘one of the last surviving and most expert exponents of the broderie anglaise style of writing’…

But despite the stylistic curlicues, Whittington-Egan was a shrewd analyst of the criminal mind. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jack the Ripper killings in the East End of London in the autumn of 1888, and was a dissenting voice when, in 1965, the American author Tom Cullen identified the Ripper as an obscure barrister, Montague John Druitt. ‘It won’t do,’ complained Whittington-Egan, ‘it simply won’t do.’

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov19) with Felicity Kendall on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov 19) with TV actress Felicity Kendal on the cover

His 1975 study, A Casebook on Jack The Ripper, tackled the theories about the Ripper’s identity and dismissed them all: ‘The verdict must remain undisturbed: some person or persons unknown.’

Associated Newspapers – part of the Daily Mail group – owned the magazine. Its offices, Northcliffe House, were in Tudor Street, off Fleet Street and are today occupied by a law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The building name – after the Answers magazine and Daily Mail founder Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe – is also used for the Daily Mail‘s office, in Kensington, today. The name Weekend is now found on the Daily Mail‘s Saturday magazine supplement.

Of course, it’s no wonder Whittington-Egan developed an interest in the macabre, for he worked yards way from Johnson’s Court, the alley that is supposed to be the site of the barber shop of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Liverpool-born Whittington-Egan broadcast frequently on BBC Radio Merseyside and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, investigating ghosts and poltergeists. He was 91 when he died. Read the Telegraph obituary.

Woman magazine, a ghost and an omelette

September 17, 2014
Woman magazine cover 1904

Woman magazine from 1904 with a cover design by Septimus Bennett, younger brother of Arnold Bennett, the Potteries novelist and the magazine’s former editor

This magazine cover from 1904 is from an earlier title to use the name Woman than today’s IPC / Time weekly (which only dates back to the Odhams launch of 1937).

The cover design for this ‘high class penny paper for ladies’ was by Septimus Bennett. A book, Artist in Arms, was published in 2001 and is based on the diaries of a Septimus Bennett when he was working at a Vickers shell factory in Sheffield during the First World War. At first glance, it would seem to be an unlikely link between this Septimus and the cover designer, but it looks like they were the same man – and he was the youngest brother of the Arnold Bennett – voted greatest West Midlands writer in 2005.

While Arnold is best known for his ‘Five Towns’ novels, based on the six Potteries towns, he started out as a writer in magazines. He won a literary competition in Tit-Bits – the best-selling magazine of the day – in 1889 and five years later became assistant editor of the Woman. This probably explains how brother Septimus got the job drawing the magazine’s cover. Arnold began writing fiction serials, which resulted in A Man from the North in 1898 and he became Woman’s editor in that year. He stepped down in 1900 to write full-time, including The Grand Babylon Hotel (1902), serious criticism and theatre journalism. He wrote a column in London’s Evening Standard in the late 1920s.

Nigel Slater has a recipe for Omelette ‘Arnold Bennett’, a standard dish at the Savoy in The Strand. His advice: ‘Stick with the classic interpretation unless you want the wrath of Arnold Bennett’s ghost upon you.’ Delia Smith also has a version and reckons that Bennett wrote the whole of his novel Imperial Palace (1930) while staying at the Savoy.

Septimus was an artist and designer and ran a studio in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, where he produced designs for ceramics. His cover incorporates advertising for P&P Campbell, the Perth Dye Works, which was a prominent advertiser in magazines and on hoardings. The typeset copy includes quotes from two other magazines: ‘Oldest and best dyers, Myra’s Journal’; and ‘Excellent dyers, The Lady’; the latter is still published from office in London’s Covent Garden.

Woman was printed by Unwin Brothers at 27 Pilgrim St in London for the publishers Beeton & Co. The company had been founded by Samuel Beeton and produced several famous and groundbreaking titles, including the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, Boy’s Own, Myra’s Journal and Queen. The first of these spun off the famous Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook, which was compiled from her work on the magazine. Note the cover credit: edited by Mrs C.S. Peel (the original Avenger?). Dame Deborah Primrose replied to readers’s queries. About a dozen contributors are named, all but one a woman. Several fashion illustrations are credited to Rene Robinson.

The editorial offices were at 10-11 Fetter Lane, a thoroughfare that is an essential stop on any Fleet Street tour, having been the base for many publishing enterprises, such as Railway Magazine (no 30 in 1901), the Daily Mail (no 110 in 1920-61), DC Thomson’s Red Letter for the Family Circle (no 12 in 1950) and Jocelyn Steven’s Swinging Sixties version of Queen (no 52). It is also the site of a statue of John Wilkes, a radical journalist and rebellious politician in the late 1700s.

Woman describes itself as ‘A journal of information, entertainment and practical counsel for womankind the wide world over’ on its frontispiece page and closed in 1907, a run of 19 years.

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

Reverse publishing – way to go

March 30, 2007

I added a glossary entry to Magforum a year ago – ‘reverse publishing’ that I picked up at the FT. There, online news editor David Crouch used the term to mean taking readers’ comments from the paper’s website and publishing them in the paper. The back page of the FT on a Monday now relies on such postings, and summaries of the web-based Q&As are regular features in its pages.

The term popped up again the other day, this time in the context of magazines (I had thought in an IPC press release about Digital Camera – but I can’t for the life of me see where now!).

Yet magazines have always done this – what, after all, are letters page, or readers’ queries?

Now, magazines and newspapers, with the help of the web, are going back to an 1881 business model that spawned so many of them – Tit-bits launched by George Newnes. He established a model of rewriting material from many sources (copyright is undoubtedly something he had little time for at this stage in his career), using cheap newsprint and selling in volume. In other words, the content was very cheap. Alfred Harmsworth’s Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun did the same and later spawned the Daily Mail (the column of the name still exists in the Mail and similar features adorn other papers, such as the Guardian); he became press baron Lord Northcliffe. Felix Dennis is on a similar tack with The Week.

Not only does reverse publishing take magazines back to their roots in terms of finding cheap copy, it does the same for the web. In his book Weaving the Web Tim Berners-Lee, its inventor, describes how a book of compiled Answers was one of his inspirations for the WWW.