Archive for the ‘typography’ Category

On this day in magazines: Private Eye celebrates in 1981

February 13, 2017
Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye's 500th issue cover in February 1981

Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye’s 500th issue cover of 13 February 1981

Private Eye registered a sales figure last week at just over a quarter of a million copies an issue for the second half of 2016. Under editor Ian Hislop, it claims the high ground as the best-selling news and current affairs magazine.

The circulation per copy breaks down as 105,077 through newsagents, 142,833 subscriptions, 2,214 bulk sales and just 22 copies free. It total, that’s three million copies a year from its fortnightly mix of satire and investigative journalism. While the newspapers keep jacking up their prices – arguing readers will pay for quality reporting – but lose sales, the Eye holds its price at £1.80 and buyers and subscribers keep coming.

The cover above is from 13 February 1981, when the Eye was celebrating its 500th issue with a Willy Rushton cartoon. Out of the giant birthday cake festooned with writs jumps Lord Goodman – an early ally of Private Eye. Rupert Murdoch can be seen waiting on then editor Richard Ingrams in the top left and Gnitty, the magazine’s mascot Crusader, is also seated at a table. Around them are foes, friends and characters from the magazine.

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye's celebratory issue

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye’s celebratory 1981 issue

Although the magazine had survived many legal battles, such as the 1976 onslaught from James ‘Goldenballs’ Goldsmith who issued 60 writs against the Eye and its distributors in one month, many more were to come, including those with Robert Maxwell and his Not Private Eye. In 1990, Private Eye was threatened with closure when Sonia Sutcliffe was awarded £600,000 in libel damages. Hislop said that if this was justice he was ‘a banana’. The sum was reduced to £60,000 on appeal.

Inside the anniversary issue are many supportive advertisers, including Letraset, the makers of dry transfer lettering, a revolutionary British invention in its day, but now a French-owned brand mainly selling marker pens.

Private Eye‘s title was an early success for Letraset – the typographer Matthew Carter did the design, which saw its first outing on 18 May 1962 and is still in use today.


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


Bovril’s spiky type

May 24, 2016

 

Bovril's spikey type on ad advert from the New Penny Magazine in 1900

Bovril’s spiky type on an advert from the New Penny Magazine in 1900

Bovril’s Victorian adverts were often striking and the company established a brand that is still famous today. I particularly like an 1892 image of Hercules fighting a lion. The later, half-page advert above is very different and notable for its spiky type.

It’s difficult to avoid seeing that image – notice the way the advert is framed with white space around to ensure it stands away from other images on the page. The text is all about broadening the market for a food that was invented to fortify troops fighting in the Crimean War.

Magazine cover design: whatever happened to this Woman’s Own cover?

November 6, 2015
Woman's Own title covers the model's face on this cover from 19 May 1955

Woman’s Own title covers the model’s face on this cover from 19 May 1955

Can this have been what the designer wanted to do with this Woman’s Own cover from 19 May 1955? The cover from the ‘national women’s weekly’ certainly focuses on the ‘playtime jacket’ cardigan being modelled by Dawn Addams, a British film star. But the masthead covering the actress’s face looks crude.

Her eyes peer just between the letters, but the magazine photographers usually famed the cover model to allow space above or had the title covering just part of the head, as in the cover design below from two weeks earlier.

Straightforward treatment for the title on Woman's Own two weeks earlier

Straightforward treatment for the title on Woman’s Own two weeks earlier

Dawn Addam’s career is summed up by IMDB: ‘Maybe because her beauty was too smooth or because her acting talents were limited or both, [Addams] had an undistinguished film career, in which second-rate pictures far outnumber quality ones.’ Inside the May 19 Woman’s Own, she is shown with her baby son, Stefano. She was married to Prince Vittorio Massimo of Italy.

>>>Women’s weekly magazines

 

The death of the Summer of Love – and a Brillo happening

October 1, 2015
Where have all the flowers gone - Look of London, 25 November 1967 Hippies

Where have all the flowers gone – hippies in the Look of London magazine, 25 November 1967

Look of London was a weekly events magazine that would have competed with London Life and Time Out. I’ve only seen copies from 1967 and this November 25 issue mourns the death of the the Hippie movement, just months after the Summer of Love.

The opening spread shows Timothy Leary, described as the ‘hippie priest’ for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs, and the 1967 summer ‘Love-in’ in New York’s Central Park. The theme of the article is that the hippie scene was greatly overblown in America and, in London, just a fad:

In England, the movement was mainly sartorial. A Kings Road-Carnaby Street promotion to brighten up the London streets. And very successful it was too. But only a minute percentage of those who attended the Ally-Pally Love-in ever came within sniffing distance of LSD and would, no doubt, stare blankly if instructed to ‘Turn on, tune in and drop out’ … We never really dropped in.

The article is by Carole Adler, the magazine’s features editor. As well describing ‘plastic hippies’ just in it for a summer of fun, Adler shows a dark side of a ‘mostly middle-class’ movement:

The hippie supporters didn’t like the Nego. They claimed he came into the community to ‘get the white girls’ … They blame the Negroes for the increase in the use of speed (methedrine), an amphetamine drug with terrifying side-effects.

Adler lists a ‘rash of hippie murders’ and what appears to be the revenge killing of a San Francisco drug dealer called Superspade. Time magazine had covered the events in an article, ‘End of the dance’, in its issue of 18 August.

The headline, ‘Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to graveyards, everyone’, refers to the Pete Seegers folk song, which had been a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962. With a very flowery typeface.

The photographs were by Francine Winham, who became famous as a jazz photographer for her ‘fever’ technique, which involved shaking the camera to create a fuzzy look that became her trademark. In the Central Park image, notice what appears to be a Brillo advert held aloft on the end of a fencing sword by a man with a mask. What’s that about? It looks staged for the photograph. Was it an example of guerilla marketing? Or a happening? Could it be anything to do with celebrity artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Box’ from the same year?

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

The final page of the article is below with photographs by Minoru Aoki. The top picture shows a hippies and below is Leary with the 1950s Beat poet Alan Ginsberg (left).

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

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A rare sighting of Grub Street

June 6, 2015
London's 18th century Grub Street as part of illustration showing literary hack

London’s 18th century Grub Street in a Robert Spence illustration showing a literary hack at work

I reviewed the book Revolutions from Grub Street last year for the Financial Times and on this blog, but it’s rare to come across the term Grub Street except in academic circles. I saw it in this column title for ‘From London Town’ in the first edition of Northern Counties Magazine, an issue that dates back to 1900.

Grub Street was a real London road near the present-day Barbican. It was where aspiring writers lived and plied their trade – Samuel Johnson among them until he went up in the world and became a hack living just off Fleet Street in Gough Square.

The romantic poet Thomas Chatterton dead in his Grub Street garret with a view of St Paul's - centre of England's publishing industry - through the window The Pre-Raphaelite painting ‘The Death of Chatterton’ by Henry Wallis, used as the cover to Peter Ackroyd’s Chatterton, gives an idea of the sort of lodgings such hacks would have had. It was painted in a garret in Gray’s Inn with a view of St Paul’s – centre of England’s publishing industry not far from both Grub Street and Brooke Street, where the Romantic poet committed suicide with arsenic in 1770.

The term Grub Street would have been known to Thomas Chatterton. The Oxford English Dictionary has it in use by 1630, and gives the following explanation:

The name of a street near Moorfields in London (now Milton-street), ‘much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems’; hence used allusively for the tribe of mean and needy authors, or literary hacks.

The Northern Counties engraving by RS – Robert Spence – shows one of these ‘mean and needy authors’ scribbling away with a quill pen while two men about town peruse his books. The engraving portrays the building as built of stone, which is unlikely. The Tipperary pub in Fleet Street claims to be the oldest building around there because it was built of stone and so did not go up in flames in the 1666 Great Fire of London like the rest of the area. It also seems unlikely that Grub Street would have been cobbled. Note the unusual typeface with its extravagant swashes.

 

 

 

Ronald Searle explains printer’s jargon

December 22, 2014
Ronald Searle's cartoon glossary to printers' jargon

Ronald Searle’s cartoon glossary to printers’ jargon

Ronald Searle is known for his St Trinians cartoons, but his scratchy style – developed while he was a prisoner of war under the Japanese – brought him fame across the world. This ‘Layman’s guide to the Printer’s Anatomy’ is his take on the jargon of the pressman’s world done for the Inky Way in 1951.

The Inky Way was published by WPN, the company behind World’s Press News and Advertisers Review – the weekly trade paper that was bought up by Michael Heseltine’s Haymarket in 1968 and relaunched, with a focus on the advertising industry because journalists didn’t have any money, as Campaign.   

Searle has no room for ‘nut’ and ‘mutton’, or printer’s lice, but what is a ‘swelled rule’ when it’s out?

 

Felix Dennis and Eric Gill – two soulmates

November 23, 2014
The Game from 1922 with Eric Gill illustration

One of the many Gill items being sold by the Felix Dennis estate – a copy of ‘The Game’ magazine from 1922 with an Eric Gill biblical illustration on the cover – part of lot 146 (estimate £700-£900)

It hardly seems any time since Felix Dennis popped his clogs – in fact it was June – but already the estate of the once-jailed joint editor of underground magazine Oz, Mac User and Maxim owner, and multimillionaire publisher is being sold off.

Sotheby’s is auctioning Dennis’s collection of Eric Gill sculptures and drawings on 9 December as part of its English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations sale.

And it is an extensive collection numbering about a hundred lots, many of several items, gathered by someone who regarded himself as an unlikely collector of art. The lots include many examples of drawn and carved lettering, while a youthful Dennis himself had stormed out of Harrow School of Art saying he shouldn’t have to waste time learning to draw letters when he could simply use Letraset.

Gill led a reprehensible private life, exposed by Fiona McCarthy’s 1989 Faber biography of the sculptor, wood engraver, illustrator and typographer. So perhaps there was something of kindred-spiritship there with the rebellious Dennis. Fergus Byrne is working on an authorised biography of Dennis, to be published by Ebury. The blurb runs:

His early rebellious days started with dropping out of grammar school, playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and being imprisoned (with Richard Neville and Jim Anderson) for charges of obscenity relating to a priapic Rupert Bear in the ‘schoolkids’ issue of the magazine Oz. The launch of Kung-Fu magazine, created when Dennis spotted a queue at a Leicester Square cinema for a Bruce Lee film, changed his fortunes. An industrious and self-destructive era then followed. He moved to America, added the magazines MacUser and Maxim to his portfolio, but also discovered crack, hookers and S&M. When his lifestyle led him to hospital, he gave up the drugs overnight and took to writing poetry. He acquired a mansion in Warwickshire, bought a much loved home in Mustique from rock star David Bowie, gave generously to charities, planted the largest broadleaf forest in Britain, and published several volumes of verse promoted by very well received readings nationwide.

Byrne wrote a 2013 profile of Dennis after the latter’s treatment for throat cancer. He quotes Dennis talking about his treatment and giving up smoking:

“So I’d been smoking, God knows, thirty, forty or fifty a day for forty-nine and a half years and then just stopped, just like I gave up narcotics.” He amused the lady in the radiotherapy department with the explanation that he gave up through fear. “Terror is the best patch” he told her and she proceeded to make a sign with just that quote to hang in the radiotherapy waiting room.

There’s a Felix Dennis tribute website and Eric Gill has his own society.

Eric Gill's engraved wood carving for The Four Gospels published by Golden Cockerell Press

Eric Gill’s engraved wood carving for The Four Gospels published by Golden Cockerell Press – Sotheby’s lot 198 (estimate £3000-£5000)

 

Magazine titles and typography

November 20, 2014

Typography is an art and more and more people are creating their own typefaces and fonts. Nowadays, type and magazine titles tend to be created 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 – as Matthew Carter did for Private Eye did in 1962 –  but nothing could beat the typographer’s pen for originality. However it’s done, the title is a vital piece of magazine cover design.

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. Many magazines did have an artist’s lettering typeset as a standard title however.

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.

The three titles here from Drawing date from 1915 and 1916.  The title is often also called a masthead (though strictly this is the title and panel listing publication details inside); in the US, it’s sometimes called a nameplate. 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.

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


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


 

 

See also: Robert Maxwell’s Not Private Eye

Baskerville gets a society

October 8, 2012

To many it’s a typeface, but Baskerville was the name of an 18th-century Birminngham printer, John Baskerville, and Wednesday, 7 November 2012 seeks the launch of a society devoted to him and his eepontmous face at the Arts Building, University of Birmingham.

The mark the event, the Baskerville Society will include talks by Caroline Archer of the Typographic Hub at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design and Malcolm Dick at the Centre for West Midlands History at Birmingham University; and a performance of Hic Jacet or The Corpse in the Crescent, a play about the ‘thrice-buried printer’ which was written by Neville Brendon Watts and broadcast by the BBC in 1947.