Archive for the ‘women’s magazines’ Category

Mother’s Friend and the engraver John Swain

November 1, 2016
Mother's Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

Mother’s Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

The Mother’s Friend ran for almost 50 years from 1848 and was one of several magazines launched for mothers in the mid-Victorian era. Note the prominent cover credit for the editor, Mrs GS Reaney, who was also a prolific book author for Hodder and Stoughton, with titles such as For my Children’s Sake: A Christmas story for mothers.

The particular issue, dated November 1888, has a cover engraving signed by John Swain, one of the most skilled craftsmen of his day.

John Swain's signature in 1888

John Swain’s signature in 1888

Swain (1829-98) was a wood engraver who worked for a considerable time on Punch, where he was a favourite engraver of John Leech. The artists’s caricatures where interpreted by the engravers, who carved a representation of the image into wood. On a weekly such as Punch, large images were made up of several blocks, which were clamped together for printing.

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

An engraver could specialise in certain subjects, such as sea, sky or people. Swain was popular with Leech for his ability to carve dainty feet and hands, a skill that can be seen in this cover.

As well as Mother’s Friend and Punch, Swain made engravings for Once a Week and the Illustrated London News, along with many books. As a young man, he formed a partnership with  John Rimbault, one of a family of celebrated engravers, and worked on The Engineer. He formed a company in 1857, which later became John Swain and Son at 58 Farringdon Street and later at Columbia House, 80-89 Shoe Lane.

 


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

 

 


 

Vogue – vague about photography

October 28, 2016
Inside Vogue book by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine's centenary year

Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine’s centenary year

Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year came out this week with editor Alexandra Shulman writing about the magazine’s celebration of 100 years since the first issue of British Vogue – known in the trade as ‘Brogue’. Incredibly, she’s been at the helm for 24 of those years.

She was asked on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about that first issue and came across as a tad vague. She remarked that it was then a society magazine rather than a fashion magazine and that ‘there were no photographs, of course’. Why ‘of course’?

Photography was well established and the Graphic had been reproducing half-tones for 30 years. Its four-page supplement in 1884, ‘An amateur photographer at the zoo’ is one of the first examples of photographic reportage.

Could it be that ‘of course, Vogue is always slow to follow the trends’? Or perhaps ‘of course, Vogue simply didn’t like photographs’. It did not run its first photographic cover until 1932.


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 week in magazines

October 27, 2016
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Bharbat Gula with the National Geographic  cover in 2002

Bharbat Gula, the Afghan refugee whose face made one of the world’s iconic magazine covers, has been arrested for living illegally in Pakistan with fraudulent documents.

She was 12 years old when Steve McCurry took her photograph at a refugee camp close to the Afghan border in 1984. The National Geographic cover was dated June the following year.

The cover may have sold magazines and made McCurry’s name, but it did nothing for her. She had never even seen it until he tracked her down almost 20 years later (left).

Now, she’s caught up in the drive by the Pakistani authorities to force the millions of Afghan refugees in the country to return home.

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NME is one of the biggest magazine brands

AT&T announced a takeover offer in the US with Time Warner. The ‘Time’ in Time Warner is, of course, the US news magazine founded in 1923.

TW one of the world’s biggest media companies and is itself the result of two mergers – Time magazines and Warner films, and then internet provider AOL and Time Warner. The latter was supposed to be about provided old media content to a fast-growing dotcom star, but it bombed, hence the dropping of the AOL.

Today, the jewel in the crown is HBO, maker of Game of Thrones and getting together with AT&T is again about providing content to a massive broadband and mobile distributor.

In all the press coverage, though, one part of TW has barely rated a mention – Time Inc UK, once called IPC, and once a force to be reckoned with as Britain’s biggest magazine publisher. However, they’ve sold off the Blue Fin building in Southwark to rent it back to themselves, boosting the balance sheet in the short term, but costing the company in the long term. UK magazines are an insignificant bauble in a company the merger values at $65bn.

The Liverpool Echo launched a free monthly magazine, Business Post on Thursday.

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Home Chat and Winnie-the-Pooh in 1928

AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh is celebrating the publication of his first collection of stories 90 years ago.

The honey-loving bear was used for a big marketing campaign by Home Chat in 1928 and one of the six EH Shepard colour plates commissioned for that campaign was sold recently for £68,500.

Milne was a prolific contributor of articles and stories to magazines, dating as far back as 1903 with ‘The Rape of the Sherlock’, one of the first parodies of Conan Doyle’s famous detective, for Thomas Bowles’s Vanity Fair. Milne was just 21 at the time.

Sally Brampton, founding editor of Elle in the UK aged just 30, was declared by an inquest to have died from suicide. That launch was half her lifetime ago, and she had since suffered from depression, an issue she wrote about in a book, Shoot the Damn Dog. In recent years, she had written an advice column for the Daily Mail.

 

Burlington editor quits after clash over ‘brio’ with ‘entrenched’ staff

October 9, 2016
Cover of the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine

Cover of the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine

Frances Spalding, editor of The Burlington, has stepped down after staff rebelled against her planned changes at Britain’s oldest art magazine.

Spaulding quit along with her deputy after less than a year in the chair because she lost a battle of wills over over whether the 113-year-old publication was stuck in its ways. She wanted to bring in more ‘intellectual brio’ to the title, which combines high production values with detailed photographs of sumptuous works and an academic attitude.

The Times quoted former editor Richard Shone as saying Spalding had ‘made a complete mess of it’ leading to a vote of no confidence by senior editorial staff, who could be ‘very entrenched’ in the way they worked.

Spalding retorted that ‘There had been no change among the senior editorial team for almost 20 years. There had been no new voice, no fresh ideas. The existing team were entrenched in their way of doing things, and some of the editorial practices were slightly eccentric.’

Spalding wished to eradicate ‘dry Burlington prose’ and that she ‘wasn’t someone who was going to encourage high theory of an abstruse kind with jargon-ridden language’.

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

The Burlington‘s owners should have been alert to the risks after well-publicised similar problems at an even older title, The Lady. In 2009, the owners discovered that average reader of the weekly was 78, so journalist Rachel Johnson was brought in to update that venerable title – and the clashes were portrayed in a television series, The Lady and the Revamp. She lasted less than two years.

The Lady was founded in 1885 by Thomas Gibson Bowles, who also set up Vanity Fair, and is still controlled by the family, from offices in Covent garden, London, that probably date back to that time. Today, the Lady describes itself as ‘for elegant women with elegant minds’, though its website is one of the tackiest around.

Candidates for the Burlington editorship were interviewed last week.

Winnie-the-Pooh has a Home Chat

June 27, 2016
'Christopher Robin's Braces' by EH Shepard sold at Sotheby's for £68,500

‘Christopher Robin’s Braces’ by EH Shepard sold at Sotheby’s for £68,500

Winnie-the-Pooh has been a favourite of children (and adults) all over the world since AA Milne’s books were published in the 1920s, with their black-and-white line drawings by EH Shepard. The bumbling, philosophical, bear first saw the light of print in a poem in When We Were Very Young (1924) and this was followed by a collection of stories, Winnie-the-Pooh, two years later and then the House at Pooh Corner in 1928. All were illustrated by Shepard.

Forty-odd years later, Shepard was approached by Methuen, the publishers, to provide colour for his original black and white drawings. But the coloured drawing above – which sold for £68,500 at Sotheby’s three years ago  – dates back to the first publication of House at Pooh Corner, and is one of six prints that were commissioned for a weekly women’s magazine, Home Chat, in 1928.

Colour prints of the drawings were given away with copies of Home Chat from the issue dated 6 October 1928. They were described as ‘Six incidents in the lives of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh specially drawn in colour by Ernest H. Shepard’.

Sotheby’s described the drawing, with an intriguing colourful comment, so:

The scene represented in this present drawing is one recalled by Piglet at the conclusion of chapter four of the House at Pooh Corner (‘In which it is shown that Tiggers don’t climb trees’). Tigger and Roo are stuck in a pine tree and Christopher Robin proposes to remove his tunic so that Roo and Tigger can jump into it. Piglet fails to listen to the entire plan for he was “so agog at the thought of seeing Christopher Robin’s blue braces again. He had only seen them once before, when he was much younger, and, being a little over-excited by them, had had to go to bed half an hour earlier than usual; and he had always wondered since if they were really as blue and as bracing as he had thought them…” Shepard has used a light green for Christopher Robin’s braces which is, presumably, a joke.

The ink and watercolour drawing is signed with Shepard’s initials and measures 130 by 186mm.

Winnie the Pooh appeared exclusively in colour in six 1928 issues of Home Chat

Winnie-the-Pooh appeared exclusively in colour in six 1928 issues of Home Chat

Along with ‘Christopher Robin’s Braces’ (an incident from chapter 4 in the the House at Pooh Corner), other prints in the Home Chat series included: ‘Christopher Robin has a Little Something at Eleven’ (one of Pooh’s favourite things to do is to have ‘a little smackerel of something’ at around eleven, and, funnily enough, his clock is always stopped at five to eleven); This exclusive series of prints must have been a real boon for sales, and is the sort of clever marketing on the part of Amalgamated Press that women’s magazines seem to have lost the knack of.

Also in the Sotheby’s sale was a preliminary pencil drawing, unsigned, of the Pooh Sticks game, ‘For a Long Time They Looked at the River Beneath Them…’. This fetched £58,750. And ‘A Happy Christmas To You All’ went for £32,500.

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

Four things to blame magazines for

May 18, 2016

Four things to blame magazines for.

The ‘greatest liar on Earth’

The Adventures of Louis de Rougement in Wide World Magazine August 1898

The Adventures of Louis de Rougement started in Wide World Magazine, August 1898

Louis de Rougemont conned the Victorian world with his fantastic accounts of being shipwrecked and spending decades fighting off sea monsters and living with cannibals in Australia.

What brought his stories to the public attention was the Wide World Magazine, which used ‘astounding pictures’ and ‘thrilling adventures’ to appeal to readers under the line ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’.

The magazine was published in both the UK and the US and serialised de Rougemont’s life story from its August 1898 issue. The opening page for the first instalment sets the scene: ‘The Adventures of Louis de Rougement … the most amazing experiences a man ever lived to tell.’ Even 55 years later in the US, the articles were the topic of comment in Time magazine’s letters page.

His tall tales were eventually debunked. In truth, de Rougemont’s real name was Henri Louis Grin and he was born in Switzerland. He had several jobs before ending up in Australia.  After the scandal, Grin became a music-hall attraction, billed in South Africa as ‘The greatest liar on earth’. As ‘Louis Redman’, he died in London in 1921.

His life inspired books such as The Greatest Liar on Earth (1945) and The Most Amazing Story a Man Ever Lived to Tell  (1977). In 2009, Donald Margulies, a US playwright, brought de Rougemont’s story to life for a modern-day generation with Shipwrecked!, reviewed as ‘a breathless story’ and ‘theatrical pop-up book’.

Banner advertising

Hot Wired website from 12 December 1997

Hot Wired website from 12 December 1997

The online magazine HotWired is credited as being the first website to sell banner advertising in large quantities. It also coined the term ‘banner ad’ and established the idea of providing reports on clickthrough rates to its advertisers. The US phone company AT&T bought HotWired‘s first first banner, which went online on 27 October 1994. The web itself was just five years old, having been invented by the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee while working as a software engineer at CERN, the particle physics laboratory near Geneva.

The swindling Horatio Bottomley

 John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley

This 1917 John Bull exemplifies Bottomley’s self-promotion

Horatio Bottomley was the founding chairman of the Financial Times, twice an MP and one of the greatest orators of the Edwardian era. His Great Patriotic Rally a few months into the start of the First World War saw London’s Albert Hall crammed with 12,000 people. Yet, he had been forced to resign from his first seat as a Liberal MP after filing for bankruptcy in 1912.

The foundation of his mass popularity was the weekly magazine John Bull. By 1915 it was selling a million copies a week with Bottomley’s editorials thundering from the cover of every issue. It was the pulpit from which he supported his money-making schemes and fended off his enemies.

However, Bottomley was pursued by one of the men he had robbed over many years and finally sentenced to seven years hard labour for fraud in 1922. He blew most of the money he had swindled on champagne and horse-racing. Bottomley’s house near Eastbourne, The Dicker, is now Bede’s school.

Celebrity culture

The first issue of Hello from 21 May 1988 with Princess Anne on the cover

The first issue of Hello! from 21 May 1988 with Princess Anne on the cover

Hello arrived in Britain from Spain in 1988. Subjects were given approval of the article and pictures head of publication, encouraging a fawning attitude towards anyone who could sell a few copies that week.

The parent title, Hola!, focused on royalty but rival OK! went after actors and pop celebrities. Owner Richard Desmond famously signed up the Beckhams and the two titles fought a massive battle over access to photographs of the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.

Soon all the publishers were jumping up and down on the bandwagon, such as Here!, with Heat moving away from its focus on entertainment to carry cover pictures of stars at their ugliest. Soon Closer (to the stars) and Now joined the fray every week. There was even a magazine just called Celebrity. The launches took their toll on the mainstream women’s weekly magazines.

In the US, Talk hit the streets, but it was a rare failure for the self-exiled British editor Tina Brown, despite having Hillary (opening up), Gwyneth (going bad) and George W. (getting real) on the cover (surely you know who I mean?).

Geraldine Harmsworth – a park, a printing press and a mother

May 9, 2016
Alfred Harmsworth's Forget-Me-Not was founded in 1891

Alfred Harmsworth’s Forget-Me-Not was founded in 1891

Carters Steam Fair, the largest vintage travelling funfair in the world, comes to Southwark this weekend at the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, which surrounds the Imperial War Museum. The park’s name immediately strikes a chord because it was dedicated to his mother in 1930 by the newspaper and magazine magnate Lord Rothermere (Harold Harmsworth).

Harold was the business brain behind his brother Alfred, who became the greatest of the newspaper barons – the ‘Napoleon of Fleet Street’ – Lord Northcliffe.

A memorial plaque in the park states that the gift was in memory of Rothermere’s mother, and for the benefit of the ‘splendid struggling mothers of Southwark and their children’. The Harmsworth brothers used their mother’s name much earlier, however, as the issue above of Forget-Me-Not testifies.

This ‘Pictorial Journal for the Home’ was one of the many periodicals founded by Alfred Harmsworth. With Answers (1888) and Comic Cuts (1890), Forget-Me-Not (1891) was the backbone of what was on its way to becoming the largest publishing empire in the world, the Amalgamated Press.

Forget-Me-Not was based in London’s Tudor Street, which runs south to the Thames from Fleet Street, with the advertising sold by Greenberg & Co just up the road at 80 Chancery Lane. The imprint reveals a third address, for Forget-Me-Not was printed by The Geraldine Press at 21 Whitefriars St, which runs parallel to Fleet St but nearer the Thames.

Like all the penny magazines, it was a cheap affair though, on newsprint with a greenish cover not unlike Tit-Bits, the model for Answers, for which Alfred had worked. The masthead page inside described Forget-Me-Not as ‘the most useful home paper’ and it carried fashion hints and articles on fancy work and households management as well as fiction. The best illustrations were saved for the paper patterns that readers had to send for at a shilling or two each. None of the articles or illustrations carried a byline.

Most of the pages carried marketing messages printed at the bottom such as: Forget-Me-Not is a great help to young couples in all household matters’; ‘Home, Sweet Home [another Amalgamated title] is published on Fridays – 1d’; ‘Answers is the paper for a railway journey’; and ‘This paper is published every Thursday’. Amalgamated aimed to have a magazine for all types of readers with three women’s weeklies, the smaller format Home Chat making up the trio.

One of the editors of Forget-Me-Not, a Hungarian called Arkas Sapt, has been credited with developing a new way of publishing several pictures on a spread, a technique that was to be vital in reinvigorating the Daily Mirror as an illustrated paper after its flagging launch.

If you do head for Carters Steam Fair at the weekend, the park may be a suitable venue for such shenanigans, because the Imperial War Museum itself was part of the old Bethlem Hospital, successor to the mediaeval mental hospital in the priory of Saint Mary of Bethlehem in Bishopsgate Without – on the site of today’s Liverpool Street Station. The original mental hospital dates back to 1329 and gave rise to the term ‘bedlam’.

Magazine mantra: ‘No heads above the masthead’

May 9, 2016
Front cover title from Woman's Own from 19 May 1955

Front cover title from this 1955 Woman’s Own magazine overlays actress Dawn Addams

The typographer Dave Farey reminded me of the magazine designer’s mantra ‘No heads above the masthead’ at the recent launch of A History of British Magazine Design. So he immediately came to mind when I saw this front cover design from Woman’s Own dating back to 19 May 1955.

The full magazine front cover from Woman's Own ahowing the Dawn Addams knitted jacket

The full magazine front cover from Woman’s Own showing the Dawn Addams knitted playtime jacket

The actress Dawn Addams is photographed modelling a knitted jacket, but quite what the designer was up to is a mystery.

Were the film star’s eyes deliberately positioned to peer round the letters? Was the photograph cropped to show the most of the jacket? Whatever the intention, the end result is a mess.

Addams was a ‘delightfully vivacious’ British-born actress who had recently married an Italian prince, the ‘darkly handsome’ Vittorio Massimo, and had her first baby.

 

 

Madonna – a scarce face on Cosmopolitan covers

March 7, 2016
Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna has appeared quite a few times on Vogue covers, but just twice on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. In May 1990 she fronted the magazine and the designers made an unusual use of the title to promote its 25th anniversary:

That COSMOPOLITAN girl is twenty-five … and the future is hers

The pop singer was well established as a cover choice by this time, with the first Madonna magazine cover dating back to 1994. But Cosmopolitan seems to have keen to make up for a quarter century without Madonna with its May 2015 issue – when both Madonna and Cosmopolitan celebrated their 50th birthdays (though neither seems to have wanted to be associated with that age!). The publishers, Hearst, ran the cover below and three other Madonna covers. The thing all three covers had in common, as well as Madonna, was ‘Sex! Sex! Sex!’, Cosmo‘s favourite cover line.

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with its May 2015 issue

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with a mask and pearls  for the May 2015 issue

But celebrity covers have been rare for most of Cosmo‘s history. Originally, the cover girl was chosen as a ‘Cosmopolitan girl’ who espoused the philosophy of the magazine.

Of course, it wasn’t a silver anniversary for the British edition of the magazine (that only appeared in 1972), so Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel and now Suffolk resident, was the choice for May. Note the cover plug for the Zest insert, Cosmo‘s health and beauty spin-off, which was launched as a standalone magazine in the autumn of 1994.

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan for May 1990

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the front cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine for May 1990

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Merry Christmas – from ‘Mother Christmas’

December 25, 2015