Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Magazines go mad at Christmas

December 29, 2015
Christmas covers dug out of James Hyman's archive

Just four of the Christmas covers dug out of James Hyman’s archive

The people over at Radio Times were really helpful digging out scans of the magazine’s covers when I was writing my magazine design book. I discovered in my researches that the best-selling magazine yet was the Christmas 1988 cover of the Radio Times – it shifted 11 million copies!

There are no Radio Times covers in this list of Christmas magazine covers past, but James Hyman dug out some great fronts from his archive for the piece by Anna Doble, BBC Newsbeat‘s online editor. It just shows how magazines go mad at Christmas.

Arf-a-mo, Bert Thomas decides it’s time for a Christmas tree

December 5, 2015
The Goose Step: Christmas number of the Humorist for 1939 with a Bert Thomas cover

The Goose-Step: Christmas number of the Humorist for 1939 with a Bert Thomas cover

Bert Thomas was one of the most famous illustrators of the First World War – renowned for the grinning Tommy lighting a pipe with the caption ‘Arf a Mo’, Kaiser!

So the weekly Humorist turned to the veteran artist for its first Christmas number of the Second World War. ‘The Goose-Step’ was the result, with the Tommy bringing back a Christmas tree and goose to Estaminet – French for The Tavern. The look in his eye suggests he knows the woman’s waiting for him.

The soldier was probably understood to be a member of the 158,000-strong, but poorly-equipped, British Expeditionary Force, which was sent to France in September 1939. It was stationed on the Belgian–French border until Germany’s blitzkrieg ended what had been called the ‘phoney war’ in May 1940.

It was the Humorist‘s first wartime Christmas cover – and its last. Paper rationing led to the Humorist becoming a small-format monthly before being merged into London Opinion, a sister magazine at George Newnes.

From 1905, the British Cartoon Archive notes, Thomas began drawing for Punch, a link that continued until 1948. He also drew for London Opinion from 1909 until 1954, when that magazine was merged into Men Only. London Opinion is today famed for publishing one of the few cover illustrations more famous than Thomas’s  ‘Arf a Mo’, Kaiser! This was Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’, which became the Great War recruiting poster of Kitchener.

Bert Thomas’s signature is shown below.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

Bert Thomas's signature from the Humorist, 25 December 1939

Bert Thomas’s signature from the Humorist, 25 December 1939

Self-referential covers at Christmas

April 20, 2015
A 1929 Tit-Bits Christmas extra issue with Santa delivering the issue on which he is depicted

A 1929 Tit-Bits Christmas extra issue with Santa delivering the very issue on which he is depicted

Two cheery Christmas covers from the 1920s and 1930s with the magazine in question being part of Santa’s Christmas Day delivery. Tit-Bits from George Newnes favours the cover referencing itself while the Amalgamated Press magazine Popular Wireless uses a different recent issue.

Christmas special issues in the form of colour supplements, issues covering two weeks or extra issues were popularised by titles such as the Illustrated London News in the Victorian era. The strategy is still followed today by magazines as varied as New Scientist, The Economist, Private Eye and Radio Times.

Popular Wireless has Santa dropping off a standard issue of the magazine from his sack while an expectant-looking boy watches from behind the door in 1933

Popular Wireless has Santa dropping off a standard issue of the magazine from his sack while an expectant-looking boy watches from the door in 1933

In computer coding circles, the act of a routine calling itself is known as ‘recursion’ and was popularised in home computing by BBC Basic in 1980. A similar ‘recursive’ illustration approach as Tit-Bits on a different title can be seen on a 1946 issue from John Bull.

The Science Museum has digitised the first issue of Popular Wireless.