Posts Tagged ‘history’

Where did you get those teeth?

April 11, 2019

harmsworth-magazine-1898-white-teeth - 1

Shiny teeth, no skin blemishes and clear white eyes. It’s standard practice nowadays that celebrities on magazine covers such as Vogue look perfect. But when did these little white Photoshop lies start?

It’s well known that the publicity photographs in Hollywood were taken by experts in the art of making anyone look good. And that they were then put into the hands of expert retouchers to take out any real-world blemishes.

harmsworth-magazine-cover-1898-november

But this cover image shows the practice goes back before Hollywood even existed, It’s from a 1898 copy of The Harmsworth, a monthly pictorial magazine that competed with the likes of the Strand. The teeth on the girl have clearly been altered to become perfectly white blocks.

British Library celebrates Russia’s revolution

March 6, 2017
A Russian revolution version of Alfred Leete's Kitchener poster and magazine cover from 1914

Russian revolutionary propaganda based on Alfred Leete’s Kitchener magazine cover

The British Library has chosen one of the many derivatives of Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image to front its latest exhibition, Russian revolution: hopes, tragedies, myths. The exhibition will also show Lenin’s handwritten application for a reader pass to the library.

British Library. Index slip recording the issue of a reader ticket for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Karl Marx

Record of the issue of a pass for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Marx

Anyone fancying seeing more Lenin relics can pop across to the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School in nearby Clerkenwell, where you can visit the room where Lenin worked, which has been kept as he left it. Next year marks the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, which both the Marx Library and the British Library are gearing up to celebrate.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover

The Kitchener image was first seen on the cover of  London Opinion magazine.  Don’t pay any attention to the British Library captioning it as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. It’s an error that people and institutions have spent a century making, from Picture Post in 1940 to the Royal Mint in 2014.

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

Kitchener – this is not a poster!

May 29, 2014
Daily Mail's Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article

Daily Mail’s Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article that mistakenly identifies a poster as the original London Opinion cover

Whatever the faults of the Daily Mail, it exhibits a sense of history in the logo it carries on its ‘answers to readers questions’ page. The logo is based on the original title for the magazine that founded the Daily Mail dynasty back in 1888: Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun, founded by Alfred Harmsworth.

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail - based on a magazine title from the 1880s

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail – based on a magazine title from the 1880s

As Answers, this became a massive success, building on the pioneering George Newnes’s Tit-Bits, for which Harmsworth had worked, to help establish British magazines as the first truly mass media. Answers claimed to answer questions sent in by readers directly by post, and those of general interest were published. Answers was a such a success that it was the foundation of a magazine and newspaper empire, the likes of which the world had never seen. Alfred and his brother Harold went on to found both the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, then buy up both the Sunday Observer and the Times and become lords Northcliffe and Rothermere. Alongside the newspapers, the Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press (later Fleetway) became the largest periodical publishing empire in the world. Viscount Rothermere rules the roost at today’s descendant, the Daily Mail & General Trust.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover – this is NOT a poster!

So it’s no surprise that the paper is running a series to mark World War One, including an 80-page souvenir issue of its listings section, Event. Pride of place in the May 4 edition was a feature by the brilliant Ralph Steadman, whose father fought in that war and was injured three times. Steadman interprets Alfred Leete’s famous Kitchener image and the article make reference  to its original appearance as a London Opinion cover – but then shows one of the early London Opinion posters in the centre of the spread rather than the magazine cover!

The error adds to half a century of people getting it wrong: including the Imperial War Museum (which was given the artwork by Leete); Picture Post using the artwork in 1940 and again referring to it only as a poster; and biographers such as  Philip Magnus adding to the confusion. Even the British Library captions the cover as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. To cap it all, the Royal Mint makes no reference to Leete even as it copies his artwork for a commemorative coin!

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

At last, a history of magazines

May 28, 2014
grub_street_book_cover

The jacket of ‘Grub Street’ shows George Newnes’ ‘Strand’, with its long-lived George Haité cover design, on an iPad

There has long been a gap when it comes to books about magazines in that there has been no substantial history of the industry. That is not to say there are no books that include elements of that history, but the academics Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt are the first authors to take on the complete story, at least for consumer magazines, with Revolutions from Grub Street.

The book takes as its starting point the days of Grub Street – once a real street in London’s Moorfields that by 1630 had given its name to an area where hack writers lived. Grub Street was ‘much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems’, according to Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of 1775, and is today Milton Street.

Dr Johnson and his fellow hacks aspired to move closer to the publishers that employed them, in the centre of the printing and publishing industry around St Paul’s Cathedral. By 1882, Fleet Street had taken over as a shorthand for the ‘whole spirit of the English Press’. Johnson himself moved to Gough Square at the north end of Wine Office Court, an alley that runs from Fleet Street up the side of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub (rebuilt in 1667, having been burnt down the year before in the Great Fire of London).

Fleet Street came to embody the publishing industry because it led to where printing had been established. Wynkyn de Worde had moved Caxton’s printing press to set up a print shop in Shoe Lane after the latter’s death in about 1500. The site is marked by a plaque at the livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers (itself rebuilt after the Great Fire) on Ave Maria Lane, near St Paul’s.

Cox and Mowatt have written a densly-referenced but brisk summary of almost 400 years of magazine-making, of clear interest to academics and researchers in business and strategy. Both authors specialise in business history and Cox wrote The Global Cigarette for OUP. They collaborated on a  paper, ‘Networks, Relational Assets and the Internationalisation of Consumer Magazine Publishing‘, the theme of which contributes to this book. They describe how magazine publishing companies developed from the Grub St era by exploiting developments, first in letterpress printing on exemplars such as the Family Herald, and then powered machinery, to meet the demand for popular reading matter from an expanding, and more literate, population.

Penny weeklies and sixpenny monthlies leapt at the opportunity provided by illustrations, famously by Punch and Illustrated London News with their upmarket fare for the middle classes. In 1881, came the publishing sensation of George Newnes’ Tit-Bits, which used innovative journalistic and marketing techniques to help establish strategies for the million-selling popular weekly. Alongside Arthur Pearson and Alfred Harmsworth, these magazine publishers evolved into the massive press baronies of the 20th century that made Fleet Street famous across the world. Grub Street concludes by charting events since the mid-20th century three-way merger that created the giant IPC, and the factors through to the present day that saw it lose its near-monopoly position – but it and its rivals run into the challenge of today’s digital competition.

The book bases its story on events in company structures and the development of the unions, as well as technology. It is weaker on the influence of specific titles and individuals; for example, Stefan Lorant (Pictorial Weekly, Lilliput and Picture Post) is barely mentioned (and his name is mis-spelt). Also, it has a limited scope, focusing on mainstream consumer publishers and rarely touching on trade magazines, newspaper supplements and contract magazines.

However, Grub Street will  at last enable course leaders on magazine journalism and publishing courses to address a gaping hole in their syllabuses.

Revolutions from Grub Street: A history of magazine publishing in Britain by Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt, Oxford University Press, 288 pages, £35

Colour pin-ups – in 1867

July 6, 2008

Stef Penney’s ‘Tenderness of Wolves’ prompts a query in its description of a Hudson Bay Company outpost in the outback of Canada. In one room, ‘Pinned to the walls are coloured pictures of race-horses and prizefighters, cut from magazines.’ Colour pin-ups? In 1867? Sounds a tad early, I said to myself, as I sat on a jet back from Spain. However, probably not. The Illustrated London News began printing its colour Christmas plates in 1855. And David Reed (‘The Popular Magazine’) discusses colour being used for promotions as ‘a common event’ by 1871 among US magazines.

Magazines timeline