In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, newspapers and magazines flourished; today they provide a fascinating insight into the period and can form an entertaining collection.
Newspapers first appeared in England in the 17th century but the first daily paper was not published until 1702; this was the Daily Courant. Throughout the 18th century the number of papers increased. These included newspapers like The Tatler (1709), started by Sir Richard Steele, and The Spectator (1711), started by Steele and the great essayist, Joseph Addison, which tried to develop the social side of journalism.
In the 19th century, newspaper sales were never as high as those of the popular magazines but there were a great many of them, catering for different opinions and tastes. The Times (popularly known as the 'thunderer' for its sometimes explosive style) excelled in its home and foreign news, while the Morning Post, in its early days, attracted writers such as Coleridge, Wordsworth and Charles Lamb,
and continued a tradition of vigorous criticism throughout the century.
By the Edwardian period, newspapers and magazines were big business dominated by the press barons Beaverbrook, Rothermere and Northcliffe. Lord Northcliffe founded the Daily Mail in 1896 as a popular newspaper.
He promised readers that in the new paper, which sold for a halfpenny, 'four leading articles, a page of Parliament, and columns of speeches will NOT be found'. The Conservative prime minister, Lord Salisbury, dismissed the Mail as 'produced by office boys for office boys' but Northcliffe was soon selling almost a million copies a day.
THE POLITICS OF THE PRESS
Newspapers adopted political stances. The Times, with its restrained front page consisting only of advertisements, was the voice of the establishment. The Daily
Express and the Morning Post were supporters of the Tories, the Daily News of the Liberals, and from 1912 onwards, the Daily Herald was the champion of the Labour Party.
In the 19th century, Sunday newspapers were illegal, but by the 1850s they were tolerated. Even so, when, in 1899, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail started Sunday editions there was a successful campaign to prevent this. There was less successful resistance to evening papers. These were started in the 1870s and 1880s and sold at a halfpenny.
Newspaper readers enjoyed sensationalism. The Illustrated Police News, which appeared at weekends, carried popular crime stories such as 'Jack the Ripper' and 'The Tunbridge Wells Crimes', all fulsomely illustrated. Equally in demand were the religious family newspapers like Christian World, Leisure Hour and Christian Herald.
One of the most popular magazines of the Edwardian period was Country Life. Started in the 1890s, it appealed to both the landed gentry and the middle classes who aspired to a higher status, and for middle- and upper-class ladies there was The Gentlewoman, an attractively designed magazine with stories.
There are many forms of newspaper collections. Some people collect one title, others collect those from one period. Or you could collect those that cover a particular area of interest, such as politics or the theatre.
Newspapers marked with the duty stamp, imposed from 1712 to 1855, are also of interest. Whatever theme you base your collection on, look for newspapers or magazines in good condition with clear legible type and an unsmudged stamp. Store them flat, out of bright light and keep dry.
The late Victorian and Edwardian periods offer great scope. This was the heyday of the print media. To obtain news, ideas and entertainment, people bought and read daily papers and weekly magazines. There were a great many publications and their readership was larger than ever before because the 1870 Education Act had ensured that all children had the chance to learn to read and write.
PERIODICALS TO COLLECT
Illustrated periodicals first appeared in the 19th century. The weekly Illustrated London News was launched in 1842 and within months was using steam-driven machines to meet the demands of increasing circulation. Lavishly illustrated with woodcuts and engravings, it regularly issued special supplements to
commemorate royal or national events. Sales reached 130,000 in 1851 after the publication of Paxton's design for the Crystal Palace. In the following year, a special supplement was devoted to the Duke of Wellington's funeral and in 1855, when photographs of the Crimean War were first reproduced, sales rose to 200,000. Hugely popular, the Illustrated London News outlasted all its main rivals.
Other widely read periodicals included The Cornhill Magazine, initially edited by the novelist W M Thackeray, and the first to publish novels in serial form, Fraser's Magazine, which printed some of the works of Thackeray and Thomas Carlyle, and All the Year Round, in which Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities was serialized.
Punch was in a class of its own, employing some of the most famous cartoonists and illustrators of the day - like Sir John Tenniel to satirize the foibles of all classes of society.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
Specialist dealers in newspapers, magazines and comics stock large collections of old newsprint and may well have in stock what you are after. Failing that, they will often undertake to locate specific issues. The older the issue is, the harder it is to come by and the more difficult it is to find a copy in good condition. Many collectors advertise privately and you will soon get to know them if you begin a serious collection.
This is one form of collecting where jumble sales and relatives' attics may very well turn up interesting collections of long-forgotten magazines or papers - they are precisely the sort of thing that people do hoard.