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decorated initial 'I'n 1842, when thirty-one year-old printer and newsagent Herbert Ingram (1811-1860) arrived from Nottingham in London, he noticed that, when on those occasions that newspapers included woodcuts, their sales increased. With such models as William Clowes's The Penny Magazine (1832-1846) edited by Charles White, Edward Lloyd's Penny Sunday Times (1841-7) and its successor, Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (1842-1923), and Bell's Life in London (1822-1886) in mind, Ingram reasoned that he would make a good profit from publishing a lavishly illustrated but relatively inexpensive magazine. However, the case may be made that Ingram was the right man at the right time, for the government had only recently withdrawn the taxes on cheap periodicals it had levied after the Peterloo Massacre (1819) in order to impede the growth of a reform-minded press aimed at the working class. In the year 1840, for example, 78 magazines costing twopence or less began publication in a single week. although working-class households could ill afford a daily paper, a weekly illustrated paper was not beyond their means, especially after the cancellation of the advertising duty in 1853 enabled cheap periodicals to survive without party or denominational financial backing.

Herbert Ingram discussed his conception of an illustrated weekly with his friend, Mark Lemon, the editor of Punch magazine. With Lemon as his chief adviser, Ingram published the first edition of The Illustrated London News on 14 May, 1842. Costing sixpence, the magazine had sixteen pages and thirty-two woodcuts. The first edition included pictures of the war in Afghanistan, a train crash in France, a steam-boat explosion in Canada, and a fancy dress ball at Buckingham Palace.

A staunch Liberal, Ingram used his magazine to advance the cause of social reform. He announced in The Illustrated London News that his magazine's concern would be "with the English poor" and that the "three essential elements of discussion with us will be the poor laws, the factory laws, and the working of the mining system." In the House of Commons he represented his native Boston, Lincolnshire, from 1856, and, until his death in 1860, continued his campaign for social reform as a Member of Parliament. His death, by the way, occurred as the result of an accident on Lake Michigan, in which he drowned.

The Lord Mayor's Show. -- Triumphal Arch in Cornhill

The Bannerhead for "The Illustrated London News: No. 1001. -- Vol. XXXV.] Saturday, November 5, 1859. [With a Supplement, Fivepence] (paralleling the embankment scene on the wrapper of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities) 4.5 inches high by 9 inches wide.

The illustrated weekly magazine was an immediate success, with its initial edition selling 26,000 copies. Within months it had achieved sales of over 65,000 copies per week. Because he charged high prices for advertisements in his weekly magazine and his newspaper The Daily Telegraph (founded in 1848), Ingram was making 12,000 a year from publishing. When publisher Andrew Spottiswoode started a rival paper, The Pictorial Times, Ingram acquired it in order to merge it with The Illustrated London News. Similarly, in 1855 Ingram took over another rival journal, The Illustrated Times.

Its pictorial coverage and reporting of special events was a key to the magazine's success; for example, the magazine provided extensive coverage of both The Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Crimean War. Ingram sold over 150,000 copies of the edition that covered the funeral of the Duke of Wellington at St. Paul's in 1852. By 1863 sales of the magazine had risen to over 300,000 copies a week, far in excess of its nearest rival. For example, newspapers such as the Daily News only sold 6,000 copies at this time, and even the largest selling newspaper, The Times, sold only 70,000 copies.

In pioneering the format of nineteen-century picture magazines such as The Graphic, it anticipated both the photojournalism of such twentieth-century magazine as Life as well as the weekly cinema newsreel, although some of its more sensational illustrations owed more to imagination than observation. although it did not initially run novels in serial, it frequently reviewed individual installments in a column labeled"Serials," just as it provided sometimes lengthy précis of new volumes of fiction such as The Christmas Books of Charles Dickens (1843-48). Among its culturally significant columns were its weekly reviews of the productions in the London theatres, and George Sala's journalistic commentary "Echoes of the Week" (1862-67). Topical news of a pictorial nature was the magazine's forté. For example, in April 1912, a whole issue was devoted to The Titanic, and during the American Civil War, Frank Vizetelly sent sketches of battles directly from the Confederate front-lines. Its illustrations reveal the full range of Victorian social, cultural, political, and scientific endeavour, from plates of workhouses and houses of correction, pantomime and circuses and sporting events, train stations and telegraph offices, society gatherings and ragged schools, zoos and popular exhibitions, naval and military exercises, factories and coal-mining machinery and agricultural labour and fire-brigades, authors and actors and politicians, and men's and women's fashions. No detail of daily life was too commonplace not to appear in the magazine's pages, from the payment of rural hop-pickers, to the sale of holly in the squares of London at Christmas, to the interiors of those bastions of male exclusivity, the social clubs of London.

Its staff of artists roamed the world looking for visual news, and sent back a stream of sketches of battles, natural wonders, catastrophes, explorations, and courtroom dramas. Among the celebrated artists who contributed to The Illustrated London News were Frederick Barnard, Sir John Gilbert (credited with producing over 30,000 drawings to the magazine), Randolph Caldecott (who began with the magazine at age 15), and Walter Paget, who illustrated the serialisation of Thomas Hardy's The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved (1 October through 17 December 1892). Among its talented wood-engravers was John Greenaway, father of children's artist Kate Greenaway.

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Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell. London: Garland, 1988.

Last modified 14 October 2002