Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A special find in the Charles Hasler collection

Auditing is an every-day sort of activity in the life of a museum worker. It involves sifting through objects, ticking off numbers and making sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. The other week I was thus employed with a box of magazines from the Charles Hasler collection. Pencil in hand, I ran down the inventory list: Two editions of Radio Times – check, eight editions of the Observer check, and two copies of the first edition of Picture Post, 1 October 1938 - check.

Wait... Can you see what is not quite right here?

Two copies of Picture Post, Hulton's National Weekly, 1938, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (CH5/2/8/1 and 2)
Picture Post was a British weekly magazine that ran for 13 years until 1957. It is considered a pioneering publication for photojournalism. It was founded by film maker, cameraman and editor Stefan Lorant with the financial backing of publisher-millionaire Edward Hulton. Hulton become aware of Lorant through his editorial work on the lad's mag Lilliput (MoDA has editions from 1934 to 1956). The story goes that a dummy run of Picture Post was knocked up on a weekend in the autumn of 1938 and the magazine scheduled for release in September of that year

Which brings us to this curious case of our not-quite-first edition here in the Charles Hasler collection. On closer inspection it is clear that one of the magazines is in fact the dummy run. It was used to promote Picture Post to potential investors (companies who would buy advertising space).

The opening page contains a note by Lorant casting the vision for what Picture Post will be:
PICTURE POST will have a definite attitude to the problems of to-day – but it will choose its pictures first for their picture-value and their freshness… The drama of great achievement or calamities ; the private lives and interests of famous men and women ; the high-lights of sport ; the astonishing range of expression on the human face ; the natural grace of children ; the improbable and sometimes terrifying, ways of animals and insects… from this vast field PICTURE POST will take picture-records and picture-stories to entertain and interest its readers week by week.
On the other side, it is down to business: setting out the cost of advertising space, with the enticing special introductory offer of a twenty percent discount.

Page 1 of a dummy run of Picture Post, Hulton's National Weekly, 1 September 1938, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH5/2/8/1)
It is fascinating comparing the dummy run to the first edition to see who purchased advertising space and which photographs were used or replaced. Take for example Page 8 and 9. The dummy run advertises a full spread on page 8 for £120 and on page 9, four cameramen snap away at a swim-suited beauty up a pole with a caption that explains that 'Picture Post photographers cover the world... Picture Post will portray world events more fully than has ever been done before.' 

Page 8 and 9 of a dummy run of Picture Post, Hulton's National Weekly, 1 September 1938, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH5/2/8/1)
Regent Chemists Ltd. purchased the full page advertisement on page 8 of the first edition to sell Urillac tablets for rheumatism. On page 9, the swim suit model has been replaced by Hitler and Chamberlain at Godesberg in September 1938, with the caption: 'The Fateful moment: the issue between Peace and War is presented'.

Page 8 and 9 of Picture Post, Hulton Press Ltd. 1st October 1938, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH5/2/8/2)

In his opening note in the dummy run, Lorant speculates that the magazine would have a national circulation of hundreds of thousands. In fact the first edition's print run of 750,000 copies sold out by noon and within six months the magazine's circulation was over 1.6 million. By the Second World War it is thought that up to 80% of the country was reading the weekly publication.

When one factors in the high readership of the magazine and the significant period of history that it covered (the lead up to, the experience of and aftermath of World War Two) it is no surprise that we prize Picture Post as one of the more significant magazines in our collection. MoDA holds editions of the magazine from 1938 to 1957. I would thoroughly recommend it to researchers for it's visual representation of social, political and cultural matters impacting the UK during this time. To get a sneak peak inside the magazine, check out this online exhibition from Getty and this magazine article about one of Picture Post's prominent photographers, Thurston Hopkins.

Now, I will get back to auditing. In regards to the dummy run of the first edition of Picture Post, please do get in touch if you have any thoughts, information or ideas about this special find.

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