Illustrated London News Ltd
The Illustrated London News was the world's first illustrated weekly news magazine; its inaugural issue appeared on Saturday, 14 May 1842. Founded by Herbert Ingram, the magazine was published weekly until 1971, and less frequently thereafter. Publication ceased in 2003. The company continues today as Illustrated London News Ltd., a publishing, content and digital agency in London, England. The publication and business archives of The Illustrated London News and the Great Eight Publications are held by Illustrated London News Ltd.
Herbert Ingram wanted to launch a weekly newspaper with pictures in every edition, so he rented an office, recruited artists and reporters, and employed as his editor Frederick William Naylor Bayley (1808–1853), formerly editor of the National Omnibus. The first issue of The Illustrated London News appeared on Saturday, 14 May 1842, timed to report on the young Queen Victoria's first masquerade ball. Costing sixpence, the first issue sold 26,000 copies.
Despite this initial success, sales of the second and subsequent editions were disappointing. However, Ingram was determined to make his newspaper a success, and sent every clergyman in the country a copy of the edition which contained illustrations of the installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and by this means secured a great many new subscribers.
Its circulation soon increased to 40,000 and by the end of its first year was 60,000. In 1851, after the newspaper published Joseph Paxton's designs for the Crystal Palace before even Prince Albert had seen them, the circulation rose to 130,000. In 1852, when it produced a special edition covering the funeral of the Duke of Wellington, sales increased to 150,000; and in 1855, mainly due to the newspaper reproducing some of Roger Fenton's pioneering photographs of the Crimean War (and also due to the abolition of the Stamp Act that taxed newspapers), it sold 200,000 copies per week.
By 1863 The Illustrated London News was selling more than 300,000 copies every week. The death of Herbert (in 1860) and his eldest son left the company without a director and manager. Control passed to Ingram's widow Ann, and his friend Sir Edward William Watkin, who managed the business for twelve years. Once Ingram's two younger sons, William and Charles, were old enough, they took over as managing directors, although it was William who took the lead.
In 1893 the Illustrated London News established The Sketch, a sister publication which covered lighter news and society events with the same focus on illustration. From this point the name of the company changed to the Illustrated London News and Sketch Ltd.
In 1899, Illustrated London News editor Clement Shorter left the paper to found his own publication, The Sphere, which published its first issue on 27 January 1900. Ingram and The Illustrated London News responded by establishing a competing magazine, The Spear, which appeared two days before The Sphere on 25 January 1900. While editor of the Illustrated London News, Clement Shorter had been instrumental in the establishment and publication of The Sketch. In 1903 he established The Tatler as a similar sister publication for The Sphere, with a similar focus on illustrated culture and society news. With the departure of Shorter, the role of editor of the Illustrated London News was taken over by Bruce Ingram, the 23-year-old grandson of the paper's founder.
Bruce Ingram was editor of The Illustrated London News and (from 1905) The Sketch, and ran the company for the next 63 years, presiding over some significant changes in the newspaper and the publishing business as a whole.
Photographic and printing techniques were advancing in the later years of the 19th century, and The Illustrated London News began to introduce photos as well as artwork into its depictions of weekly events. From about 1890 The Illustrated London News made increasing use of photography. The tradition of graphic illustrations continued however until the end of World War I. Often rough sketches of distant events with handwritten explanations were supplied by observers and then worked on by artists in London to produce polished end-products for publication.
In 1928, a major business merger saw Illustrated London News move to new headquarters at Inveresk House, 1 Aldwych, (also known as 364 Strand), London. Here the Illustrated London News and the Sketch were united with six of their former competitors under the parent company, Illustrated News Ltd. As eight of the largest titles in illustrated news, these were newly dubbed the 'Great Eight' publications. The Illustrated London News, the flagship publication, was supported by sister publications The Sketch, The Sphere, The Tatler, The Graphic, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Bystander, and Eve. With the exception of The Tatler, these publications remained as part of Illustrated News Ltd. until their closure at various times in the 20th century.
The centenary of The Illustrated London News in 1942 was muted due to wartime conditions, including restrictions on the use of paper. The occasion was marked in the paper with a set of specially commissioned colour photographs of the Royal Family, including the future Queen Elizabeth. By the time of his death in 1963, Ingram was a major figure in the newspaper industry, and the longest-standing editor of his day.
In the post-war period, print publications were gradually displaced from their central position in reporting news events, and circulation began to fall for all the illustrated weeklies. Many of the Great Eight publications were closed down after the Second World War: The Sketch, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Sphere all ceased publication in these years.
In 1961, Illustrated Newspapers Ltd was bought by International Thomson, headed by Roy Thomson, the Canadian newspaper mogul. The Sphere ceased publication in 1964, while The Tatler was sold in 1968 (it was later to be revived and relaunched in 1977). With circulation figures continuing to fall, The Illustrated London News switched from weekly to monthly publication in 1971, with a new focus on in-depth reporting and selective coverage of world events. This strategy continued into the late 1980s, when the paper reduced its frequency to four issues a year.
In 1985 The Illustrated London News and the archives of the Great Eight publications were sold to Sea Containers, an international transport corporation headed by James Sherwood. Along with the Illustrated London News Group, Sea Containers operated the Orient Express and Great North-Eastern Railways, and a range of luxury hotels. As part of this activity, Illustrated London News Group launched a luxury travel and lifestyle magazine, Orient Express.
In 1994, publication of The Illustrated London News was reduced further to two issues a year, and the publishing activity of the Illustrated London News Group focused increasingly on the Orient Express magazine. After publishing its last Christmas number in 2001, The Illustrated London News was relaunched in 2003 under the editorship of Mark Palmer, which ran for one issue before finally ceasing publication for good.
The Illustrated London News Group underwent a management buy-out in 2007, and was re-established as Illustrated London News Ltd. From 2007 it has continued its activity as an independent content and creative agency. In 2007 the former Orient Express magazine was relaunched as Sphere, a luxury lifestyle and travel magazine. In addition to its independent publications, Illustrated London News Ltd now acts as a content agency for various other luxury and heritage organisations.
Illustrated London News Ltd also manages and curates the newspaper and business archive of The Illustrated London News and the Great Eight publications, publishing short books and magazines of historical content from the Great Eight publication archives. In 2010 the company digitised the entire back catalogue of The Illustrated London News, and in 2014 began digitalizing the remaining seven publications in the Great Eight.