A SKETCH OF THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF PICTORIAL JOURNALISM.
In all ages man has shown a liking and an aptitude for pictorial representation. The rude drawing scratched on the smooth bone of an animal by the cave dweller of prehistoric times, the painted rocks of the Mexican forests, and the cave- Paintings of the Bushmen are examples of this inherent feeling. The child looks with delight on his picture-book long before he can make out the letters of the alphabet. The untutored Esquimaux treasures up the stray number of an illustrated newspaper left in his hut by the crew of some whaling, ship, though not one word of the printed page can he understand. But the pictures speak a universal language which requires no teaching to comprehend.
When the printing-press came into use this love of pictures had a wide field for development. Some of the first books printed in England were illustrated with woodcuts, and many of the tracts, or “News-books,” which preceded regular newspapers, were adorned with rude engravings. It mattered not how graphic was the pen, its work was deemed incomplete without the aid of the pencil. It often happened that the pen was none the better for the fellowship, but the public taste was not fastidious, and the work sufficed for the occasion. In tracing the origin and progress of pictorial journalism we shall find in “the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time” many curious illustrations of contemporary history. The subject is not without interest now that the illustrated newspaper has become a prominent feature in the journalism of every country.
The development of the newspaper press and its unrestricted use as the exponent of public opinion is one of the most interesting signs of modern progress. When we consider the liberty of thought and action that prevails in our own day, it is difficult to believe that our forefathers were liable to the pillory and other degrading punishments when they ventured to publish their opinions without first obtaining the sanction of the ruling powers. We are accustomed to the daily exercise of the right which cost Prynne his ears and brought fines and imprisonment on Defoe. Newspapers have become almost as necessary to our daily life as bread itself. The mind demands its breakfast us well as the body and to many a busy man the loss of his morning paper would be as great a deprivation as the want of his usual matutinal meal.
In London and in all our great centres of population the newspaper has become the unfailing accompaniment of the City man’s journey to business. At the railway stations journals of every kind tempt the loitering passenger, while the illustrated papers appeal to him in a language of their own. Whether in the railway carriage, the omnibus, or the steam-boat, the newspaper is eagerly conned, and its contents form the food of conversation. Most of these newspapers arc cast aside at the end of the twenty minutes’ or halt hours journey; and then, at secondhand, they amuse the leisure moments of the railway porter, or, better still, they are collected together, and perhaps serve to solace the sick poor during many lingering hours in hospital and refuges. Day by day the demand is made, and the supply is ready. The printing-machine never sleeps and is never tired. Its voice is one of the voices of the night—most unmusical, yet ‘with a mysterious meaning. The daily newspaper, so potent in diffusing the light of knowledge, is itself the offspring of darkness. The busy brains and active fingers which create It turn night Into day in the execution of their quickly recurring tasks, and with unflagging energy they labour on, that the slumbering world may be properly amused and instructed when it wakes.
The intelligent foreigner, who happens to reach our southern coast on a Monday morning in summer or autumn, and travels to London by one of the early trains, is astonished, when the train stops, to see most of the gentlemen rush from the carriages and surround a small boy, whom they appear to bustle and threaten with violent gesticulations. The boy appears to buy off the hostility of his assailants by dealing out to each a paper, which he takes from a large bundle under his arm, and with which the appeased passenger returns to his carriage. Cries of “Times! Daily News! Telegraph Standard !—here, give us one—anything “—reach the ears of the wondering stranger, who beholds the boy at length take refuge In an empty railway carriage on the opposite side of the platform, and from that place of ‘vantage he continues to deal out the mysterious papers. After a time the intelligent foreigner learns that these are the London papers of that morning, which are sent out to meet the trains, and are eagerly bought by the gentlemen who have been spending from Saturday to Monday at the seaside, and, having lasted from all newspapers during that time, they are now of course famishing for news. Such is their eagerness that politics are thrown to the winds. The Conservative will put up with a Liberal newspaper rather than have none at all and he whose ill luck or inertness has left him without the coveted sheet is glad to borrow of his neighbour, that he may not be walking in the darkness of ignorance when he arrives at his place of business. As the train moves off the intelligent foreigner, If he thrusts his head out of the carriage window, may behold in the distance the newsboy pensively counting his gains and endeavouring to make his receipts tally with the number of papers that have vanished.
One of the most remarkable phases of the newspaper history has been the establishment of illustrated journals. Though this idea, in an immature,, form, is as old as the newspaper itself, yet it was never fully developed till the late Mr. Herbert Ingram brought out the Illustrated London News in l842. Since that time. The removal of the newspaper stamp and the repeal of the paper duty have imparted a freedom and a vigour to newspaper enterprise previously unknown. Journals of all kinds have sprung into existence, and cheapness has become the rule. Penny and even half penny papers compete with the lending journals in activity and enterprise
No expense is spared in obtaining the earliest and most authentic intelligence. Correspondents are sent to every Part of the world where any Information is to be gleaned. and the presence of the newspaper “Special” Is now expected at every great event. Each class has its organ, and “he who who runs may read.’
When we consider the immense amount of printed matter that is published every day by the newspapers, we cannot but wonder at the public appetite. And this appetite is fed from one year to another upon a diet that is only varied when there occurs a war, a revolution, an unusually disastrous shipwreck. or a murder of uncommon atrocity. Then the monotony of ordinary life gives place to the temporary excitement. There is a run upon the newspapers, which are as susceptible as barometers, and rise or fall according to the state of public feeling. The calamities of nations and the misfortunes of individuals are sources of profit and prosperity to the newspaper.
It was a happy idea to gather together the principal events of the week, to illustrate them with authentic pictures, and place them before the public in the form of a pictorial newspaper. Considering the great cost of production, and the restrictions under which newspapers lay at that time, to say nothing of the difficulty of bringing out news with appropriate illustrations, so that both should be fresh, the Illustrated London News was a bold undertaking. Like most things that are successful, it soon had many imitators, and there are now few large cities in the civilised world that have not their illustrated newspapers.
But the full development of illustrated journalism was immediately preceded by many significant symptoms. Several of the then existing newspapers, on the occurrence of any unusual or interesting event, introduced into their pages rough woodcut illustrations. A great fire—a remarkable murder— a fatal balloon ascent,—these were the subjects seized upon at the moment to satisfy the public craving for illustrated news. All this seems to have been the working of an impulse or instinct which existed even before the days of newspapers; for, as I shall presently show, attempts were made to illustrate the news of the hour in tracts or ‘News-books” before the beginning of regular newspapers in England. The idea of illustrated journalism may be traced from the earliest years of the seventeenth century to 1842, the date of the first Number of the Illustrated London News. The art of wood engraving had fallen very low in the seventeenth century, and the illustrations to be found in early newspapers are mostly of a very rude description; but they show the existence of a germ which eventually grew into full and flourishing life.
The English newspaper, like many other great inventions, was a thing of gradual growth. The news that was sung or recited by wandering ballad-singers at the village cross, or in the court-yard of the squire’s mansion, and the written newsletter furnished to the wealthy aristocracy, were the precursors of the early news books and the periodical sheets of news. As the art of printing extended, many of the productions of the press assumed the character of news. to attract readers. sermons, satires, and travels were all put forward under the name of news, and sometimes a single grain of truth was deemed sufficient to leaven a whole bushel of fiction. Most of these publications were small tracts, and published at irregular intervals. Some of them were adorned with engravings on the titlepages, which show that even at this early period the authors or printers of these papers were imbued with the pictorial spirit. The idea of illustrating current events had already taken root, and we find examples of it long before the establishment of regular newspapers.
The earliest form of the newspaper is known to have come into existence during times of war and tumult, and it was for a long time believed that the first English newspaper was brought forth under similar circumstances. But when the English Mercurie. of 1588 was proved to be a forgery, the enthusiast in newspaper history received a heavy blow and sad discouragement. It seemed so highly probable, when this country was threatened with the descent of the Spanish Armada, that something like a newspaper might have sprung into existence, that people were only too ready to adopt the imposture. When the whole nation was greatly excited and anxious to learn something about the reality of their danger, nothing was more natural than for the sagacious minister of Queen Elizabeth to appeal to the people through the printing- press, and by its means endeavour to calm the public mind by circulating printed sheets of intelligence, “for the contradiction of false reports.” But we were compelled to admit that Lord Burleigh had missed his opportunity, and neglected to use the most powerful means for exciting the patriotism or allaying the fears of his countrymen. The author of this remarkable imposition showed great skill and acuteness in constructing his false newspaper, and fixing the date of its supposed publication. The forgery has been attributed to Lord Hardwick; but what were his motives it is difficult to understand. Unlike Chatterton and Ireland he never brought his Imposture before the world, and if he intended it merely for an antiquarian jeu d’esprit he had the enjoyment of the joke entirely to himself.
The abolition of the Star Chamber, in 1641, was an important event for the press of this country. The so-called newspapers then begun to print English news and discuss home affairs, no longer dreading the fines, imprisonments, and mutilations that had been so liberally dispensed by that obnoxious tribunal. There was not, however, any considerable increase in the number of newspapers till the Civil War reached its height. During that remarkable contest many thousands of tracts and newspapers were published some of them numbered consecutively and published at regular intervals; but the great majority bore no continuous title, and treated of one subject only. During the reigns of Charles II and James II. the press was, more or less under a censorship, from which it was not emancipated till the seventh year of William III. Lord Macaulay dates the commencement of English newspapers from this period, when a great many new journals made their appearance. They included political news amongst their contents; and they more nearly resembled In character, but not in appearance, what we now understand by a newspaper than anything that had preceded them.
This pres, revival was not accompanied by any corresponding activity in the direction of pictorial illustration. Art of every kind was in a low condition in England at this time. Even if the art of popular illustration bad been better understood, the means of production were exceedingly limited. Newspapers multiplied greatly, but Illustrated journalism had to struggle with difficulties, until it’s existence was only made known by the occasional appearance of a rough woodcut or an indifferent copper-plate.
By Mason Jackson.
To be continued..
A SKETCH OF THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF
Before, and for a long time after, the general use of newspapers, illustrated broadsides were published relating to particular events, or satirising the vices and follies of the period. In a broadside adorned with a woodcut representing Death and Time, and entitled “The Doleful Dance, and Song of Death,” allusion is made to the “Fatal Assizes” of Oxford, when three hundred persons, including the High Sheriff, died of a distemper, which was supposed to have originated among the prisoners!. A sheet of a later date refers to the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot; while a third, entitled “Tittle-Tattle.” &c., satirises the gossiping habits of the fair sex, and contains many illustrations of manners, costume, and character. Such were the publications that did duty for newspapers in the days of Queen Elizabeth, whose subjects, however, were not left wholly without information as to passing events. In 1587 there was published an illustrated
GREAT FLOOD IN MONMOUTHSHIRE, 1607.
tract giving an account of the doings of Sir Francis Drake, who was employed by Queen Elizabeth to harass the Spaniards In their harbours and hinder them in their preparations for invading England. These operations, which Drake himself described as “singeing the King of Spain’s beard,” delayed the sailing of the Armada, and gave Elizabeth time to prepare for defence. The tract referred to is entitled” The true and perfect Newes of the worthy and valiant exploytes performed and done by that valiant Knight Syr Frauncis Drake; Not only at Sancto Domingo, and Carthagena, but also nowe at Cales, and upon the Coast of Spayne, 1587 Printed at London, by J. Charlewood, for Thomas Hackett.” There is an account, in verse, written by one Thomas Greepe, of the doings of Sir Francis Drake and other sea captains. The author tells his reader, “Here hast thou, gentle Reader, set forth unto thee the most worthy and valiant exploytes and enterpryses, lately atchieved and done by that valiant Knight Syr Frauncis Drake & others not pend in lofty verse, nor curiously handled, but playnly and truly, so that it may be well understood of the Reader.” The tract is illustrated with a woodcut of a ship in full sail.
In the reign of James I. papers of news began to be published, but they only appeared occasionally, and were chiefly devoted to foreign intelligence. In 1619 we have “Newes out of Holland,” followed by others in 1620, 1621, and 1622. ‘these occasional tracts were afterward converted into a regular weekly publication, entitled the “Weekly News,” printed by J. D. for Niche Bourne and T. Archer. This was the first periodical newspaper published in England. but long before this many illustrated tracts and pamphlets were published relating to events of recent occurrence. In one dated 1607 occurs the earliest instance I have met with of an attempt to illustrate the news of the day. It is entitled “Wofull Newes from Wales, or the lamentable loss of divers Villages and Parishes, (by a strange and wonderful Floud) within the Countye of Monmouth In Wales: which happened In January last past, 1607. whereby a great number of his Majesties subjects inhabiting in these parts are utterly undone.” The writer of the news-book describes the flood and then, taking it for his text, preaches a sermon upon it. ‘It is printed in Old English and plentifully interspersed with pious exhortations and scriptural references. It has on the title a woodcut, a facsimile which is given above.
This interesting little tract has a preface, in which the author explains the difficulty he felt in producing it in the short time it was allowed to him for the purpose. :—“ Reader, when these newes were,: brought, and an importunities used to me that I would give the same forms, and bestow an exhortation on them, I was unwilling, both in regard of that short space, (of lesse than one day which was limited to undertake the matter) .and also in respect of the usual unfaithfulness of men ordinarily in reporting of such accidents as these bee; whereby it often falleth out that the relation of them reapeth much discredit. But when I could not have these just excuses taken, I began and finished this businesse, as the short space would permit me.”
The old story of the child washed away in a cradle, so often related as having occurred in great floods, and which Mr. Millais has immortalised in one of his pictures, is here told probably for the first time :-- “Another little childe is affirmed to have bene cast upon land in a Cradle, in which was nothing but a Catte, the which was discerned, as it came floating to the shore, to leape still from one side of the Cradle unto the other, even as if she had been appointed steersman to preserve the small barke from the waves’ furie.”
Another tract of the same date is illustrated with a woodcut similar to the one hero copied, but it has in addition several more figures, including a cradle with a child in it floating on the water. This tract is entitled “A true report of certaine wonderful overflowings of waters now lately in Summersetshire, Norfolk, and other places in England, destroying many thousands of men, women, and children, overthrowing and bearing downe whole townes and villages, and drowning infinite numbers of sheepe and other cattle.” It is written in the same sermonising style, beginning by calling men to repent, and to take warning from these signs of God’s anger. Then follows the narrative. The inundation was caused by an irruption of the sea, and many incidents are related of the flood. Here the cradle story is again told “An infant likewise was found swimming in a cradle, some mile or two fro’ ye place where it was known to be kept, and so was preserved; for the cradle was not of wicker, as ours are here, but of strong, thicke bordes, closely joynted together, and that saved the infant’s life.” This narrative of the Somersetshire flood was reprinted in another tract with” An Addition of other and more strange Accidents happening by these Flouds, and brought to light since the first publishing of this Booke.” This second edition is illustrated with the identical woodcut that is used in the tract relating the floods in Wales. The two tracts recounting the Somersetshire floods were “printed at London by W. I. for Edward White, and are to be sold at the signe of
GREAT STORM, 1613
the Gunne, at the North door of Paules.” That describing the flood in Wales was “printed for W. W., and are to be sold in Paules Churchyarde at the sign of the Grey-hound.” In those days printers frequently combined the functions of engraver and printer, and as regards the tracts under notice, we must conclude that the printer supplied each of his customers with the same woodcut, or that the booksellers of the time were in the habit of lending their woodcuts to each other.
Storms, floods, and burnings were favourite themes with the early newswriters, and several illustrated tracts exist describing such calamities. They are more or less interspersed with pious exhortations, but the narrative is rarely allowed to flag, and every incident is minutely described. There is “Woeful newes from the West parts of England of the burning of Tiverton,” 1612; and a small quarto pamphlet of 1613 printed in old English affords another good example of this kind of news. It is entitled—it will be observed how fond the old newswriters were of alliterative titles—” The Wonders of this windie winter, by terrible stormes and tempests, to the losse of lives and goods of many thousands of men, women, and children. The like by Sea and Land hath not been seene nor heard of in this age of the world. London. Printed by G. Eld for John Wright, and are to be sold at his Shop neere Christ-Church dore. 1613.” On the titlepage is a woodcut, a copy of which is annexed.
The tract opens very much in the manner of a sermon, and declares the dreadful occurrences related are intended to “move sinful mankind to repentance and newnesse of life.” It then goes on to describe “that within these three fore- passed months of October, November, and December the devouring gulfes of the Sea hath swallowed up above two hundred saile of ships, as well of our own Country as of neighbouring Nations, with great store of passengers, seafaring men, and owners of the same, adventuring their dear lives in the managing of the aforesaid ships, with all their goods, and merchandizes, making for our country all lost; yea, all, I say, in these three fore-passed months, hath been lost and drenched in the deep vaults of this watery world, a thing both lamentable and fearfull, that in so short a time, nay, in a small part of the yeare, even in an instant, so many heavy mischances should happen, and so many worthy vessels of adventure mis- carrie, which had bin sufficient (if goodspeed had prevailed) to have inricht a whole Citie and bettered a kingdome; but such is the will of God, and such is His just indignation against us.”
“By certification from men of good accompt and calling, it is reported and knowne for truth, that in the month of October last, a fleete of fourteene saylo of ships making from Newcastle towards London, laden With sea-coale an other commodities of those parts, had their passage, by the tyranny of the windes, most untimely stopt, and violently caste into the ocean’s wombe, in which ships were perished to the number of a hundred and forty seafaring men, besides other passengers, both of men and women, which at that time made their watery graves in the deepe sea. This first strooke feare into the hearts of people, which hath been since seconded with many calamities, which lieth heavy upon the heart of the reporter.” The writer then goes on to relate that between “Dover and Calice there hath been found floating upon the waters in one weeke of fowle weather above seven hundred drowned persons of divers nations, as of English, Dutch, French, and Spanish, with parts and parcels of many splitted ships.” Further details are given at great length and in rather a wordy manner. For instance, the writer describes the great number of women who are made widows by the disasters at sea, “besides fatherlesse children and children fatherlesse.” Several examples are related of the force of the wind—”A man and his wife riding over Maidenhead Bridge upon one horse, by the fierceness of the wind, were blowne beside, and then drowned both horse and all, God be merciful unto us and preserve us from all such like mischances. The like mishap befell in November last unto two Yorkshire men, as it is verified by some gentlemen of the Inns of Court and Chancery, which knew the parties, the one of them a tanner, named Francis Browne, the other a clothier, called Richard Smith, both dwelling in a towne neere Wakefield side called Thorby; which two countriemen falling out upon small occassions wilfully purposed to come up to London, and their put their causes of themselves to the Lawes tryall; yet notwithstanding came they up together, where in riding over a bridge about Bedfordshire, and conferring of their inward grudges, they were blowne both beside into the river, where, by the fierceness of the windes, they were most lamentably drowned, both horse and men; and thus by sodaine death ended their malice, to the fear and amazement of all such as well could witness their envious proceedings. These and such like accidents may be fearful examples for the world to behold, especially for rich men, shewing to them the certaintie of life and goods subject to the chances of death and fortune, according to the saying of a worthy philosopher,
Full little thinks the man at morning sun
What hap to him befalls ere day be done.”
A great many other instances are related of the fury of the tempests, all of which the writer feels certain “have been laid upon us for our sinnes;” and winds up with a pious exhortation to take warning.
Another tract of the same character and date, also printed in black letter, has a larger and more elaborate woodcut on the titlepage, representing sinking ships, the shore strewed with dead bodies, and on the outside of a church tower the devil is seen throwing down the broken steeple. The following is the address to the reader:—” Reader, I do here present unto thee and to thy understanding (if thou hast any) some part of the lamentable losses and unrecoverable mischances that have happened by occassion of these late blustering stormes of winde, and an innumerable deal of rayne, the which a great many thousands have too true cause to beleeve, because they are sharers in the misfortunes that this outragious weather hath caused. Now, if thou hast sustained no loss thyselfe, perhaps thou wilt not beleeve these things to be true that I have written; but if thou wilt or doest beleeve, then pray to God that it will please Him to give them patience that are loosers, and humilitie that are winners, and give God thanks that he hath so blest thee that thou hast no share in these mis- haps. But if thou wilt not beleeve, goe and looke, or else remaine still in thy unbeliefe.” A copy of the woodcut is given on the preceding page. M.J.
(To be continued.) ..................