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The Illustrated London News

The Pioneering Pictorial Journalism of the ILN

The celebrated weekly periodical the Illustrated London News was founded by the English bookseller and entrepreneur Herbert Ingram in May 1842. It proved to be a runaway success and soon spawned many imitators and rivals, including Harpers in the US and the Graphic in the UK. Ingram's formula for success was simple yet inspired. First he recognised that steadily rising literacy levels were creating new mass markets eager for exciting reading matter. Second he sensed that the British Empire's confident presence throughout the world would foster in the minds of the Victorian reading public a voracious appetite for instant news coverage of events both at home and abroad. Victorians were increasingly curious about the world - and those that found reading an unnecessary chore could always look at the pictures anyway!

Ingram contracted the leading artists of the day to provide him with a news magazine unrivalled in its use of pictorial content - maps, charts, woodblock illustrations, photographs, lithographic prints, colourful full page advertisements and so on. The ILN did not concentrate on news stories set in London at all. Whole sections and profusely-illustrated supplements were devoted to subjects and areas as diverse as notable volcanic eruptions (Etna, Krakatoa etc.), the Crimean and the US civil wars, Cyprus and Gibraltar, the rise of the Railways, the glorious Raj and many, many topics besides.

Good news for today's collectors of the ILN is that the magazine was printed on very good quality paper indeed - glazed woodpulp - this means that with the exception of the earliest issues most copies of the ILN can still be found in VG+ condition. Secondhand copies of the ILN can be purchased today either as individual issues or as bound collections of six-monthly or annual runs. Always be sure -especially when buying bound volumes - to check that the rich pages have not already been raided for images by print dealers or scrapbook enthusiasts. The cornucopia of pictures and maps that Ingram shoehorned into his pioneering pictorial certainly encourages such behaviour. Generally, complete six monthly runs sell for between $112-160 depending upon binding and condition, the celebrated 1878 Cyprus sequence usually sells for much more - as much as $1300 on a good day.