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by Robin S. Hunt and John Weedy

PART ONE 1873-1901

For over a Century the Illustrated London News has issued special souvenir editions for special events. In this, the first of four articles, we record these publications which make a fascinating catalogue of British and Foreign history

The first attempt continuously to record current events in pictures came on Saturday May 14th, 1842 when Herbert Ingrams published the first number of The Illustrated London News. He hit upon the title remembering his time as printer and newsagent in Nottingham when his customers came to his shop and simply asked for any newspaper which contained the London news. As his front page heading (which lasted until 1965) he chose an engraving of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the centre background and the Lord Mayor’s processional barges sailing up the River Thames.

The first issue of The Illustrated London News

The first issue sold 20,000 copies. By the end of the year the weekly circulation had risen to 60,000 copies. 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, saw a circulation of 80,000 and in 1855, stimulated by the abolition of the penny newspaper stamp, 170,000 weekly issues were published.

Circulation continued to rise and the ILN began to feel comfortable. However, in 1869 the management received a shock. A rival appeared when W. L. Thomas, a former member of the ILN team, brought out The Graphic. Not only was its content of a high quality (its coverage of the Franco—Prussian War 1870—71 received very warm praise) but its format was fresh. Each individual copy was enclosed in a wrapper. The ILN brought out its copies without a wrapper and subscribers were offered a portfolio which would hold up to 6 months copies which could then be bound into half-yearly volumes. The Graphic also introduced a new type of issue; the special number in coloured wrappers. For example there was the Christmas number of 1870 in blue wrappers, the Royal Wedding number of 1871 (HRH The Princess Louise to the Marquis of Lorne) in white and gold wrappers and the Thanksgiving number (for the recovery from typhoid fever of the Prince of Wales) of 1872 also in white and gold wrapper.

It was only in 1873 that the first ILN special number appeared. This was an ‘extra’ undated issue which commemorated the death of the Emperor Napoleon III of France. It was titled ‘The Life and Reign of the Emperor Napoleon III’. (Appendix List No. 1)

Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte had come to power in France in the 1848 Revolution, but he proved to be a man of little inspiration or strength of character. He involved France in the Crimean War and towards the end of his reign his lack of judgement gave Bismark the excuse to attack France and begin what was for France the disastrous Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Captured by the Prussians at Sedan, held prisoner until peace was signed and then deposed, he sought exile in England. He died on January 9th 1873 at Camden Place, Chiselhurst, Kent, leaving a widow and an only son aged 17.

The issue has blue wrappers with the 1853 wedding portraits of Napoleon and his wife Eugenie printed in black. It measures 42 x 30cm, has 32 pages, was priced at sixpence and was published during the 3rd week of January. The number concludes its eulogistic survey of the Emperor’s life and reign with a poignant description of his last illness, death and funeral.

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