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Treasure 55: Punch
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Treasure 55: Punch

Historic Documents
Léa Moreau
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Treasure 55: Punch
Historic Documents
Treasure 55: Punch
The first edition of the satirical magazine Punch was published on 17 July 1841. The title being derived from a conversation between the founders who claimed that - just as the alcoholic drink of the same name - the magazine would be nothing without Lemon (Punch's first editor was named Mark Lemon).

Despite a difficult start of low circulation figures, the success of the magazine was ensured with the decision to publish an annual edition, or Almanack. Copies of these soared and shortly after the magazine was taken over by the printing firm of Bradbury and Evans whereupon it entered its golden age.

Modern satirical magazines - such as Private Eye or the French publication Charlie Hebdo - often purposefully push the boundaries of good taste in order to land a searing political blow of maximum impact. In the Victorian age, Punch attempted to capture the mood of the public in tasteful, yet no-less provocative terms.

Punch frequently used illustrations to highlight contemporary problems in a stark visual manner. So much so in fact, that it can claim to have changed the English language in the process. The original definition of the word cartoon meant simply a preliminary drawing for a work of art - similar to "sketch" - with no additional meaning. However, the word took on the additional connotation of being applied to humour with the publication of Punch's 'Cartoon No.1 - Substance and Shadow'.

The enduring popularity of the magazine is in many ways, inextricably linked to its own downfall. With changing appetites for publications and satire, Punch desperately needed to keep re-inventing itself, but seen by many as a national institution, change was far from easy. Eventually the magazine succumbed to the pressure of low circulation and finally ceased publication in 2002, leaving behind 160 years of humour and wit.

Punch's lasting legacy is a snapshot of opinion on some key historic events from the preceding decades - notably including coronations, scandals, wars, budgets, coalitions and many other subjects high on the political agenda.
Satirical magazine
Aberdeen Local Studies