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Punch Magazine

Updated on March 9, 2010

Punch is a long running and well-known English comic weekly, the most famous journal of the kind, published from 1841 to 1992 and from 1996 to 2002. The success of Charles Philipon's Paris Charivari induced a staff of several Englishmen - some, as Douglas William Jerrold, William Makepeace Thackeray, and John Leech, later famous - to organize for the publication of a London Charivari, of which whole pages of text had been set up when the scheme collapsed. This undertaking had, however, some indirect influence on the subsequent Punch. The idea of Punch appears to have been conceived originally by Ebenezer Landells, a Northumbrian wood engraver and draftsman, and to have been developed by Henry Mayhew, a brilliant humorist of the time. "Mr. Punch" was the traditional jester of the puppet show transformed into "the laughing philosopher and man of letters; the essence of all wit, the concentration of all wisdom." As finally agreed, Mayhew, Mark Lemon, and Joseph Stirling Coyne were to be co-editors, Landells was to find drawings and engravings, and Douglas Jerrold and Gilbert Abbott a Beckett were to be among the outside contributors. The first number appeared on July 17, 1841. In two days two editions, each of 5,000 copies, were sold out.

After some early vicissitudes, Punch became in English institution. A list of its writers and artists includes many famous names, such as Thackeray, "Tom" Hood, Charles James Lever, Tom Taylor, Cuthbert Bede (Edward Bradley), Artemas Ward, George Augustus Sala, Sir Henry Lucy, John Leech, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), Sir John Tenniel, George du Maurier, Harry Furniss, Philip William May, (Edward) Linley Sambourne, Sir Bernard Partridge, and Graham Laidler. The editors and their terms of editorship follow: Mark Lemon (1841-1870); Shirley Brooks (1870-1874); Tom Taylor (1874-1880); Sir Francis Cowley Burnand (1880-1906); Sir Owen Seaman (1906-1932) ; Edmund Valpy Knox 1932-1949) ; Cyril Kenneth Bird (1949-1952) ; Malcolm Muggeridge (1953-1957) ; and Bernard Hollowood 1958- ). In its long career Punch has done much to laugh out of court various shams, fads, affectations, and forms of ostentation. In British politics it has remained wholly free from party bias. The present application of the word "cartoon" originated with Punch, the occasion being the first great exhibition of cartoons for the Houses of Parliament (July 1843), when Mr. Punch appeared with a rival series of sarcastic designs.


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