About the Illustrated London News

The Illustrated London News was the world's first illustrated newspaper. Founded by Herbert Ingram and his friend Mark Lemon, the editor of Punch, first edition of the Illustrated London News appeared on 14 May 1842; it continued to be published into the 1990's. Thousands of engravings and lithographs were printed in the Illustrated London News during its long run, depicting a huge and fascinating range of places, people and news events from around the world. These prints together form an extensive pictorial record of the Victorian era. We have a very extensive stock of ILN prints, which you can view here. 

Price at sixpence upon it's launch, the magazine had sixteen pages and thirty-two wood engravings. 26,000 copies of the first issue were sold. Within a few months it was selling over 65,000 copies a week. 

Ingram employed leading artists of the day to illustrate social events, news stories, towns and cities. The whole spectrum of Victorian Britain was recorded pictorially in The Illustrated London News for many decades. Special events were important to the success of The Illustrated London News. The magazine did very well during the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the edition that reported the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852 sold over 150,000 copies. Illustrations came from all corners of the globe. By 1855 Ingram was using colour and had artists in Great Britain and continental Europe racing to the scene of stories to capture the drama in print. The Crimean War caused a further boost to sales. By 1863, after Ingram's death, the Illustrated London News was selling over 300,000 copies a week, far higher than other journals. For example, newspapers such as the Daily News sold 6,000 copies at this time, and even the largest selling newspaper, The Times, only sold 70,000 copies. The publication was later a source of early informal artistic education for the Vincent van Gogh.

The ILN held a commanding position in the market place. When Andrew Spottiswoode started a rival paper, the Pictorial Times, Ingram purchased it and merged it with the Illustrated London News. The Illustrated Times attempted to challenge the supremacy of the ILN in the 1850s, but it survived barely a decade and was purchased by Ingram in 1855. Prints from The Illustrated Times are fairly hard to come by. The Graphic did seriously challenge the supremacy of the ILN from 1870. Although never reaching the circulation of the ILN, it did take a good market share until the turn of the century. Compared to the ILN, prints from The Graphic are not that easy to find. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News targeted a niche market, focusing on Theatre and Sports. In the 1870s and 1880s it enjoyed some popularity. Today, its pages are quite scarce and not commonly available. We have accumulated a modest stock over the years.

Until 1880 the images were printed as relief/ wood engravings. This involved using wood as the material on which the image to be printed was created from the artist's drawing. The wood was cut away from the area which was not to be printed, leaving the image to be printed standing up from the 'block', as it was called. For larger illustrations, several smaller blocks were made and then joined to form a single, larger print. This method was progressively replaced by lithography (surface printing) from about 1880. Although this process was invented at the end of the 18th century, it did not see common use until the latter part of the 19th century, when it was adapted to mechanisation. The design was drawn on to a flat stone surface, using a greasy ink, which was then 'fixed' chemically.

The paper used by the Illustrated London News and other papers of the day, was a wood pulp made using one the numerous chemical processes first developed around 1800. Early issues used unglazed papers, whilst later ones had a much smoother glazed surface, which presented the illustrations in a finer way. Until about 1865, the typical weights of papers, in grams per square metre (gsm) was about 70 gsm. A thicker paper - typically 90gsm - was then used until around 1875, with later editions printed on paper of around 100 gsm.  The survival over time of the pages from this famous magazine demonstrates they were of higher quality than paper used in many of today's periodicals. Although there can be a tendency for the text printed on the back (verso) of some prints to show through, or bleed, to the print occasionally, this rarely detracts. Any marked 'bleed' is noted in our descriptions of condition.