- Museum number
Once a week. An illustrated miscellany of literature, art, science, & popular invention. Volume I. July to December 1859. London: Bradbury & Evans, 11, Bouverie Street. London: Bradbury & Evans, printers, Whitefriars. 544p. Twenty-four issues. The illustration on page 130 is after Leech, accompanying the poem “Retrospective”, by C. P. William. The illustration on page 439 is after Small field, accompanying the story “Where? There & thereafter”, by S. Langley. Robin de Beaumont’s notes about this volume are on the front endpaper verso.
Binding: The case is detached from the text block. Text sewn on three sawi-in cords. Brown half calf. Marbled sides and red ink edges. The spine is divided into six panels by five false raised bands, and one smaller panel at the tail, with gold fillets tooled across the spine above and below each band. In panel two, on a dark red leather onlay, the words: “/ Once/ a week./” are tooled in gold. In panel four, the words: “/ July/ to December/ 1859/” are tooled in gold. Panel six at the tail has the volume number “I” tooled in gold.
- Production date
Height: 244 millimetres
Thickness: 32 millimetres
Width: 177 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Gleeson White pages 17-37. Extracts.
ONCE A WEEK
On the second of July1859 appeared the first number of Once a
Week, 'an illustrated miscellany of Litera¬ture, Art, Science, and Popular Information.'
Despite the choice of an extraordinary time of year, as we should now considerit, to float a new venture, the result proved fortunate. Not merely does the first series of this notable magazine deserve recognition as the pioneer of its class; its superiority is no less provable than its priority. The earliest attempt to provide a magazine with original illustrations by the chief artists of its time was not merely a bold and well-considered experiment but, as the thirteen volumes of its first series show, an instant and admirably sustained triumph. No other thirteen volumes of an English magazine, at any period, contain so much first-class work. The invention and know¬ledge, the mastery of the methods employed, and the superb achievements of some of its contributors entitle it to be ranked as one of the few artistic enterprises of which England may be justly proud.
When the connection of Dickens with his old publishers was severed, and All the Year Round issued from its own office, Messrs. Bradbury and Evans projected a rival paper that was in no sense-an imitation of the former. The reasons for its success lie on the surface. Started by the proprietors of Punch, with the co-operation of an artistic staff that has been singularly fortunate in enlisting always the services of the best men of their day, it is obvious that few periodicals have ever been launched under happier auspices. Its aim was obviously to do for fiction, light literature, and belles-lettres, what Punch had accomplished so admirably for satire and caricature. At that time, with no rivals worth consideration, a fixed intention to obtain for a new magazine the active co-operation of the best men of all schools was within the bounds of possibility. To-day a millionaire with a blank cheque-book could not even hope to succeed in such a project. He would find many first-rare artists, whom no amount of money would attract, and others with connections that would be imperiled if they contributed to a rival enterprise. There are many who prefer the safety of an established periodical to the risk which must needs attend any 'up-to-date' venture. Now Once a Week was not merely 'up-to-date' in its period, but far ahead of the popular taste. As we cannot rival it to-day in its own line, even the most ardent defender of the present at the expense of the past must own that the improvement in process-engraving and the increased truth of facsimile reproductions it offers have not inspired draughts¬men to higher efforts. Why so excellent a magazine is not flourishing to-day is a mystery. It would seem as if the public, faithful as they are to non-illustrated periodicals, are fickle where pictures are concerned. But the memory of the third series of Once a Week relieves the public of the responsibility; changes in the direction and aim of the periodical were made, and all for the worse; so that it lost its high position and no more interested the artist. Punch, its sponsor, seems to have the secret of eternal youth, possibly because its original programme is still consistently maintained.
In another feature it resembled Punch more than any previous periodical. In The London Charivari many of the pictures have always been inserted quite independently of the text. Some have a title, and some a brief scrap of dialogue to explain their story; but the picture is not there to elucidate the anecdote, so much as the title, or fragment of conversation, helps to elucidate the picture. Unless an engraving be from a painting, or a topographical view, the rule in English magazines then, as now, is that it must illustrate the text. This is not the place to record an appreciation of the thorough and consistent way in which the older illustrators set about the work of reiterating the obvious incident, depicting for all eyes to see what the author had suggested in his text already, for it is evident that a design untrammelled by any fixed programme ought to allow the artist more play for his fancy. Nevertheless, the less frequent illustrations to its serial fiction are well up to the level of those practically independent of the text. In Once a Week there are dozens of pictures which are evidently purely the invention of the draughtsman. That a modest little poem, written to order usually, satisfies the conventions of established precedent, need not be taken as evidence that traverses the argument. Once a Week …
The first volume of Once a Week contains, as Millais' first contribution, Magenta (p. io), a study of a girl who has just read a paper with news of the great battle that gave its name to the terrible colour which typifies the period. It is badly printed in the copy at my side, and, although engraved by Dalziels, is not an instance of their best work. In Grand¬mother's Apology (p. 41) we have a most delightful illustration to Tennyson, reproduced in his collected volume, but not else¬where. On the Water (p. 70) and La Fille bien gardee (p. 306) may be passed without comment. But The Plague of Elliant (p. 316), a powerful drawing of a woman dragging a cart wherein are the bodies of her nine dead children, has been selected, more than once, as a typical example of the illustrator at his best. Maude Clare (p. 382), A Lost Love (p. 4821, and St. Bartholomew (p. 514), complete the Millais' in vol. i.
In the second volume we find The Crown of Love (p. 10), a poem by George Meredith. This was afterwards painted and exhibited under the same title in the Royal Academy of 1875. A Wife (p. 32), The Head of Bran (p. 132), Practising (p. 242), (a girl at a piano), and Musa (p. 598), complete the list of the five in this volume.
Simon Cooke. Once a Week, Keene, and Samuel Lucas
Simon Cooke. Samuel Lucas, Once a Week, and the Development of Sixties Illustration
This volume contains the issues for July to December 1859.
- Not on display
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Retrospective [poem.
Associated Title: Where? There & Thereafter.
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number