Monday, April 8, 2013

From the (Victorian) Bookshelf: Punch Magazine

In the course of researching Victorian era costumes many of us have run across satirical images like the one above, riffing the fashions of the time.  Satires of the mode are not only funny but they often give us some insight as to who was wearing what and the perceptions of the fashion trends by the masses.  Many of these cartoons came from the British humor magazine Punch.  Punch was published from 1841-2002 and was sort of like the Onion of it's day, focusing on social and political humor.  And Punch was famous for it's cartoons; reportedly the use of the word "cartoon" for a political comic was first used by Punch.  

So can one read Punch today?  Of course, this is the digital age!

The Online Books Page has a serial archive of Punch from 1841 to 1922.  Once you select an issue  there is an icon slideshow of the pages of the issue and options to read online, or download, including an download specially formatted for the kindle.  While the years are incomplete there is a tremendous amount of material here not only the aforementioned cartoons, but hilarious descriptions of such Victorian icons as the Crystal Palace and essays lampooning Victorian life and politics.

In addition, while it is no longer in print, Punch has it's own website with a searchable database of cartoon images from 1841 through 2002.  While it's unclear to me how complete this database is, if you're only interested in the cartoons it's a little easier to wade through than the digital archive.

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