An amusing 19th-century cartoon turning on rivalries in the UK publishing trade, with wonderful resonance to our current, ahem, situation.
With great visual economy, the cartoon attacks the Penny Magazine, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK), and the Society’s founder Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), at the time serving as Lord Chancellor.
“Lord Brougham was responsible for establishing the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and through it, publishing numerous booklets and magazines with generic information for a mass audience. Complex histories or scientific theories were reduced to overly simplistic articles of little value except entertainment, a genre that became known as Trumpery.” (Peters)
The SDUK’s Penny Magazine was an illustrated weekly aimed at a working-class audience, and priced accordingly at only a penny per issue. The low price undercut its competitors and drew the ire of journalists and illustrators such as C.J. Grant, who drew the cartoon offered here.
“Brougham, in his Chancellor’s wig, with hat and knee-breeches, runs in profile to the right, as a newsboy blowing a small toy trumpet. In his right hand is a sheaf of the ‘Penny Magazine’; many other copies of the paper are under his arm and on his back is a sack (or brief-bag) crammed with ‘Materials for the Penny Cyclopcedia to commence in 1833 & to end the Devil knows when’. From his trumpet come the words: ‘Entertaining Knowledge here—Trump Trump Trumpery Trump—Just printed and published the Penny Magazine, All works not issued by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge are Illegal—Orders now taken for the forthcoming New Penny Cyclopaedia, Trump Trump’. On the left is a building, ‘Office Of The [Socie]ty for the Diffusion of [usefu]l Knowledge’, constructed of large volumes, and propped up by a beam inscribed ‘Monopoly’. The books are (reading downwards) ‘History’, ‘Chemistry’, ‘Astronomy’, ‘Mathematics’, ‘Algebra’, ‘Geography’, ‘Travels’, ‘Botany’, with others without titles. Close by is a jumbled heap of books and papers with a placard: ‘The Encyclopedia Britannica & other Waste Paper to be Sold’.”
“The ‘Penny Magazine’ (31 Mar. 1832-1845) was a rival to the many ephemeral penny weeklies of the day and correspondingly unpopular with some illustrators and journalists; it was hated by the Radicals for its avoidance of politics. The preface (Dec. 1832) to the first volume of the Magazine defended it from the “foolish” charge of “Monopoly”: its success depended on its large circulation and the new method of printing text and illustrations from stereoscopic plates.” (George, cited from web site of the British Museum)
Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum, vol. XI, 1954. Mark Peters, “Entertaining Knowledge here – Trump Trump Trumpery Trump,” posted on Jan. 4, 2017 on the web site of the Princeton University Graphic Arts Collection.