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Punch was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire published from 1841 to 1992 and from 1996 to 2002. Punch material was also collected in book formats as early as the 1800s, including Pick of the Punch annuals with cartoons and text features, Punch and the War a 1941 collection of WWII-related cartoons, and A Big Bowl of Punch which was republished a number of times. Many Punch cartoonists of the late 20th century published collections of their own work partly based on Punch contributions.


Punch was founded on 17 July 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. At its founding it was jointly edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon. Initially it was subtitled The London Charivari, this being a reference to a satirical humour magazine published in Francemarker under the title Le Charivari. Reflecting their satiric and humorous intent, the two editors took for their name and masthead the anarchic glove puppet, Mr. Punch; the name also referred to a joke made early on about one of the magazine's first editors, Lemon, that "punch is nothing without lemon". Mayhew ceased to be joint editor in 1842 and became "suggestor in chief" until he severed his connection in 1845. Punch was responsible for the word sense "cartoon" as a comic drawing. The illustrator Archibald Henning designed the cover of the magazine's first issues. The cover design varied in the early years, though Richard Doyle designed what became the magazine's masthead in 1849.

In the 1860s and 1870s, conservative Punch faced competition from upstart liberal journal Fun, but after about 1874, Fun's fortunes faded. At Evans's café in London, the two journals had "Round tables" in competition with each other.

After months of financial difficulty and lack of market success, Punch became a staple for British drawing rooms because of its sophisticated humour and absence of offensive material, especially when viewed against the satirical press of the time. The Times used small pieces from Punch as column fillers, giving the magazine free publicity and indirectly granting a degree of respectability, a privilege not enjoyed by any other comic publication. Punch would share a friendly relationship with not only The Times but journals aimed at intellectual audiences such as the Westminster Review, which published a fifty-three page illustrated article on Punch's first two volumes. Historian Richard Altick writes that "To judge from the number of references to it in the private letters and memoirs of the 1840s...Punch had become a household word within a year or two of its founding, beginning in the middle class and soon reaching the pinnacle of society, royalty itself".

Increasing in readership and popularity throughout the remainder of the 1840s and 1850s, Punch was the success story of a threepenny weekly paper that had become one of the most talked-about and enjoyed periodicals. Punch enjoyed an audience including: Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Edward FitzGerald, Charlotte Brontë, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell. Punch gave several phrases to the English language, including The Crystal Palacemarker, and the "Curate's egg" (first seen in an 1895 cartoon). Several British humour classics were first serialised in Punch, such as the Diary of a Nobody and 1066 and All That.

Circulation peaked during the 1940s at 175,000 and declined thereafter, until the magazine was forced to close in 1992 after 150 years of publication.

Gallery of selected early covers

Image:Punch volume 1 cover (1841).png|The first cover shows Punch hanging the DevilImage:Punch magazine cover 1843 july 1 fifth volume no 103.png|1843: 1 July cover shows Punch straddling a trumpeterImage:Punch.jpg|Punch magazine cover from 1867 shows Richard Doyle's 1849 illustrationImage:Punch magazine cover 1916 april 26 volume 150 no 3903.png|1916: 26 April cover shows Richard Doyle's masthead with colour and advertisements

1996 resurrection

In early 1996, the Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the rights to the name, and it was re-launched later that year. It was reported that the magazine was intended to be a spoiler aimed at Private Eyemarker, which had published many items critical of Fayed. The magazine never became profitable in its new incarnation, and at the end of May 2002 it was announced that Punch would once more cease publication. Press reports quoted a loss of £16 million over the six years of publication, with only 6,000 subscribers at the end.

Whereas the earlier version of Punch prominently featured the clownish character Punchinello (Punch of Punch and Judy) performing antics on front covers, the resurrected Punch magazine did not use this character, but featured on its weekly covers a photograph of a boxing glove, thus informing its readers that the new magazine intended its name to mean "punch" in the sense of a punch in the eye.

In 2004, much of the archive, including the famous Punch table, was acquired by the British Librarymarker.


Editorial meeting of Punch magazine in the late 19th century
Editors of Punch were:

John Tenniel's "Our New 'First Lord' at Sea" for the 13 October 1877 issue
Cartoonists who worked for the magazine included: Notable authors who contributed at one time or another include Kingsley Amis, Alex Atkinson, John Betjeman, Willard R. Espy, A.P. Herbert, Thomas Hood, Douglas William Jerrold (1841-1857), James Leavey, George du Maurier, George Melly, John McCrae, A.A. Milne, Anthony Powell, W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, William Makepeace Thackeray, Sir Henry Lucy, John Hollingshead, Artemus Ward, Somerset Maugham, P.G. Wodehouse, Keith Waterhouse, Quentin Crisp, Olivia Manning, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Grenfell, E.M. Delafield, Stevie Smith, Virginia Graham, Joan Bakewell, Penelope Fitzgerald, Peter Dickinson.


Punch gave its name to the Lucknowmarker-based satirical Urdu weekly Awadh Punch (1877-1936), which in turn inspired dozens of other "Punch" periodicals in India.


  1. See Schoch, Richard, Performing Bohemia (2004) (copy downloaded 13 October 2006).
  2. See Altick, Richard. Punch: The Lively Youth of a British Institution, 1841-1851 (Ohio State University Press, 1997), 17.

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