Advertisements were vital to the success of most popular magazines. Publishers promoted them in other titles in their own stable and through adverts in weekly journals like the Athenaeum. They announced new ventures through the medium of advertising both in papers and more dramatically on the streets. The sensation novelist Mary Braddon wrote of her name being 'blazoned ... on hoardings & railway stations in connection with our new Magazine' - Belgravia which she edited from 1867 - 76, and in which she serialized several of her own novels. Apart from overt advertisements for their other publications, "advertorial" and puffing was slipped into editorial columns, answers to readers' letters and reviews. These practices were particularly a feature of magazines addressed to women, though puffing in book reviews was a fairly common practice  throughout periodical genres. (See Further Information at the end of this Page)

Though magazines from early in the century, and indeed the previous century, carried advertisements, these were heavily taxed, so the financial benefit to publishers was limited. At the mid-century, the tax was eventually repealed after a test case when Novello, publisher of the Musical Times, stuffed the paper with advertisements, mainly for his own publications, in order to render it liable to extortionate taxation, thus demonstrating the absurdity of the "taxes on knowledge". This new stream of income encouraged the publication of new magazines like Belgravia and  John Maxwell's earlier venture, Temple Bar, launched in 1860.

Inside cover and the "Temple Bar Advertiser" (detail) of an issue of the magazine in 1875  after the publisher Bentley acquired it from Maxwell.

Adverts were printed on the wrappers and in special pages at the front and back of the magazine, as in the "Temple Bar Advertiser" illustrated above. Flyers could also be inserted, some being printed on tinted paper or printed in more than one colour.(See below) The practice of keeping the "advertiser" separate may have been convenient for publisher and printer. But whereas a newspaper could slot ads in wherever there were convenient spaces, this system had to accommodate differently shaped blocks all on one page, with the not uncommon result -odd to modern eyes - seen above where the reader has to rotate the page in order to read about Wheeler and Wilson sewing machines.


*This heading from an insertion in  the "Ladies' Cabinet Advertiser" 1840 announces the new premises of hairdressers ( though this term is not used) Messrs Honey and Skelton. Their 'friends and the Public' are advised that in Prince Henry's Palace (formerly Cardinal Wolsey's) 'elegant and commodious premises ... their well-known style of CUTTING and DRESSING in every variety of embellishment of the Coiffure is conducted either in the elegant saloon (formerly the audience chamber of Cardinal Wolsey) or, if preferred, in separate apartments.'
The advertisement continues with the announcement of the Newly-invented Ladies' Patent Metallic Perukes, claiming durability because of the metallic spring, 'perfect imitation of nature' close fit to the head 'with a tenacity which never fails' and so light  that 'the wearer can scarcely feel it on her head'.
Then follow further advertisements for Circassian Cream for Ladies and Gentlemen whose hair is 'in a declining state', and the Vegetable Extract, another treatment to deter premature baldness.
One suspects that Circassian Cream, patronised by the 'principal English and Continental nobility'
, needed a rather deeper pocket than Scrubb's Ammonia

The style of side ringlets with hair drawn smoothly over the scalp, here (1843) decorated for evening wear with ribbons, and below (1840)with a velvet braid ornamented with ribbons on one side and ostrich feathers on the other, would adapt itself very well to a patent metallic peruke. 

When issues were bound together in volume form, however, the binders usually stripped out the wrappers and the pages of advertisements. As most periodicals housed in libraries are in the bound format there is relatively little readily accessible material for scholars interested in magazine advertising until late in the century, when new technologies allowed the cheap penny papers to blend copy and advertising visually on the same page. (The more expensive journals seem to have retained the old ways.) Since many advertisements still consisted entirely of text the reader could be caught unawares by a headline signifying a hot topic in the press, accompanying a half column of text in a font identical to that of the adjacent fashion article.

'THE NEW WOMAN will not put up with the old medicines. Pills or Epsom salts are unpleasant to take, disagreeable in their more immediate effects, and prone to leave serious aggravations of one particular trouble for which they are taken, behind them.
Nature's children are always well ... The New Woman, like the old one, is subject to occasional headaches and bilious sickness. Dr Lynn's Fig Remedy is a fruit syrup, very nice to take, and not in the least sickly or over-sweet, and its effect is magical. ... A dose is taken at bedtime; in the morning the biliousness, backache and "generally disordered" feeling are gone ... and the invalid of the previous day is bright, cheerful and vigorous, in fact (though not in the conventional sense) a NEW WOMAN. ...'

FOOTNOTE: Peruke -- a full wig designed to resemble natural hair in colour and styling.


The Victorians loved colour in their magazines but this was always an expensive process, whether  produced by hand-painting as  in the  fashion plates, or  via a more mechanised, though highly skilled, process such as chromolithography used for the special 'colour prints' given with Christmas supplements. The following two advertisements illustrate the effectiveness of a single colour in an image. In the Scottish Provident advertisement from Temple Bar  (1875) the orange-red tone makes for an eye-catching border in the formal design appropriate to the institution.

In this one for Cherry Blossom "Presentation Cases" of perfume, toilet powder and soap the advertiser exploits the fact that the inside back cover of Annie Swan's The Woman at Home (1894) will be printed in the same coloured ink as the front cover of the magazine - a rich indigo to produce a striking image of a "Blue Nun".  Real life Victorian nuns were not of course  likely to be using perfume or  expensive toilet  products,  but  the  image has connotations of  innocent beauty and  explains  the typically Victorian pun  inscribed  at the the bottom of the advert : "Nun Nicer". (Victorians appear to have loved puns too.)


For examples of advertorial  see the articles on Readers' Letters to Victorian Magazines and  Editorial Columns
There are examples of Christmas advertising still retained on the Christmas Fare and  Christmas Crackers  pages in the archive. For more about Victorian advertisements or Victorian beauty and hair treatments see
Beauty-Skin Deep and Ladies' Page - Beauty Secrets.
For a flavour of the contents in Belgravia see Beauty-Skin Deep and Victorian Christmas

For important information on Copyright, Citations, Images and References please see my Home Page. There you will also find an explanation of the aims of Victorian Page, and  a note about me.

*This sign indicates a paragraph or image you may have accessed from a link on the Contents Page. Occasionally there may be more than one such item on the same page.

©  Barbara Onslow 2007    Page Published August 2007, last updated March 31st 2010