On 14 May 1842, 175 years ago today, the Illustrated London News, the world’s first illustrated newspaper, debuted. Founded by Herbert Ingram of Lincolnshire, the paper was a pioneer in pictorial journalism. The British Newspaper Archive is proud to hold more than 7,000 issues of the Illustrated London News across its 161-year run for you to explore.
From its inaugural edition, the editors were confident in their endeavour.
‘We take the world of newspapers by storm, and flaunt a banner on which the words “Illustrated News” become symbols of a fresher purpose, and a more enlarged design, than was ever measured in that hemisphere till now’.
The renowned publication covered a wide range of events across the globe including politics, war, science, art, and culture. It often dedicated full features to the latest technology and innovations, printed illustrations of discoveries such as King Tutankhamen’s tomb, committed special attention to the royal family, and, in later years, dedicated a yearly issue to the monarchy.
In May 1842, the Illustrated London News launched the same week as Queen Victoria’s first masquerade ball. The edition gave significant coverage to the event with detailed illustrations by John Gilbert.
Only moments before it was to go to press, the editors received news of a devastating fire in the city of Hamburg. There was not enough time to dispatch an artist, so the paper contacted the British Museum for a copy of an engraving of the city. Using the engraving, an artist created an interpretation of the fire. The paper wanted to prove that it was a source for current news. However, after this event, the paper strived to ensure this was not a reoccurring practice, and illustrations were created from eye witnesses.
The Illustrated London News was printed every Saturday. Initially, it cost sixpence and by the time it finished in May 2003, it cost £2.50. The first issue sold 26,000 copies and quickly grew in popularity. In 1851, its circulation was up of 130,000 and increased to 200,000 during its coverage of the Crimean War. During the war, the first war artist, Constantin Guys, submitted illustrations from the front line. Along with talented artists, the Illustrated London News attracted talented writers. Contributors included the following:
‘Walter Besant, Robert Louise Stevenson, George Merdith, Thomas Hardy, J M Barrie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rudyard Kiplin. G K Chesterton wrote “Our Notebook” for 31 years and was succeeded, for more than 40 years, by Arthur Bryant.’
By the 1970s, the paper’s readership was declining, and to combat financial difficulties, it reduced its publication from weekly issues to once a month. In 1981, it further cut back its publication to four times a year. In 1992, the paper celebrated its 150-year anniversary with a commemorative issue. The edition looked at the paper’s long history of reporting by each decade. The commemorative issue took a look at the world’s growing passion for sports and the rising demand for art, as well as reviewing its own origins.
The final issue of the Illustrated London News was printed in May 2003.
Searching the Illustrated London News
You can choose to search only the Illustrated London News from the homepage. Select the Choose a title option. All of the British Newspaper Archive’s titles are listed in alphabetical order. Locate and select the Illustrated London News.
You will be brought to a search page where you can search for a keyword or narrow your search by date. If you want to browse the newspaper, we recommend that you select dates from the filter on the left rather than searching for a keyword. This will allow you to view all the editions.
Classic Illustrated London News images
The Civil War in America, Saturday 29 August 1863
Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Saturday 25 June 1887
From pavement chalking to arson, window breaking, and bombing: the progress of militant suffragism, Saturday 24 May 1913
Patriotic demonstrations before the royal residence in London on the night of the declaration of war, Saturday 08 August 1914
Anglo-Irish treaty signed 6 December 1921, Saturday 10 December 1921
Destruction after a German attack on London, 14 September 1940
VE-Day celebrations outside Buckingham Palace, Saturday 19 May 1945
Opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympics at Wembley Stadium, 7 August 1948
Painting to Eiffel Tower, 6 September 1969
Margaret Thatcher as the leader of the conservative party, 1 May 1979
Birth of Prince Harry, 1 November 1984