Rise of magazines in India
The history of journalism and publishing is characterised by a close interplay of technical innovation and social change, each promoting the other. Journalism and publishing, as known today, depend on a series of several major inventions – writing, paper, printing and investigative writing and well-researched writings, besides one crucial social development — the spread of literacy in urban as well as rural areas of our country. Basically, the magazine is a by-product of the newspaper. It is a compilation of various items written by different authors on subjects like politics, social, sports, entertainment, comments on current affairs, book reviews, etc.
The word magazine first appeared in 1731 with the occurrence of the Gentleman’s Magazine. The word, magazine, derived from the Arabic word, meaning ‘warehouse’, was used to describe the place which deposits large quantities of various goods, while the analogy used to describe a book that contained much useful information for the travellers and sailors.
The first publication which can be called a magazine was the German ‘Erbauliche Monaths Unteretungene’, launched in 1663. It was a literary and philosophical publication, and after its release, several other periodicals with similar content and topics, mostly targeted for an intellectual audience, were published.
Initially, the magazine started as a potpourri of various prime news items about social, political or economic news covered in the newspapers, besides literary and creative works like poetry, prose or reviews of prominent literary books. Such magazines were issued after a week or alternate week after such items were published first in the then newspapers.
The reception of success of the magazine was great but the cost of every issue was higher than the previous issue. Printing cost was higher vis-à-vis newspapers and the number of printed copies could not be more than a couple of thousand, because it was technically impossible to squeeze a larger amount of paper through the machine at one go. Distribution was also a big problem because it was difficult to move large number of magazines at great distances.
In the beginning, the thematic scope of a magazine was very narrow; it was mainly written by one author. A publication similar to modern, rather I should say today’s magazine – different themes and several authors – appeared in 1672 when a French author by the name of Jean Donneau Vize created de Mercure Gallant. It had a variety of content covering current events, theatre, literature and even sports. The concept of this magazine was copied by most of the European countries. Surprising enough, first woman’s magazine was released in London by the name The Lady’s Mercury. It was published for only four weeks in 1693. The first issue of the periodical was issued on 27 February 1693 by its founder, publisher, editor John Dunton. All these publications in the initial years were called periodicals.
Magazines in India
During the early 16th century, Christian missionaries brought printing presses to India for publishing evangelical materials and literature besides the Bible. All these activities were focused to assist conversion and evangelisation. This was the beginning of mass printed materials for people’s consumption.
James Augustus Hicky, a British citizen, was responsible for the first newspaper in India. Its first issue was released on 29 January 1780 in Calcutta, bearing the name Bengal Gazette. It was a weekly newspaper published in English and addressed exclusively to the large group of British residents in Calcutta. It was a two-page newspaper and the size of the paper was 12×8-inches inches carrying all the classified advertisements on the front page and the content of the paper on the other side. James Augustus Hicky was the founder, editor, printer, publisher and promoter. But this so-called newspaper never carried any news items about Indians.
Here, let me point out that journalists or the newsman were always hounded by the ruling class (as it is happening currently). So Warren Hasting finally took action against Hicky for defamation in 1781. Hicky was convicted and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs 2,000. But Bengal Gazette continued to appear regularly while Hicky was in prison. Hicky continued to lampoon Warren Hasting and in return, he was suppressed and harassed by Warren Hasting by very mean methods like raiding and confiscating his typefaces and printing materials. This was the beginning of the unceremonious end of India’s first newspaper. Finally, the seizure of the printing press was a severe blow to the already hurt editor and Hicky died in obscurity. Some say Hicky was the first creator of yellow journalism in India.
After the premature demise of Bengal Gazette, yet another Calcutta based Britisher, Sir James Silk Buckingham assumed the charge of the editorship of Calcutta Journal in 1818 and the first issue of Calcutta Journal, much-talked-about in social circles, was launched on 2 October 1818. It was an eight-page bi-weekly with a price tag of Re 1. Its content included political, commercial, social and literary news and views. Calcutta Journal was, in reality, the beginning of a news magazine sort of publication in our country. This publication was entirely different from Hicky’s Bengal Gazette which mostly carried gossip, scandals and scurrilous writings.
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