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I've just watched the trailer for the new Dickens movie. I'm not usually bothered by inaccuracies in historical dramas, but I'd like to politely request that film makers STOP PUTTING MASSIVE HEADLINES ON VICTORIAN NEWSPAPERS.
133 replies and sub-replies as of Nov 26 2017

ughhhh so wrong
Question: the lack of massive headlines, was that because all the papers were typeset with real physical letters and they would not have those massively big ones?
Newspapers probably wouldn't have had large type on hand, but that's simply because headlines weren't used at this time. It would have been easy enough to manufacture & use large type with their printing technology - it was used for posters and other forms of print culture.
Thanks. I could come up with too many possible reasons, so thank you for the answer.
By lines were also rare in 19th century newspapers.
I'm not a native speaker: what exactly is (or do you mean with) a "By line"?
The vast majority of nineteenth-century Journalism was published anonymously, with no author’s name attached. There are some exceptions, and some who published under a pseudonym, but until very late-Victorian period anonymity was the convention.
The name of the author of the newspaper article is the "byline." Even today some columns have no byline. But in the 19th century that was the norm.
Thank you. Appreciate the effort to answer there simple questions.
When in truth you can go blind trying to read the tiny print in the numerous columns in the newspapers of the 19th century.
For most of the nineteenth century, the biggest daily newspapers carried nothing but densely-packed adverts on their front page. Here are some examples from around the time this film is set...
To put this is further perspective, this relatively modest 24-point headline from W. T. Stead's Pall Mall Gazette was considered innovative (and rather radical) in 1885... nearly thirty years after Dickens died.
How very interesting
i'm sorry to be that pedantic douche, but would it be fair to say that "screamer" headlines were sort of a thing in later victoriana? i'm thinking of things like the headlines for jack the ripper or the whitehall mystery.
There's definitely more typographical innovation in newspapers by the late-Victorian period, and some of the more sensational evening papers would use eye-catching column headers (a technique imported from America). But *MASSIVE*, front page headlines not common.
That said, by the later nineteenth century, newspapers *did* print off billboards and promotional sheets that newsboys and other street-sellers could use to grab attention. These featured larger type and more recognisable headlines.
Reminds me a bit of the paper boys in Mainz, Germany, handing out a special front page reporting that Gorbachev had been arrested in a coup. That was a dramatic moment
thanks for the clarification! i kind of wondered if american newspapers were an influence.
Meanwhile, the front page of papers like The Times still looked like this in 1965!
SURELY a sensationalist, populist paper like the Daily Mail would have news and headlines on its front page, right? Not until the 1940s!
Welcome to the smallest hill that I'm willing to die on.
It is a worthy hill...
I think it's kind of a medium and extremely interesting hill
I know these props serve a convenient narrative purpose, but media history matters too! The ‘newspaper’ as we know it evolved, piece-by-piece, over many centuries and went through countless transformations on the way.
If we imagine the ‘newspaper’ as an unchanging institution that looked much the same in 1843 as it does today, then the imminent death of print journalism looks apocalyptic; but the migration to digital isn’t an ending, just another chapter in a long story.
While we're here, I should point out that not *all* Victorian newspapers looked like a wall of text. Some weeklies like the Illustrated Police News (low-brow, crime, sensation) and the Illustrated London News (high-brow, news, culture, etc) looked rather different...
God I love the Illustrated Police News.
It's amazing. I've been 'working' on an article about it for about 5 years, but keep putting off the writing so that I have an excuse to read more of it...
You might also be surprised to learn that interviews - something we now think of as being so central to the practice of journalism - were uncommon in British papers until the 1880s. They were regarded as an invasion of privacy & condemned as an uncouth American import! (DNCJ)
Aha: The trailblazer W.T. Stead...
He's my favourite Victorian, which isn't a title I bestow lightly!
Thanks for humouring this (admittedly *very* petty) rant about the cinematic misrepresentation historical newspapers. Join me next time as I try to sit through the trailer for the forthcoming P. T. Barnum movie without having an aneurysm.
The Greatest Showman | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who...
Side note: if you'd like to see more weird clippings from the Illustrated Police News, I've been tweeting about it fairly relentlessly for the last 5 years. Recent tweets are mostly from the American version. See this search:…
What years did the American version circulate? Has the collection been fully digitized?
It apparently began in the 1860s, but it's only been digitised in a rather piecemeal fashion from the 1870s. See here for links:…
I should mention that the biggest US equivalent of the British IPN was actually the National Police Gazette. That *has* been digitised, but it's tragically hidden away in an obscure digital archive that's only available to university libraries:…
This is super awesome/helpful, thanks!!!
Like all admirals, he sat his bannister badly.
That looked kind of like a Penny dreadful .. Victorians sure was into murders and mysteries :P
The imminent death of print journalism to the age of digital media may be just another chapter in a long story, but it’s not a chapter that I want to read, never mind be written in the first place... 😔😔😔💀🖤💔
That evolution is something I've been exploring at @movieheds (tho most of the samples thus far are decidedly more modern)
Fight the good fight, Bob. They did this in Young Victoria, too -- adding a front-page political cartoon to the Times while they were at it! -- and it drove me crazy.
We all must have a molehill were willing to die on.
You have my sword!
it's a good hill.
To my understanding, Victorian era newspapers were little more than densely packed fliers and adverts; essentially pamphlets trying to get as much information on a page as possible. Please correct me if I'm wrong
They were certainly *much* more densely packed with text than modern newspapers, but they had all the content we'd expect of a daily paper: news, politics, sport, crime, gossip, human interest, jokes, letters, adverts, etc, spread across 4+ pages.
Do you think that was more because the blocks for printing were only available in certain sizes, or was paper more valuable than it is today, so by printing more on less paper, you're making the most of your resource?
Printing blocks weren't really an obstacle (large type was used on posters, etc). It's partly to do with managing resources, partly to do with adherence to convention, and partly to do with taxes - the government taxed paper, adverts, stamp duty, etc.…
Ah right, the stamp taxes. That makes sense then. Keeping things to less pages meant less taxes
Corsets, yes; news, no.
It's so weird seeing the Daily Fail not instantly being a garbage fire.
Its attempts to attract a mass readership attracted criticism fairly quickly. The Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, condemned it as a "paper written by office boys, for office boys." It was *VERY* pro-Empire from the start, too. All hints, I suppose, of garbage fires to come!
I tend to be able to read text pretty good up close - but that would have to come close to my face to be able to read it :)
Actually, 15 years after Dickens died. He died in 1870.
Adverts? On the front page? Not news stories?
Yup. I once read a book that implied putting news on the front page of The Times was pretty much the end of civilization!
Trade in your hyphen for an apostrophe and move it several spaces to the right.
I'm amazed every time i see an old newspaper how any could read it. Print is so smal and packed. I get lost after two sentences 😂😂😬
Me too. One of my journalism history students recently described a Victorian issue of The Times as a "headache on a page"!
That whole trailer offended my Victorian sensibilities.
News? On the *front page*? Scandalous!
Thank goodness someone around here is upholding standards!
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Whole things looks horrendous.
Yeah, that episode was excellent.
but then how would we know he's charles dickens
The Royal Society for Appropriately Sized Victorian Fonts in Film, thanks you sir
I may be wrong and too lazy to look it up but weren't people refered to by title in Victorian newspapers? Mr. Dickens for example or Miss Nightingale?
Yes, though this varies quite a lot. He might be referred to as Charles Dickens, Mr Charles Dickens, Mr Dickens, or ‘the author of A Christmas Carol’, etc
This was still the case in British broadsheets until the 1980s, IIRC.
True, but in the interests of it being in a film/tv production sense the viewer needs to be able to see what it is, if it's the size of a pin head on screen it could be saying anything. My vision isn't great at the best of times but I can read that! lol
I assume Dickens fights zombies in this movie. Maybe Christmas zombies.
But without the massive headlines about Dickens within a film that you paid to go see about Dickens, how would you glean the film is about Dickens? FT 😁
I count a good... *squints, guesstimates* ...16 column inches that could be USED for something in there!
Now I’m curious - when did the practice of putting the main story of the day on a small billboard by the seller start?
I’m afraid I’m not sure about this. I’ve certainly seen references to it in the 1880s, but it may well have started much earlier. It feels like the kind of promotional strategy I’d associate with the ‘new journalism’ of the c1880s onwards though.
Fair enough and thank you for the information! I assume the practice of yelling headlines goes back a deal further, considering it is effectively a slightly more commercial version of town criers and read proclamations?
I'm thinking it had something to do with commuters buying newspapers on their way to work rather than them reading their massive broadsheets over breakfast and increased competition to grab with a headline story?
You and I both know Victorian newspapers had the ads at the front in tiny writing, but that doesn't look great on camera. :p
I expect to see pristine streets with no horse poo on them, and hear liberal use of period dialogue such as "get real, Sire. Thou surely mudst be kidding one..." etc.
You are right. They had tiny headlines and lots of individual stories, all on the same page. They also had excellent adverts for mad things.
There are facsimiles of contemporary newspapers at @nationaltrust Downe House on Darwin's desk. Even children should know this.
Fascinating. Thank you for the thread.
Thatte Very Topick was Explained 'pon Last Week's Podcast by '99% Invisible!' (on Graphic Design in Film & TV)
What you SHOULD be upset about is the total lack of a melodramatic weather report in the header. How did they know if rain was imminent that day?! HOW?!
Haha! Where’s that prop from? The whole design is bonkers - particularly the absurd letter-spacing and typeface in the columns. Plus, as far as I know, the London Daily Post folded sometime in the 1700s...
Hey I heard about that on @99piorg recently 🙂
They weren't tiny
That’s an advert though! They featured more typographical and visual innovation, but chiefly because they could be repeated multiple times. I haven’t seen many like this on the front page of daily newspapers either; particularly in the early Victorian period.
I'm sure you know best... But this sort of thing was only a few years later
I’m 99% sure that this isn’t real. The typeface, images, letter-spacing, paper, page-size all look like they’ve been cobbled together using a modern word processor. Plus, as far as I can see, there wasn’t a paper of this name on sale in 1880s. I could be wrong though!
I did wonder(!)... Not sure why I'm arguing, you clearly know your stuff
Hah! I could definitely be wrong about some of this - there are *thousands* of Victorian newspapers that I haven't seen, particularly some of the low-brow evening papers that haven't been digitised. There could be some unconventional/innovative use of type there.
Thanks Dr Bob for giving faith back in a valuable aspect of social media. Very fun stream.
If you're interested in newspaper history, may I humbly recommend you subscribe to my newsletter?
This was a brilliant little diversion. Thanks!
I direct you to 'Which Lie Did I Tell' by William Goldman where he explains that movie makers sometimes divert from realism for the sake of moving the story along 😉
I also stopped playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate - a game I had been waiting for for years - when I noticed that there only seemed to be ONE NEWSPAPER for sale in Victorian London.
Haha I love this so much. I stopped watching The Borgias because they played Handel’s Zadok the Priest during his papal coronation.
ME TOO. First episode, seemed silly, then Zadok. I just couldn't cope. Thought I was alone until now.
You are my new best friends.
I stopped watching The Tudors because what even is Portugal
Conversely - Infocom had a text Sherlock Holmes adventure game in the 1980s that was packaged with authentic, tiny-ad dominated fake newspaper.
One of the things that bothers me in the new Howards End is the bright sunny interiors with lots white/light walks. Nope. All wrong.
Not yet, but it’s been recommended to me about ten times in the last hour! I’ll definitely have to catch it.
Was about to make that 11
And that typeface (Birch, by Kim Buker Chansler, working for Adobe) was released in 1990.
I worked at a newspaper once and they had a copy of the first paper ever printed on display. There was a notice on the front page about the president visiting and it was right next to "three pigs missing from the farm of Mr. John Cobb" in the same size font.
Thanks! This always bothers me, too!
Congrats on your 1000❤️ tweet!…
I've just watched the trailer for the new Dickens movie. I'm not usually bothered by inaccuracies in historical dramas, but I'd like to politely request that film makers STOP PUTTING MASSIVE HEADLINES ON VICTORIAN NEWSPAPERS.
This pales in comparison to thumbs-down meaning "gladiator, kill thine opponent"
I have just gained insight regarding this scene in the BBC Sherlock episode The Abominable Bride. #TheMoreYouKnow
But how else are we to know that is CHARLES DICKENS?? #unsubtlesubtitles
Or give the audience magnifying glasses.
Si es sobre Dickens, la veré ♥♥