Christmas Cover Artwork Across the Century

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Courtesy of Charm and Poise

We select some of the finest examples of festive magazine covers from years gone by

Christmas is a special occasion in the magazine industry, with bumper issues, special illustrations and increased cover prices continuing the seasonal theme of excess. Teams of designers, photographers and illustrators have the difficult job of distilling Christmas cheer down into a single cover image, and if the cover sells a magazine, then standing out at this time of year – when all are a little louder, and a little brighter – is trickier than usual.

With that in mind, we’ve delved into an extensive digital archive of cover artwork from the past century and more, taking a look at some of the historic covers that catch our attention from across the years, and celebrating the quirks of the content within.

The historic Radio Times, a stalwart of the British newsagent, sets an extraordinary precedent for these special festive covers. Their first, published in 1923, introduced a full-colour illustration to what had historically been a black and white, text-only publication, and a tripled purchase price of 6d over the normal 2d. It was a hit, too – the magazine has commissioned a special cover every year since (bar a printing dispute in 1983), and its present issue bears the proud and heartwarming tagline, “it wouldn’t be Christmas without the Radio Times.”

The Radio Times does not have the monopoly, though – far from it, in fact. From the niche to the global, publications in all realms are celebrating the year gone-by with commemorative covers. Whether it be the strangely desirable MOTOR sunglasses of 1907, the Mondrian-inspired leanings of the New Yorker’s 2008 Bob Staake cover, in festive green and red, or the delightfully uncanny cut-and-paste Elvis shrine of the Radio Times in 1969, magazine covers have charted the ways in which we celebrate Christmas through design. Here are just a few, to get you in the mood.

Happy Monday! #AnOtherHappyMonday