Sunday, September 05, 2021

Badminton Magazine: A History, Index and Bibliography

The Badminton Magazine had its origins in a series of books that began appearing in 1885, named after Badminton House, the grand estate of the Duke of Beaufort. The Duke was a noted sportsman and expert in many rural sports (riding, shooting, fishing, etc.) as well as being Master of the hunt. As general editor of the series, the Duke appointed Alfred E. T. Watson as his chief writer, a well known sports writer and correspondent. The series was a success, but — according to Watson — exhausted all possible subjects after a few years.

It was suggested by Harry McCalmont that he use his contacts to put out a magazine using the Badminton name, and the first issue of The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes appeared in August 1895. The magazine covered every sporting topic, even introducing new sports (especially from America), and also occasionally published fiction. When original publisher Longman & Green sold it to William Heinemann, they also introduced then-popular competitions and prizes, and colour plates. This proved too expensive, and the magazine was thereafter published by The Sphere, which dropped the colour plates and some of the other content.

Watson was now being asked to contribute upwards of fifty pages a month, some of which were slapdash and inaccurate, meaning that apologies had to be issued; articles were published from unsolicited contributions and full-page photographs helped keep costs down. The magazine again changed hands, taken on by Edward Hulton, whose wife suggested a regular section on ladies' sporting fashions, which was duly introduced, along with the magazine's first regular female journalist.

The Badminton Magazine struggled during the war and Hulton planned its closure. Managing editor John Chandler purchased it in 1916, although the time-consuming circumstances of publishing meant that Chandler and Watson quickly passed it on to Herbert Reiach, a publisher and former contributor who also became co-editor with Watson.

The magazine recovered only briefly after the war ended and by 1920 was expanding its coverage to gardening and natural history, emphasising the changes by becoming The Badminton Magazine of the Open Air. Soon after, Reiach sold the magazine to newspaper publisher Henry Dalziel. Watson died in November 1922 and the opportunity was taken to close the magazine after 330 issues with the January 1923 issue. The New Badminton Magazine of Sport was a very brief revival in 1927.

Chris Harte's introduction touches on every aspect of the magazine's history over 25 or so pages, showing how the magazine covered all the important stories of the day: Birmingham's gunmakers (shoddy or not?) and women cyclists (glowing with health or glowering with disappointment?). There was also the occasional controversy, including a highly biased essay on the Rome Hunt accompanied by a faked photo that led Watson to make a grovelling apology.

The bibliography, listing the contents of all issues, covers over 200 pages; nearly 150 pages are dedicated to thumbnails of every cover of the magazine, books by contributors and an astonishing number of photographs and caricatures of contributors, over 800 in total.

If you have seen Harte's book on The Captain, you will know what to expect. This is the definitive look at this important sporting magazine.

Badminton Magazine. A History, Index and Bibliography by Chris Harte.
Sports History Publishing ISBN 978-189801014-2, August 2021, 406pp, £19.95. Available via Amazon.

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