Wednesday, 17 October 2007

LOOK-SEE

Hands up everyone who remembers Look and Learn?

I must begin by explaining my passion: every week, from the age of 8 or 9, I received a copy of The Children's Newspaper (on my parents insistence - as an antidote to my comic of choice: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Weekly) and although TCN was crammed with articles and features of, as they say, 'interest'; it was, frankly, all a bit worthy.

I suppose I must have read four or five year's-worth of editions of TCN, but can't now recall to mind a single story or image! And yet I can conjour page after page of the Look and Learns that I used to pore over in the school library from its first magical appearance in January 1962.

Every now and again I'd poke my nose into a copy of Knowledge which were also in the library, but I always thought this rival publication, launched a year earlier than L&L, was really a bit on the stuffy side - certainly in comparison with L&L which was a magazine that lived up to its stated aim of providing "a treasure house of exciting articles, stories and pictures" and which positively exploded with vibrant, dynamic illustrations that grabbed the eye and hooked the imagination!

Click on images to enlarge

L&L had the all visual appeal of the comic but with a content - incredibly diverse, sometimes astonishing esoteric - that won the approval of educators and, most importantly, mums and dads!

Small wonder it launched with sales of a million copies and eventually settled down to a highly respectable 300,000 copies a week and, two years after its fist appearance of the news-stands, took over the aforementioned The Children's Newspaper.

Look at what was shoe-horned into the 24 pages of the first issue --- and all for the outlay of just ONE SHILLING:
A photograph of the young Prince of Wales, Charles, dominated the first cover, alongside a painting of the first Charles, Prince of Wales from 300 years earlier...

Elsewhere in this first issue, colour photographs and colour illustrations helped tell the history of Rome and reveal the wonders of nature; you could learn about Vincent van Gogh, the Grand Canyon, how Japanese children celebrated the festival of Shichi go san or how to keep a Basset hound.

Other articles probed the depths of space for life amongst the stars and below the ground for oil; the story of Parliament was magnificently illustrated across the centre pages; equally superb was the first leg of a trip exploring the history of towns and villages along the road from London to Dover; and for those readers who enjoyed stories as well as history, nature, science and art, there was a feature on Sindbad and the famous author and explorer who had translated his adventures plus the opening chapters of The Children’s Crusade by Henry Treece, and Jerome K Jerome’s famous Three Men in a Boat.

- Steve Holland, Archivist, Look and Learn
During its twenty-years and over 1000 issues, the role call of talent working on L&L - though, as kids we didn't know it - was impressive to say the least: historians Leonard Cottrell, John Prebble, Robert Erskine and Alfred Duggan; novelist and traveller Bruce Graeme; zoologist Maurice Burton and naturalist Maxwell Knight; and, yet to establish his career as an award-winning novelist, Michael Moorcock.

The artists represented the cream of the book illustration at the time and included such graphic artists - to name but a few - as Peter Jackson, C L Doughty, Ron Embleton, Don Lawrence, Angus McBride, Jesus Blasco and (below) Oliver Frey... .


Every single issue lived up to its title: we looked and we learned --- about so many things... About the natural world as it is and, as very dinosaur-loving kid knew, it once was...


About the lives and careers of statesmen, scientists and explorers...


About countries, cities and buildings...


About triumphant deeds and tragic events...


There were all manner of excitements and amazements: from flights of fancy...


To modern-day realities...


And future possibilities...


As well as, again and again, all those enticing windows into some of the greatest books, plays and poetry of the world: some of which I already knew and loved and others that, thanks to L&L, I went on to discover...




I probably skipped launch-editor David Stone's editorial description of L&L when, as thirteen year old I was excitedly racing through its colour-filled pages, but it seems to me, now, to pretty much sum up what the magazine was to its devoted readers:
Look and Learn is not a comic, or a dusty old encyclopaedia pretending to be an entertaining weekly paper. It is really like one of those fabulous caravans that used to set off to strange and unknown places and return laden with all sorts of wonderful things. In our pages is all the excitement, the wonder, the tragedy and the heroism of the magnificent age we live in, and of the ages which make up the traditions which shape all our lives.
I can't overstate the influence of L&L on my formative years - it bred in me an inquisitive fascination with facts, words and books which still lingers to this day and, I think, even informs some of the topics that turn up on this daily blog!

And now - joy of joys - there's a newly published Bumper Book of Look and Learn and 24- or 48-issue serial publications of the best of the original Look and Learns, "printed to have the same look and feel as the original..."

Full details can be found on the Look and Learn web-site which is as jam-packed with stuff as the original mag and where you can also read the full, fascinating history of the magazine and - fabulous time-waster this - browse the picture library of 19,073 images which can be downloaded or sent as e-cards...

So quit this page and start wallowing in a bit of pure, unadulterated nostalgia; and - look! - you never know, you might actually learn something!


Images: © 2007 Look and Learn

15 comments:

David Weeks said...

With a Blog of this length and complexity its no wonder that you do not have much time to do other writing! :o)

Andy J. Latham said...

Well it's not nostalgia to me, but I wish I could say it was. I would have loved something like this as a kid (and to tell you the truth, love it now I'm "all grown up").

It's food for the imagination and goes to show that humble illustrations can hold up to modern day movie spectacles. With each image I find myself playing out a story in my mind.

I can see I'll be spending a long time browsing the thousands of images! Your blog always throws out interesting things Brian, but may I say a particularly big thanks for sharing the source of these images!

Qenny said...

Men in tights? Young fellows in kilts? Bearded heroes clinging half-naked to the leg of a roc? No wonder it appealed!

Boll Weavil said...

I think you followed the same path as me in that I was bought worthy literature to be weaned off comics etc. This was the way I eventually got to read 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'for the first time. I think we had a series called 'How and Why' which covered mostly Scientific ground though, wwith the odd dinosaur thrown in.

LisaH said...

Well said, David - hopefully you can keep reminding Brian that he has books to write (and wrists to nurse along). It's a fascinating blog, but I'm not even going to attempt to access the website and become distracted.

Ian said...

I remember Look and Learn well, although I was less enthused than you because my parents had forced it on me instead of my usual comic book fare which I much preferred. I remember being told I was "too old" for comics now, and my only recollections are of much of it being "boring and just like being at school". I do remember rushing to the back page where there was some sort of comic (actually pictures with text written underneath) - something about a wizard and a trio of pixies of different colors (blue red and green?) - I think the pixies were the mischievous bad guys. I also remember some sort of knowledge system where you got "cut out" information sheets each week (a page divided into 4) and could send off for a knowledge storage box which looked impressive in the photos but turned out to be a rather shift piece of cardboard that you had to put together yourself.

I think the magazine stopped in my late teens and it was with some glee that when I got my first paper round I used my weekly wages to return to buying Marvel comics.

No wonder I was such a dunce at school!

Boll Weavil said...

Breakfast with Sibley is an important part of my day now and anyone who tries to distract Mr B from his blogs should be shot !

Bill Field said...

First time to your blog, but I've been a fan of your efforts for years, saw you comment on Pete's cartooncave blog and discovered your own blog, and I have to say, this Texan was absoloutely blown away by your content and the broad array of fantastic features. Thank you Brian!
- cartoonist/humorist,Bill Field

LisaH said...

It's the first thing I look for online in the morning too - but persons cannot live by Blogs alone and suggesting execution for David and me is rather extreme.

Brian Sibley said...

I need to remind everyone that capital punishment has been -- tee hee -- suspended!

Welcome, BILLl! I visited your blog, but you don't have a facility for leaving comments and your blogger profile is, to say the least, a little thin! But I'll revisit in the hope of discovering more... :-)

Bill Field said...

Brian--- Thanks for your welcome! I've used your visit to my sparse blog to prompt long overdue attention to it-- I'll be adding quite alot, and have already enabled comments and will be adding video as well. I look forward to commenting on yours, and you on mine. Thanks again! Bill

Steve said...

Ian said on October 17: "I do remember rushing to the back page where there was some sort of comic (actually pictures with text written underneath) - something about a wizard and a trio of pixies of different colors (blue red and green?) - I think the pixies were the mischievous bad guys."

You're thinking of the tales of Princess Marigold that appeared on the back pages of Treasure, the junior Look and Learn, beautifully drawn by Nadir Quinto. The wizard was Wizard Weezle who was constantly trying to get the better of Princess Marigold, Prince Strongbow and their two children.

BTW, thanks for the kind words about the Look and Learn website, Brian. We put a lot of hard work into it and it's always nice to get some nice feedback.

Steve Holland
Look and Learn

Ian said...

Steve,

Thanks for the correction. Funny how memory plays tricks. And you're absolutely right now that you've reminded me - my resentment at the time (obviously long simmering ;-)) was NOT over losing my comic books but over my parents switching me from "Treasure" to its more grown-up "sister" publication without telling me until it appeared with the Saturday morning papers in place of what was expected. On reflection my (not inconsiderable annoyance at the time was down to being switched during a particularly gripping "Pricess Marigold" storyline, with the new replacement having no clues as to what happened next.

I suspect the rest of the day is now going to be a write-off as I go and check out the Look and Learn website for more memory prods!

Brian Sibley said...

Well, I'm glad that's sorted!

Richard Holliss said...

Marvellous piece on 'Look and Learn', Brian. I was a devoted fan of the magazine and was delighted many years later to finally meet the Editor. In fact, I bought the original colour artwork for the H. G. Wells' 'The War of the Worlds' feature as it was an illustration that had haunted me since I first saw it back in 1962. The cover with Stephenson's Rocket, shown at the top of your blog, is the issue in question.
I'm currently collecting the new 'Look and Learn' reprints, which are excellent, although I have an almost complete collection of the original magazines as well.
I was also a fan of 'Knowledge', which included some superb dinosaur art. In fact, the magazine's very handsome binders featured a terrific pterodactyl on the cover. And, for those who might remember, 'Knowledge' also had a weekly four page pull-out supplement which included film news on favourite movies like 'Jason and the Argonauts'.
As to spending too much time blogging. Ignore the brickbats Brian, the blogs of today will, I'm sure, prove to be "the sociological work tools of tomorrow". I saw that quote on a BFI leaflet and kind of liked it!
Better still Brian, why not publish your blogs. Other's have done it with their newpaper columns and critiques.
Love from us both
Richard and Chris