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Punch, or The London Charivari
Cover of the first Punch, or The London Charivari, depicts Punch hanging a caricatured Devil, 1841 (see gallery below for enlarged detail)
Categories Politics, culture, humour, satire
Frequency Weekly
Founder Henry Mayhew, Ebenezer Landells
Year founded 1841
First issue 17 July 1841
Final issue 1992
Country United Kingdom
Based in London
Language English

Punch, or The London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and wood-engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 1850s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration.

After the 1940s, when its circulation peaked, it went into a long decline, closing in 1992. It was revived in 1996, but closed again in 2002.


Punch magazine cover 1916 april 26 volume 150 no 3903
1916: 26 April cover shows Richard Doyle's 1849 masthead with colour and advertisements.

Punch was founded in July 17, 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. At its founding it was jointly edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon. Initially subtitled The London Charivari, a reference to a satirical humour magazine published in France under the title Le Charivari. Reflecting their satiric and humorous intent, they took for their name and masthead the anarchic glove puppet, Mr. Punch; the name also referred to a joke made early on about one of the magazine's first editors, Lemon, that "punch is nothing without lemon." Mayhew ceased to be joint editor in 1842 and became 'suggestor in chief' until he severed his connection in 1845. Punch was responsible for the modern use of the word 'cartoon' to refer to a comic drawing. The illustrator Archibald Henning designed the cover of the magazine's first issues. The cover design varied in the early years, though Richard Doyle designed what became the magazine's masthead in 1849.

Circulation peaked during the 1940s when it reached 175,000, but slowly declined over the years, until the magazine was forced to close in 1992 after 150 years of publication.

1996 resurrection

In early 1996, the controversial Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the rights to the name, and it was re-launched later that year. The magazine never became profitable in its new incarnation, and at the end of May 2002, it was announced that Punch would once more cease publication. Press reports at the time quoted a total loss to its owner of some £16 million (about $28 million U.S.) over the six years of publication, with only 6,000 subscribers at the end.


Editorial meeting of Punch magazine in the late 19th century.

Editors of Punch during its first 150 years were:

Cartoonists who worked for the magazine include Murray Ball, John Leech, Edward Linley Sambourne, John Tenniel, Norman Thelwell, Gerald Curtis Delano and George du Maurier.

Notable authors who contributed at one time or another include Kingsley Amis, John Betjeman, Willard R. Espy, A. P. Herbert, George du Maurier, John McCrae, A. A. Milne, Anthony Powell, W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, Thackeray, Sir Henry Lucy, Artemus Ward, and P.G. Wodehouse.


  • Punch gave several phrases to the English language, including the "Curate's egg."
  • Several British humour classics were first serialised in Punch, such as the Diary of a Nobody and 1066 and All That.
  • The novel Vanity Fair was published serially in Punch in 1847 and 1848 before being committed to book form.
  • The magazine's archive and other memorabilia associated with the magazine was acquired by the British Library in March 2004.
  • Punch Cigar Co. was named after the character Mr. Punch in order to increase British patronage.
  • Cartoons from Punch magazine are commonly used in GCSE History examinations to reflect the conservative views of the middle class.
  • Cartoons from Punch magazine are commonly used in Scottish Standard Grade and Higher History examinations to illustrate British attitudes to foreign and domestic issues.
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