After spending time in the early years of the New Yorker Albums these past few Sundays I thought it would be fun to skip a few decades and look at how the magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary. I love the simplicity of this Album, its no-frills approach. Beginning with the no-nonsense cover featuring the title (set in the so-called Irvin typeface) and Rea Irvin’s bowing Eustace Tilleys. I look at these Tilleys as time period bookends, greeting each other from two very different eras. They are not quite mirror images of each other: the one bowing from 1975 is microscopically different than the one from 1925. If there’s any intended symbolism in that (and I doubt it), my guess would be that the magazine mascot was shown as true to its roots while allowing for subtle change (glacial change in those years).
The only introductory text is found on the inside front flap. It’s as if the magazine’s editor (William Shawn at that time) wanted to say that whatever needed to be said about this amazing body of work was going to be said by the work itself and not by “opinionaters.”
In a first for one of the Albums, there’s a dedication (Lee Lorenz had succeeded Mr, Geraghty in 1973):
The back cover lists the contributors (“Artists”) from Charles Addams to the new kid on the block, Jack Ziegler.
Appropriately enough, the Album leads off with a full page drawing by Peter Arno (one of his drawings led off the very first Album). The volume ends with a small drawing by William Steig; a first drawing and a last by artists whose work was, in the words of the flap copy above, visually beautiful. The work in between is, of course, also visually beautiful, as well as funny. In more modern times, in the era post-Geraghty, post-Lee Lorenz, a different approach to the magazine’s cartoons was espoused: “it’s the think, not the ink.” But for the first 72 years of New Yorker‘s existence, it was the magazine’s dedication to the think and the ink, that allowed the New Yorker cartoon to make its considerable mark.