The magazine with a mind of its own celebrates 10,000 issues
The first iteration of Britain’s The Spectator was published in 1711, and it’s stuck to its principles ever since
In the history of publishing, no magazine has ever produced a 10,000th issue, until now.
The bumper edition of Britain’s The Spectator last week was full to overflowing with goodies, but something was missing. We had lined up Nigel Lawson, a former editor, to interview Boris Johnson, another former editor, and discuss their move from journalism to Westminster. The current crisis interfered with that, as well as a planned celebration at London’s Guildhall, which is a shame, because I had hoped to test a theory: that the magazine is not shaped by editors. That it has a life, and a mind, of its own.
Underneath the editor’s office in 22 Old Queen Street, London, to which we moved in 2007, two years before I took the helm, lies a collection of every issue published. You can pick up a copy from any year since 1828 and find pretty much the same magazine you see today. What struck David Butterfield, a Cambridge don whose new history of The Spectator was published last week, was its commitment to the same principles. Expecting to find a magazine that had evolved hand in hand with the establishment, he found instead that, for two centuries, it had been tweaking the tail of those in power...