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50 Years of New York

50 Years of New York

Just in time for Christmas, this huge beast of a book has arrived in shops. Celebrating the first 50 years of New York magazine, its 420 large pages will thrill anyone who loves the magazine, and persuade others of its importance as it ransacks the 2,344 issues published to date.

As we’ve noted here before, New York is perhaps unique in having enjoyed two distinct heydays: the original late sixties/early seventies set a distinct visual and journalistic tone (launch cover, above) before losing its way a little under various owners, then bouncing back under editor Adam Moss and creative director Luke Hayman in 2004.

Dotted through the book is a complete run of the magazine’s covers (above) but this is not simply a chronological trawl through the years. Instead, it attempts, as the foreword puts it, to trace the course of its namesake city.

New York still enjoys the luxury of having three magazines devoted to it. New York was launched by Clay Felker and Milton Glaser as a down-to-earth response to The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker, seen as ‘stuffed shirts’ in 1968. New York wanted to be ‘unapologetic, funny, brash, even a bit crude,’ – like New Yorkers themselves.

Sadly Felker is no longer with us, but Glaser is among a group of editors, writers and others who take part in a fascinating opening section of oral history of the title.

The pages of the book are just large enough to allow reproduction of covers and magazine pages at actual size (though on a few occasions some are reproduced larger than actual size, a rare example of the project setting a foot wrong).

Instead of a chronologlical structure, the book is divided into sections covering subjects familiar from the magazine: Culture, Living and Food… but also looser areas like Midnight, Power and Crisis (above). This allows different periods of the magazine to sit next to each other; other magazines might struggle with this patchwork approach but its fascinating to see just how consistently New York has maintained its attention to visual detail over its 50 years.

Sometimes a double gatefold allows a singular focus on one subject, such as this range of Trump stories (above). All the issues have been photographed, giving them a satisfying, real presence on the pages. Even a huge blow up of the first-ever use of the word ‘foodie’ (below) from 1980 is a photographic enlargement, with all the rawness of blown up body text and rough paper.

The book is a wonderful celebration of a great magazine, lovingly produced by the people that know it best. It takes itself just seriously enough, but doesn’t overdo the self-importance, instead achieving its aim of reflecting the magazine and the city it in turn exists to reflect. It ia a unique survey of the 50 years, a period during which print was the primary medium of record. It is hard to envisage what a digital survey of a similar timespan in 50 years time will offer, when the very idea of a shared experience of the same pages has, presumably, faded away.

Like the magazine, the book ends with a crossword, a special 50th anniversary puzzle based on its history. There’s also a surprise on the inside of the dust cover; it folds out to reveal a poster-sized Approval Matrix, the diagram of cultural measure published every issue since the Moss-Hayman redesign. It provides ultimate proof that the New York team love their city and have a hell of a lot of fun mapping that love.

One for the Christmas list.

Published by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 978-1501166846

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