In the 1840s a new type of publication arose in Britain and the United states: the pictorial weekly. Early pictorial weeklies were large-size news magazines that included plentiful illustrations, often based on woodblock engravings. These magazines owed their rise in part to the development of new and better printing technologies, such as electrotype, and electrical process that used a wax mold of a page, covered in graphite, to create a metal plate for printing. Other methods had previously been used to create plates for printing, but the electrotype process was easier, faster. and more precise. It enabled the pictorial weeklies to have a distinctive large format.
A second development of the early 1840s also influenced the nature of the illustrations in pictorial weeklies worldwide. If the arrival of the electrotype had made the high-volume printing of large, finely engraved illustrations possible, the emergence of photography gave many of these images a distinctive character. Soon after the daguerreotype(the earliest photographic process) had swept the world in the early 1840s, artists for pictorial weeklies began to use these early photographs as sources for their illustrations. The growing presence of woodblock-engraved portraits in the weeklies in the1840s and1850s arose directly from the popularity of portrait photographs, any of which could easily be mailed or shipped anywhere in the world.In1857 the artist Winnslow Homer in Boston copied onto a woodblock a daguerreotype portrait of a sea captain who lived in California thereby allowing the captain's likeness to reach publication in the companion without the subject's having been within a few thousand miles of the artist who had drawn him. Nothing quite like this had been possible so routinely or with such ease before the introduction of the daguerreotype in France in1839 and its rapid spread elsewhere.
Beyond supplying them with subjects, photography also influenced what some illustrators drew and how they drew it. As daguerreotype and, later, other photographic processes became increasingly common in the 1850s, illustrators began to imitate(as best they could in their linear medium) the distinctive tonality.-the blend of light and dark areas----of early photographs. This was not easy to do in woodblock engraving, but an interest in tonal effects is nevertheless evident in the work of many wood engravers. Their efforts lent an aura of documentary realism to a magazine's pages, at least for that part of the public that believed that a photograph captured more truth than an artist could. In a tour through the pages of European and American weeklies of the1840s and 1850s, one encounters in many illustrations the various pictorial qualities that were common in early products of the camera. The stillness of many illustrations for weeklies, such as views of the dawn. echoed the static character of subjects photographed before lenses were last enough to stop motion. It was surely to provide a welcome contrast to this stillness that some magazine illustrators drew scenes full of depicted movement, such as scenes of people ice-skating.
The influence of photography can also be felt in a shift in the general character of popular illustration that occurred during the early years of the pictorial weeklies. The move was one from humor to greater formality and dignity. Many of the leading book and magazine illustrators of the 1820s and 1830s had invested their work with an at essentially comic outlook. Even when they illustrated serious subjects, the artists of this generation trusted imagination at least as much as observation. Their work reflected the high-spirited mood of the times in England and America. This spirit never entirely disappeared from the work of many of the most respected illustrators in the succeeding decades. But with the growth of a culture of greater propriety beginning in the 1840s, humor became dislodged from a central to a marginal position. In the mainstream of the popular book and magazine illustration. Humorous writing survived nicely in comic journals, but those publications never had the prestige of serious publication.