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About the Sphere

Sphere cover, WW1 patriotic sailorIn January 1900, Clement Shorter, formerly editor of The Illustrated London News and The Sketch, launched his own illustrated magazine backed by shipping magnate Sir John Ellerman and Hugh Spottiswood of the printing firm, Eyre and Spottiswoode. Published when the public were keen to receive news of the Second Boer War, The Sphere covered world news and events alongside general interest features.

Each bound six-monthly volume of the magazine carries a design of two women representing East and West, holding a globe aloft between them, along with magazine’s title that symbolises The Sphere’s commitment to its far-reaching reporting. Similar in content to the ILN, the magazine nevertheless feels comparatively modern with engaging pictorial spreads mixing a variety of diagrams, photographs and high quality illustrations.

This format was ideally suited to the multi-faceted reporting demanded by the First World War and The Sphere offers a fascinating week-by-week chronicle of events. Its photographic reproductions are particularly good quality, but illustration holds equal status with work by such fine illustrators as Christopher Clark, Donald MacPherson, Philip Dadd and Paul Thiriat.

Pre-eminent among them was the Italian illustrator Fortunino Matania, the magazine’s “special artist” since 1904. His Sphere depictions of the Great War were prolific and breathtakingly realistic. He visited the Front several times, and The Sphere was keen to emphasise the authenticity of his, and all their published illustrations. It refuted a Daily Telegraph assertion that “war pictures have no relation to accuracy”, declaring that “every detail of the above drawings is guaranteed to be severely accurate”.

Shorter died in 1926 and H. Jesse Heitner took over as editor. The magazine continued until 1964.