Mirror of the Nation. The Illustrated Press in Hungary, 1780–1880.

Mirror of the Nation. The Illustrated Press in Hungary, 1780–1880.

Mirror of the Nation. The Illustrated Press in Hungary, 1780–1880.
Emese Révész
NSZL–Budapest History Museum, Budapest, 2012., 96 pages

ISBN 978 963 934 096 1


Mirror of the Nation, an exhibition of press history and fine arts was held in the Buda Castle Museum of Budapest History Museum as a joint project of National Széchényi Library and Budapest History Museum. The present richly illustrated fine catalogue that accompanied the event is worth to be considered a concise and picturesque summary of the Hungarian illustrated press between 1780 and 1880.

It was a turning point only comparable to the very invention of the printing press when at the end of the 18th century the illustrated press appeared. From then on, illustrated periodicals and journals spread at incredible speed. Reproduced images and newspapers found a broader audience than ever to the current relevant or just interesting news of events and personalities in Hungary and abroad.

The quick spread and growing popularity of the illustrated press in Hungary coincided with the Reform Era. It was then that illustrated fashion journals, cultural periodicals, cheap magazines and satirical journals were published in great number as well as papers and weekly publications with encyclopedic ambitions. In the second half and the last third of the 19th century illustrated papers like Mirror of the Nation multiplied. These already were products of a mass industry of high standard image creation. Then a row of popular papers with engravings, satirical journals (like Borsszem Jankó) and periodicals for children and the youth followed. Finally, by the end of the 19th century, illustrated publications prevailed in all the segments of the press. The period of the traditionally illustrated press ends symbolically in the year 1880 after which engravings and lithographs were gradually replaced by printed photographs.

The exhibition is summarized faithfully by this catalogue whose illustrations present well-known and perhaps forgotten items of the illustrated press of 19th century Hungary. Editor Emese Révész follows the development of applied image techniques and reproduction methods from wood engravings to the first photographs including the combination of the two, a photograph inserted in a graphic frame. The bilingual catalogue (Hungarian with a summary in English) includes the exact list of the images exhibited, a brief presentation of the topic and the historical era, and the description of the images and the literature used. This careful arrangement makes our ’picture book’ something more than a simple exhibition guide. It is a beautiful album that presents an important topic and era of the Hungarian press history, a work that cannot be missing from any related collection.