Tuesday, June 25, 2013

World's First Comic Book is The Glasgow Looking Glass

A comic held in the Library's Special Collections at Glasgow University is suspected to be the world's oldest example. The 'Glasgow Looking Glass' which satirises early nineteenth century social life, was created by the illustrator William Heath. Heath produced 17 issues of the magazine during its short run from 1825 to 1826 which John Watson, (one of Glasgow's earliest lithographic printers) then produced. The comic later became known as The 'Northern Looking Glass' to represent a more national outlook, and was apparently distributed to taverns where drinkers derived merriment from its colourful and bolshie depictions of the news and current affairs!

The comic is making headlines this week as the main talking- point of a conference run by the university's International Bande Dessinee Society, a forum for academics interested in the comic strip. At the conference, researchers from Glasgow University will argue that the 'Glasgow Looking Glass' deserves to be given recognition as the first example of mass-produced illustrations, predating all known modern-day comics. This goes further than previous academic theories which recognise the magazine's importance in setting a precedent for Victorian publications such as 'Punch,' but have yet to acknowledge its status as the first ever comic-book.

To see these examples, and other illustrations from the 'Glasgow Looking Glass,' search on the Glasgow Story website where it is possible to learn about the stories behind the illustrations. The Library's Special Collections at Glasgow University have also named the comic their 'Book of the Month.'