I can't think of another publisher, other than Taschen, who would risk publishing a six-volume, extravagantly produced history of men's magazines and who better than Dian Hanson to write it. She has had plenty of experience in this section of the magazine trade.
This volume covers the fourteen years from 1945 and really it is not too interesting until Hefner starts Playboy in 1953. Until then the market was basically down-market cheesecake and burlesque oriented magazines though there are chapters devoted to John Willie's 'Bizarre' and Lenny Burtman's 'Exotique' but these were hardly mass-market titles. Chapter three, nicely, features titles from Argentina and Mexico and chapter six covers England. Playboy was the title that makes this history interesting, unique when it first came out but not for long, titles like Nugget, The Dude, Swank, Rogue and others made this genre of publishing sort of respectable.
The seventeen chapters follow the same format, a few hundred words of copy and then pages and pages of covers and spreads from the various titles. Chapter sixteen features the Top 5 Cover girls, Diane Webber, June Wilkinson, Jayne Mansfield, Bettie Page and predictably Marilyn as number one. Chapter seventeen is a neat finale, devoted to the tacky ads that appeared in the back of many men's titles. Major advertisers totally shunned most of this market for obvious reasons.
Fascinating though the book is I do have a major disappointment (so four stars) and that is the paper, a matt stock that soaks up the ink so that none of the covers sparkle. I've bought several other pop culture Taschen books this year and they have all had semi gloss stock that reproduces covers and illustrations so well. There are a few hundred color covers in 'The History of Men's Magazines' and frequently the whole page ones look soft and grainy, they are, after all, reproduced from something already printed, a different paper would have mostly avoided this. Another slight annoyance is the three-language text (English, French and German) all set in the same typeface so at the end of a column one naturally goes to the next column and it is German. To my mind it would have been preferable to run each language in its own text block.
Apart from the paper I thought the book was well worth having and if you
read the Product Description you'll see what the other five volumes cover.
When complete I think this will become the definitive work about this
corner of the publishing world. I'm already making shelf-room for the set.