In the 1920s MGM brought Technicolor to the world of film and in the late 1960s the BBC broadcast television programmes in colour for the first time, but it was not until July 1980 that colour images appeared on the cover of The Shirburnian.

The Shirburnian was first published in March 1859, devised as ‘an outlet for its [the School’s] wit, and also an easy means of printing all its News, both as regards those of us who are here and those who have left.’   The first edition was a slim volume of eleven pages with the Governors’ seal, otherwise known as the Sherborne Penny, on the cover.  From that date until July 1980 typography changed and the Sherborne Penny was replaced by the School crest, but the cover remained plain and simple.

The progressive editor of The Shirburnian who ushered in the radical change to the cover design was James Perry (The Digby 1976-1981).  In the July 1980 editorial James was at pains to explain and justify the new format of the magazine: ‘We have been left behind by our fellow Public Schools in the field of design and artwork…. There can be no excuse whatsoever though for our naïve, dilettante approach to the format and presentation of our magazine.  In this field, new is best, and we have an excellent litho press at our disposal, and a team of experts who control it: the hideous unattractiveness of previous issues seems wholly unnecessary to someone who realises the capabilities which modern printing technology presents.’

The new look magazine was printed by The Abbey Press in the Parade (then behind the Abbey Bookshop) and reaction to its glossy appearance was very positive.  ‘The Sherborne Diarist’ wrote in the next edition of the magazine that ‘Its editor should be heartily congratulated for his conscientious effort’.

Since July 1980, all covers of The Shirburnian have featured photographs or artwork, the majority in colour.

We are told that you should not judge a book by its cover but, looking back over 37 years of The Shirburnian, which is your favourite cover?

If you know who designed the unidentified covers we would love to hear from you.  For further information please contact the School Archivist.