Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines

Matt Maranian finds that there’s a lot to learn about the history of pin-up magazines, more than you’d ever imagine, and this set leaves no stone unturned and no skirt unlifted.

By Matt Maranian

Taschen delivers as only Taschen can with Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines, a comprehensive three-volume boxed set chronicling seven decades in over 832 munificently illustrated pages, tipping the scales at nearly seven hardbound pounds. Although each volume is ram-packed with a bevy of sepia sweethearts, hand-tinted honeys, and Kodachrome cuties squeezed between dozens of lurid full-page vintage magazine covers, the accompanying text is so compelling that you’re apt to actually read these books too. And there’s a lot to learn about the history of pin-up magazines, more than you’d ever imagine, and this set leaves no stone unturned and no skirt unlifted. From the suggestive early illustrations of the post-Victorian era to the first bare breasts, the intriguing sources that fueled the fires of popular fetish trends, and the many ways in which publishers tried to legitimize the viewing of nude women while gingerly dancing around obscenity laws, we watch this breed of pulp morph and reinvent with fiction or humor, and later the marriage of crime and flesh. We see the influence on pin-up culture in the wake of the First World War and with the advent of World War II and the rise of patriotica. We follow the path of the bifurcated girl, to eugenics, the role of burlesque, and the legalization of pubic hair. We venture under-the-counter, witness the death of the digest and the pairing of highbrow literature and airbrushed beauties. Hanson even treats us to a peek into the lesser-known black men’s magazine genre, and the contributions made by erotic fiction and Hollywood movie studios.

You’ll meet the patriarch of modern pornography, the top five cover girls of all time (viva Mansfield!), America’s ambassadors of obscenity, and the founding father of modern fetish. And the French! Oh how much we owe to the French! As well as the German Jews who immigrated to America and really got the ball bouncing. Even the realm of men’s magazines’ cartoon mascots are covered here – representing aspects of the male spirit in its most prurient forms – be it the rabbit, a devil, the good-natured bum, the sailor or the pirate, the dog or the tiger. From Peep Show to Playboy, from Jackpot to Gent, from Rogue to Swagger to Cad, Stocking Parade to Swank to Stolen Sweets, from War Laffs to Hefty to Captain Willy’s Whiz Bang, from 1900 to 1970, to Europe and back again, it’s all here, in one big glossy box.

Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines Vol. 1-3: $29

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Published 8:33 am Wed, Jun 4, 2014

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About the Author

Matt Maranian is a bestselling writer, designer, and bon vivant whose books include PAD, PAD Parties, and the first and second editions of L.A. Bizarro. He lives in Southern Vermont.

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