The TLS goes to press on Tuesday for publication on Friday. Every Tuesday, that is, except for two Tuesdays per year. In the last week of August, and the last week of December the TLS staff take a “reading week”, an office half term. To compensate, there is always a double issue the week before “halfers”: the summer double issue and in this case, the Christmas double issue.
The current Christmas double issue, dated December 23 & 30, includes Martin Amis on Nabokov, James Campbell on the letters of Ernest Hemingway, A. N. Wilson on the letters of P. G. Wodehouse; pieces on Christopher Hitchens and Steve Jobs; reviews of Swallows and Amazons at the Vaudeville Theatre, the film Hugo and the film Margaret; Joseph Heller, Georges Simenon, Harold Bloom, Alice Oswald. The list goes on. And then there’s the Christmas quiz.
Many longstanding subscribers will know off by heart not to expect a new issue today, December 30. Some will understandably get caught out, and might call in, to say they are missing a TLS. The week before was a double issue, we explain, everyone needs a week off.
But it was not always thus.
In its first year of publication, 1902, the 49th issue of the TLS appeared on Friday, December 19th; the 50th on Friday, December 26, and then once more on January 2, 1903. It seems that the paper's staff scarcely drew breath over Christmas.
Issue number 50 contained reviews of “Mallet du Pan and the French Revolution” (“This is an excellent book”). A review of Rural England: Being an account of agricultural and social researches carried out in the years 1901 and 1902. A piece from a correspondent that began: “The enterprise of the Clarendon Press in supplying a really adequate facsimile of the 1623 Folio of Shakespeare’s Plays has met with a success as gratifying as it was in the first place unexpected.” In total twelve books were reviewed alongside essays on Nathaniel Hawthorne and a letter on the relationship between banker, publisher and copyright.
Issues number 5673 and 5674 may come bound together, but they contain reviews of 53 books, three plays, two films, an exhibition, a ballet, eight volumes of the selected Kleine Schriften, three poems, commentary on the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, Freelance, Then and Now, JC, and of course (not a partridge in a … ), but the Christmas quiz.