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Found: 100 years of Punch

New Delhi, Jan. 23: I’ll give ‘PUNCH’ a month, just a month,

Hang it! I’ll give ‘PUNCH’ six weeks.

Will You? I’ll give ‘PUNCH’ three; not a day more than three!

It is with this rhyme that the epilogue of the second edition of Punch starts, the publishers making fun of themselves. Little did they know that the weekly — a British humour magazine that introduced the term cartoon as we know it — would run from 1841 to 1992, and after a break, from 1996 to 2002.

Editions printed over almost 100 years — from the first issue in 1841 up to 1930 — were found tucked away in cupboards in Rashtrapati Bhavan during a renovation of the library.

“We had called a team from Nehru Memorial Library to help us set up the library. When we put all the books according to the year of their printing we discovered that we have almost all editions of Punch for almost 100 years. So we collated all of them and have kept them in our library,” said Venu Rajamony, press secretary to the President.

The collection was found in cupboards in the cabinet room, where the President holds official meetings, and the archival room, where most of the 24,000 books in Rashtrapati Bhavan are stored — the library holds 2,000 rare books.

“It is the earliest and most widely known satirical magazine. Since the English were ruling a huge part of the world, Punch was circulated in all of its colonies. Its popularity is unmatched. In India, Punch had become a generic word associated with humour magazines. There were several clones of the Punch magazine in Indian languages. In Commonwealth countries, drawings published in Punch have been the primary influence on cartoonists,” cartoonist E.P. Unny said.

Punch, also called the London Charivari after the French magazine of humour and satire Le Charivari, had by the end of the 19th century inspired 70 magazines in Indian languages. There was the Parsee Punch, Avadh Punch, Urdu Punch and so on.

It had columns like the “Psychology of London Evening Parties” and published the works of W.M. Thackeray, P.G. Wodehouse, Sir John Betjeman, Alan Coren and Miles Kington, among others.

There is no information how the magazine ended up in Rashtrapati Bhavan, where the editions were stored alongside speeches of viceroys and governors general from Lord Minto up to Lord Linlithgow. “I am sure viceroys also needed to have a good laugh,” Rajamony said.

In 1841, Lord Auckland was the governor general and lived at Belvedere House in Calcutta, the current Raj Bhavan. After the capital shifted to Delhi in 1912, the Rashtrapati Bhavan was built and Lord Irwin was its first resident, moving in in December 1929.