Vanity Fair was originally founded as a British weekly magazine in 1868 by Thomas Gibson Bowles. Subtitled "A Weekly Show of Political, Social, and Literary Wares", it offered its Victorian- and Edwardian-era readership articles on current events and issues of the day, reviews of the theatre, new books, reports on social events, and the latest scandals, together with serialized fiction, word games, and other trivia. However the magazine was perhaps best known for its caricatures. More than two thousand of these caricatures appeared of subjects that included artists, athletes, royalty, statesmen, scientists, authors, actors, soldiers and scholars.
Produced by an international group of artists, the illustrations are considered the chief cultural legacy of the magazine and form a pictorial record of the period. Among the artists who contributed illustrations were Max Beerbohm, Sir Leslie Ward (who signed his work "Spy"), the Italian Carlo Pellegrini (known as "Ape"), the French artist James Jacques Tissot, and the American Thomas Nast.
After Bowles sold his interest in the magazine in 1889, it changed hands several times and was then merged with Hearth and Home, whereupon it lost its name.