Editorial illustration made its official appearance in the mid to late 18th century, during the so-called "Age of Reason" (height of global slavery, the French Revolution, European colonization of the far east). The printing press had already been around a couple of hundred years. That was churning out mainly religious, scientific, and geographical exploration books, mostly out of the Netherlands. In the midst of these two centuries horrific endless religious and land wars, on top of pandemics, tore Europe apart. When the germs and smoke cleared, more cynical minds and jaundiced eyes emerged. People were ready to look not only at faith, but facts, as well. With growing political freedom they wanted to add some news and satire to their literature. In response, the newspaper and magazine evolved. However, there were far more illiterate folks back there than those who could read and write. If these new institutions were to be able to survive financially the publishers needed for the uneducated to buy them as well; therefore, the necessity for art to accompany the stories and opinions.
At just that point editorial illustration made its debut - and what a debut it was - no holds barred! They say the pen is mightier than the sword - and satire in art became a truly deadly weapon! Witness the greatest editorial artist and caricaturist of the age: William Hogarth. He was truly the ultimate cynic, and with his stinging, lacerating wit he cut a swath through the highborn and the low.
Hogarth (who, by the way, was a brilliant classical portrait artist) set the standard for all editorial art and illustration to come, all the way down to the 21st century - such a burgeoning and flowering of this genre, based simply on caricature and irreverent lampooning!