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The Ephemera Society News

The Ephemerist Winter 2015

Front and back cover of The Ephemerist
The Winter issue of the society's journal was posted to members on
11 February 2016 and contains the following articles:

  • Diana Mackarill | Early printers in Henley-on-Thames
  • Graham P. Cornish | Copyright: not an ephemeral subject
  • W.G. FitzGerald | Vanishing Valentines
  • Andreu Balius | Spanish butcher’s papers
  • Graham Hudson | Collecting on a shoestring: till receipts
  • Plus regular favourites | Mrs Pepys' Diary and Notes & Queries

Cover image: One of the 13,000 bookplates carrying the name of restaurant owner and bookplate collector Mario de Filippis, 1944 (89 x 103 mm)


The Bloomsbury Book Fair

Saint Valentine's Day

Image of sweethearts

For the small fairs in 2016 the Ephemera Society will be joining up with the Bloomsbury Book Fair run by Kim Jeffery of Etc Fairs.

Exhibitors from the Ephemera Society will be attending this event, on 14 February, where you can expect dealers in fine and rare books, ephemera specialists, map & print sellers, as well as auctioneers and bookbinders. Be sure to come along this Sunday!

  • Bloomsbury Book Fair
  • Royal National Hotel
  • Bedford Way
  • London WC1H 0DG
  • United Kingdom
  • 10am - 4pm · Entry £2 until 12.30pm, free thereafter
  • More information:


Broadside Day

Image of ballad singer

20 February 2016, Chetham's Library, Manchester

The Broadside Day is the annual one-day conference for people interested in Street Literature in all its fascinating aspects - broadsides, chapbooks, songsters, woodcuts, engravings, last dying speeches, catchpennies, wonder-tales, almanacs, fortune-tellers, moral tracts, reading-made-easy alphabets, and all kinds of cheap printed material sold to ordinary people in city streets, at country fairs, and from pedlars' packs up and down the country in past centuries.

Street literature, in the form of broadside ballads, was first produced in the early 16th century, and was at first concentrated in London, but later spread to every part of the British Isles and lasted into the 20th century.

But its glorious heyday was in Victorian times when tens of thousands of items were produced every year by jobbing printers everywhere. The material was often very badly printed, on the cheapest quality of paper, and might be genuine news or a complete fiction, but for most of this time it was one of the only forms of reading matter readily available to the poor, and is therefore tremendously interesting to a wide range of modern-day researchers and enthusiasts.

The Broadside Day is organised jointly by the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS) and the Traditional Song Forum (TSF). The Day consists of short papers, presentations, displays, discussions, performances, and so on, and is suitable for beginners and experts alike, who will all enjoy its lively and informal atmosphere.

More details:


Sudbury Ephemera Archive(SEA)

Collecting Sudbury's memories before they are lost

Sudbury Ephemera Archive

SEA in a small way are trying to preserve Sudbury’s, Suffolk past in the form of paperwork, by collecting old documents, invoices, photos, letters, postcards, club & company minutes, programs, fliers, posters, house sale details and paperwork related to Sudbury’s past.

Sudbury has a remarkable history by any standards. It has a vibrant local museum, the Suffolk Records Office which collects more formal documents and records and the thriving Gainsborough House, birth place of the English portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788).

But history, especially local history, is about more than the big events. It is often the personal, detailed insights into the lives of our forbears which can bring history to life and give a sense of nearness and a feeling of what life was really like for them.

This is why ephemera is so important, too often these are things that get thrown out when someone moves, scales down or dies. But these are the very things SEA want people to preserve and, hopefully, in due course, donate to them for preservation and cataloguing in order to make them available to historians and the general public.

More details:


Museum of Brands now open in New Location

Museum of Brands logo

The Museum of Brands is opening in a new exciting location on Lancaster Road, Notting Hill. The new Museum has even more on offer, including larger exhibition areas, new venue hire spaces, a learning space, cafe, garden and shop.

Featuring over 12,000 original items from Ephemera Society member Robert Opie's collection, discover how well-loved brands evolved through their creative use of packaging and advertising - and how we evolved with them. The history of consumer culture is revealed decade by decade in ther ‘time tunnel’, from the naive charm of the Victorian era to the sophistication of today.

More details:


Playing with History display celebrates Bodleian's new collection of board games and pastimes

Until 6 March 2016

Detail from game

The Bodleian Libraries has recently acquired a major collection of board games and pastimes dating from 1800 to the year 2000 and will showcase a selection of them in a new display exploring how games have been used to teach history.

Playing with History display is in the Blackwell Hall, Weston Library and will feature 22 games that show how children in Victorian and Edwardian Britain learned about the world around them. The games selected for the display represent a tiny slice of the rich and varied collection of almost 1500 board games and pastimes that collector Richard Ballam recently donated to the Libraries.

The display will focus specifically on how games were used to teach children about three topics: kings and queens, the British world view, and war and conflict in the early 20th-century. Visitors can see a fascinating range of games and teaching aids dating from 1800 to 1925 including card games, wooden blocks, dissected puzzles (a precursor to the jigsaw), glass-topped puzzles, strategy games and board games played with a spinning top called a teetotum.

'Games are fascinating because they hold a mirror to society,' said the display's curator Julie Anne Lambert, Librarian of the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Libraries. 'Games which aim to teach history are particularly interesting as it is impossible to take an unbiased view of the past or the present, so the images, text and format of the games reveal much about the attitudes and perspectives that were prevalent at the time.'

Beyond the games highlighted in the upcoming display, the wider Ballam Collection represents a new resource for scholars, particularly those interested in social history and the history of games. The collection contains a wide range of games from the 19th and 20th centuries such as The Produce and Manufactures of the Counties of England and Wales, Spellicans (also known as Pick up Sticks) and Fox and Geese to modern day classics such as Trivial Pursuit, Dingbats, Taboo and Pictionary.


Imprinting the Centre

The launch of the Centre for Printing History and Culture

The Centre for Printing History and Culture, a joint initiative between Birmingham City University (BCU) and the University of Birmingham, was launched at an event entitled ‘Imprinting the Centre’ at Winterbourne House, Birmingham on Wednesday 25 November. The Centre consists of academics, curators, librarians and printers from across the region and seeks to encourage research into all aspects and periods of printing history and culture, as well as education and training into the art and practice of printing.

Caroline Archer, Professor of typography at BCU, described how Birmingham is the ideal city from which a Centre of international renown can be developed. ‘Birmingham is Britain’s most historically important centre of printing outside London. Through its connections with John Baskerville, the famous printer, Birmingham became the centre of European printing during the mid-eighteenth century’, she concluded: ‘for three centuries the city’s printers, type-founders, engravers, bookmakers, newspaper makers and typographic educators have combined to make the region not only a local but also national and international typographic force’.

Image of trade card

Above: W. Lodge. Manufacturer of Italian Marble Chimney Pieces, Islington, Birmingham.
Below: Groves & James Benton. Jewellers, Gilt Toy Manufacturers, 18 Loveday Street, Birmingham.

Image of trade card

One of the research projects of CPHC is to consider the design, production and distribution of industrial publishing, the companies that issued it and the printers that produced it, in order to shed new light on the printing industry in the Midlands, and the workings of the regions manufacturers.

While these local connections and histories provide a rich base for the Centre, its associates and members harbour ambitions that are national and international in scale. In 2016, the Centre will be running international symposia on the 200th anniversary of the sans serif and the 90th and 30th anniversaries of General Strike and the Wapping Dispute and in 2017, it will host a two-day conference on printing history and culture entitled ‘Printing History and Culture Rebound’. As described by Christopher Hill, a research fellow appointed to the Centre by BCU, this conference will ‘redress the compartmentalisation of printing history and cultural studies into two disciplines that fail to “speak” to one another’. By doing so, Chris believes that printing history and culture can provide a window into wider theoretical debates about ‘cultural and material turns’. The ‘re-binding’ of printing history with cultural studies ‘is important because it re-connects the mechanical and material processes of print with those of cultural dissemination’.

Dr Malcolm Dick, Director of the Centre for West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham, said: “The CPHC cements a strong working relationship between two of Birmingham’s great universities. Starting from a regional base, we are linking academic research and teaching with the activities of museums, libraries, businesses and individuals who are interested in printing history and culture in Britain and beyond. The rare books and archives in the Cadbury Research Library and the printing press in Winterbourne at the University of Birmingham are superb local resources. The CPHC is a major enterprise for both universities and the people of Birmingham.”

For more information:


Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered
Secrets of 17th-century postal archive finally to be revealed

Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague

2,600 letters have been recovered in a postmaster’s trunk, containing extensive historical and cultural evidence from 17th-century Europe, 600 of them are still sealed shut, and will be read for the first time using the latest advances in x-ray technology.

Image of chest of letters
©Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015
Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

The trunk contains 2,600 letters sent from France, Spain and the Spanish Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 but never delivered – including 600 letters never opened – because their recipients could not be found or would not pay outstanding postage costs. The trunk has been stored in The Hague’s Museum voor Communicatie since 1926. An international team of experts from MIT, Yale University, and the Universities of Leiden, Groningen, and Oxford is exploring them to find out more in a ground-breaking project called Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered.

The researchers are employing a range of innovative techniques to explore these often complexly folded letters – and to read the unopened letters without breaking their seals. Using the latest advances in x-ray technology from the field of dentistry developed by the Apocalypto group including Dr. David Mills, at Queen Mary, the team will read the letters for the first time without damaging this unique archive. Dr Nadine Akkerman, from the University of Leiden, says: “Because early modern ink contained iron, incredibly delicate scanning can detect it on the paper. By scanning each layer of paper in a letter packet, we should be able to piece the letters back like jigsaw puzzles and read them without breaking the seals.”

Image of letter enclosure
Paper-cut gift of dove included with one of the letters
©Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team 2015. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

Collected by the postmasters of the Dutch city of The Hague – Simon de Brienne and his wife Maria Germain – the letter-writers come from all levels of society, from aristocrats to wandering musicians, women as well as men, each with their own stories to tell. Beyond its written information, the trunk is a valuable physical resource, from the wax seals on its seal-skin-covered exterior to the ways the letters were folded.

The Briennes were at the heart of European communications networks, serving William of Orange both before and after The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which saw William and his wife Mary depose King James II following a successful Dutch invasion of England, Scotland, and Ireland which shocked the world and changed Europe forever.

Dr Daniel Starza Smith, from Lincoln College, University of Oxford notes: “How a letter was folded can express personality and period just as handwriting can." Jana Dambrogio, conservator at MIT Libraries, adds: “But the inventiveness and complexity here is like nothing we have ever seen. It allows us to study what we call ‘letterlocking’: the tradition of folding and securing a writing surface to function as its own envelope. This is an entirely new area of study, so the trunk offers us amazing research opportunities.”

The unopened letters will be scanned using x-ray tomography, an extremely sensitive technique from the field of dentistry, which has already been used successfully on some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Visit the project website:


Victorian Turkish Baths

by Malcolm Shifrin

Image of book

Victorian Turkish Baths is the first book to bring to light the hidden history of a fascinating institution—the 600-plus dry hot air baths that sprang up across Ireland, Britain and beyond, in the 19th century.

Ephemera Society member Malcolm Shifrin traces the bath’s Irish-Roman antecedents, looking at how its origins were influenced by a combination of the physician Richard Barter’s hydropathic expertise, and the idiosyncratic diplomat David Urquhart's passion for the hammams of the Middle East.

The book reveals how working-class members of a network of political pressure groups built more than 30 of the first Turkish baths in England. It explores the architecture, technology and sociology of the Victorian Turkish bath, examining everything from business and advertising to sex—real and imagined. This book offers a wealth of wondrous detail—from the baths used to treat sick horses to those for first-class passengers on the Titanic.

This book will appeal to those interested in Victorian social history, architecture, social attitudes to leisure, early public health campaigns, pressure groups, gendered spaces and much else besides. The book is complemented by the author’s widely respected website, where readers can find a treasure trove of further information.

More details:




Ephemera - minor transient documents of every day life