Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing

Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing

Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing

Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing

Excerpt

A dozen years or so ago, I bought from a bookseller in Ipswich, Suffolk, an album compiled about the year 1820 by a Dr Lodge, sometime librarian to the University Library at Cambridge. Dr Lodge's album contained a wide variety of printed matter including over a hundred engraved title pages, a large and comprehensive collection of early printers' devices, a rare Baskerville specimen sheet and an Indulgence printed by Thierry Martens.

As librarian to a great library, Dr Lodge's opportunities for collecting pages from damaged books and packings from broken bindings were extensive. It would seem that this particular Indulgence may well have lurked for three hundred years or more inside some vellum or calf-bound volume, doing duty for the paste-boards which in those days did not exist.

This Indulgence, issued for the repair of the Hospital of the Cathedral of St James at Compostella, was the starting point of my collection, which soon developed in a rather haphazard manner into a kind of designer's scrap-book.

A suggestion by Mr A. F. Johnson led me to some of the collections in the British Museum. The most rewarding of these was the series of albums made by an uneducated shoemaker and bookseller called John Bagford, who, in addition to assembling a great number of book pages, collected quite a few pieces of printed ephemera, including some lovely engraved trade cards.

Bagford made a formidable collection of print, ranging from the title pages of books to the most humble pieces of ephemera. (For generations he has laboured under the reputation of being a despoiler and mutilator of books, in order to enrich his collection. It is, however, more than likely that the books came to him by way of his trade as damaged and broken volumes.) All this collecting was to provide him with the material for a history of printing. The book was never written. The collection remains and in it are the exquisite trade cards shown here on pages 173-6 and the engraved tobacco labels on pages 220-2.

Dr Lodge's album started my collection. A first look at the Bagford collection gave me the idea for this book. From Bagford's collection I worked my way through others in the British Museum, such as the Fillenham and Ames collections, and collections elsewhere such as in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where there are several scrapbooks, mainly of nineteenth century material. At the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, I found a volume called Vulgaria which had some fine early Trinity House licences and certificates. At the British Transport Commission's Museum of Historical Relics I found a wealth of railway tickets and bills. And then somewhat belatedly I went to Oxford to see the late Dr John Johnson's 'Sanctuary of Printing' at the Oxford University Press. It is a unique collection of print, still being sorted, mounted and documented. The printed ephemera ranges from fine early proclamations to penny tickets for lavatory and cloakroom. As the Doctor said, 'Nothing is too humble!' This part of the collection was appropriately called 'Jobbing in the . . .

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