Forty years ago in a basement office in Fitzroy Square, London, England a group of collectors made plans over tea and fig biscuits to form ... a society of like-minded people who love ephemera for its own sake, but also recognise its value as historical evidence... a society to be internationally recognised in due course as the body for the study of ephemera.
The Ephemera Society was born and 2015 marks its 40th anniversary year.
Journal of the Ephemera Society 1975
The Ephemerist was first published in November 1975 to coincide with the Societys inaugural exhibition, This is Ephemera held at Paper Point in central London. The launch party attracted not only a large and distinguished gathering but worlwide comment and interest, with large-scale press, radio and TV coverage the Society moved overnight from obscurity to international recognition.
The journal consisted of four pages and was printed on paper gifted by Wiggins Teape and has become a collectors item in its own right not only because it bears the imprint of No 1 Vol 1 but also because the paper bears the watermark of the Caxton Quincentennial design.
So what is ephemera?
One of the Societys early concerns had been the defining of terms - the word ephemera presents some difficulty - as well for its meaning as for its pronunciation. To the uninitiated the word is faintly suspect. To the initiate it may or may not cover a multitude of items, from cigarette cards to uniform buttons. To the Ephemera Society it has fairly precisely defined limits: It covers printed or handwritten items, produced specifically for short-term use and, generally, for disposal.
This definition thus admits a vast range of transient paper oddments - tickets, leaflets, stationery, labels and other trifles - but rigidly excludes such substantial items as uniform buttons, which are neither printed nor handwritten nor paper nor normally designed for short-term use and disposal.
There are borderline cases: one is packaging which, though three-dimensional, is clearly designed for short shrift; another is souvenir material which, by definition, is designed for retention for ever.
Postcards, cigarette cards and postage stamps are normally excluded by virtue of their being well provided with specialist clubs and societies in their own right. These may, however, be admitted as single items among other material in a thematic context. Handwritten items, though normally excluding formal correspondence, may include such transient fragments as laundry lists, cure-all recipes and artisans receipts.
In the matter of pronunciation, the Society has settled for the short e, though the long one is welcome to stay. The ephemerist, a revival of a medieval word in a new sense, is the Societys own initiative; it may now be expected to return refreshed to the dictionaries.
Journal of the Ephemera Society Summer 2015, 40th Anniversary Issue
The emblem of the Society represents Samuel Pepys (1633 - 1703), Secretary to the Admiralty and celebrated diarist. Described by the society’s founder, Maurice Rickards, as “the first general ephemerist”, Pepys's collection embraced trade cards, board games and labels as well as ballads and other street literature.
The Society's 40th Anniversary Celebrations: May 2015
Monday 18 May was the day the Ephemera Society began its two weeks of celebrations for its 40th anniversary with behind the scenes visits to institutional archives and collections.
The UK Society invited members from the Ephemera Society of America (ESA) to share with its own membership the delights and treasures of these notable resources.
Our festivities began with a visit to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum which was followed the next day by a trip to the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera one of the largest and most important collections of printed ephemera in the world.
Major highlights that followed were visits to the Centre for Ephemera Studies at the University of Reading to view the Maurice Rickards Collection and John Lewis Collection; both collectors were pioneers in the conservation and study of ephemera. In addition members were invited to view a special exhibition featuring highlights from the Michael Tywman Collection of French Ephemera.
Hard on the heels of these fascinating events the Society turned the spotlight on the V&A Theatre and Performance collection with a special tour of their archives to see rarely displayed material. The Museum of London invited us to their collections, followed in the second week of our festivities by a function at the Armourers' Hall, in association with The Grolier Club, where the renowned Peter Jackson London Collection was on show. The final event of our celebrations was a visit to the College of Arms. Founded by royal charter in 1484 by King Richard III, the College is one of the few remaining official heraldic authorities in Europe.
During the first week the Ephemera Society Banquet was held in central London where the Pepys Medal was presented to the Ephemera Society of America for outstanding contributions in the field of ephemera studies.
Visit to John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera
19 May 2015
Julie Anne Lambert was our host for an enthralling visit to learn about the history of the collection and view a display of special items from the archives.
A special treat was to print a memento of the occasion using one of the Bodleian’s iron hand-presses.
Visit to Centre for Ephemera Studies, Reading
20 May 2015
Yesterday's visit was to the Centre for Ephemera Studies(CES) which is housed in and administered by the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication of the University of Reading. We were warmly welcomed by our hosts comprising of departmental staff members and volunteers.
Ephemera Society members, together with our colleagues from the Ephemera Society of America were looking forward to a full day of discussions and viewing of printed ephemera and we were not to be disappointed.
There was a great air of anticipation as the huge archival boxes of the John Lewis collection were presented for our delight. Elsewhere we were introduced to the Maurice Rickards collection where an earnest discussion followed about the role of certain items which had proved difficult to classify.
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the exhibition of selected items from Michael Twyman's French Ephemera Collection; a unique display which is probably the first time such an exhibit of solely French printed ephemera had been shown in Britain.
Hundreds of items had been meticulously chosen ranging from the 17th to early 20th century; all available wall space was covered in vibrant posters.
Michael expertly introduced us to the contents of each section explaining enthusiastically how he had personally acquired the items, what value they were to typography and design students and also the significance they held for the social historian.
Many thanks to everybody at the CES who helped make the day such a memorable event.
Ephemera Society Anniversary Banquet
21 May 2015
Photographs from last night's Ephemera Society anniversary banquet celebrating 40 years and the presentation of the Pepys Medal to the Ephemera Society of America (ESA) for outstanding contributions in the field of ephemera studies.
The banquet excellently organised by Valerie Jackson-Harris was held in central London. It was a great success and attracted members from the USA, Canada, Malaysia, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand and Germany. Nancy Rosin, president of ESA, accepted the Pepys Medal from the Ephemera Society chairman Valerie Jackson-Harris.
Former Chairman, Sally de Beaumont, presented Valerie with a Rose Bouquet, a gift from the membership, in appreciation of all the hard work and dedication she had put into organising the 40th anniversary events.
An additional highlight of the banquet was a candle-festooned birthday cake for American member William Helfand's 89th birthday; "I deny it!" was his humorous riposte - an unforgettable and charming evening.
Diane de Blois and Robert Dalton Harris of the Ephemera Society of America
Ephemera librarian Carina Broman from the National Library of Sweden
(the Kungliga biblioteket) in Stockholm
Ephemera Society 40th Anniversary Fair
24 May 2015
Two items purchased from Sunday's highly successful ephemera fair held in central London: "Love and Fortune" - a delightful stipple engraving and etching by Francesco Bartolozzi which Giovanni Battista Cipriani designed, published in London about 1800.
Cover of Saint Valentine’s Day telegram for 1959 designed by Robert Broomfield, purchased complete with matching envelope.
Peter Jackson London Collection Exhibition
26 May 2015
The evening's reception and exhibition hosted by the Ephemera Society and Grolier Club was held in the Livery Hall, at the Armourers' Hall located in the City of London.
Amongst a rich display of 16th and 17th century arms and armour members and guests exchanged views over the wonderful and rare items of ephemera on display.
The late Peter Jackson, a founder member of the Ephemera Society and for many years the chairman was presented with the Pepys Medal in 2002.
His collection of ephemera, prints, drawings and photographs run to more than 25,000 items and is the largest and most comprehensive London-themed library in private hands, many of the items are not represented in any museum or library.
The event was sponsored by Look and Learn History Picture Library who besides sponsoring the evening have also digitised the collection.
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum Tour Sparks
Historic Ephemera Find
Participation last month in The Ephemera Society's 40th Anniversary tour to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum jogged Judith Sayers' memory regarding a Real Photo postcard in her collection of historical material of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. The town was a major focal point for tennis in the early 1900s. So upon her return to Canada, Judith scanned and sent a copy of the postcard, pictured below, to the Museum for their interest.
The response, that she received back (below), indicated that it is a significant discovery in relation to tennis history.
"Thank you for sending copies of the three postcards, which are most interesting.
The one of May Sutton in play against Mrs Edith Hannam (née Boucher) is quite extraordinary in that the match is titled "Championship of the World". I would suspect that May Sutton, the best player in the USA at the time, playing a visitor from England, possibly thought as the best, but not knowing that Mrs Dorothea Chambers held that position.
Mrs Hannam was indeed quite a good player, having won many tournaments in England, 1908-1914, also winning Olympic gold medals in singles and mixed doubles at Stockholm in 1912. Records show that May Sutton beat Mrs Hannam in the final, 6-3 6-3.
On the tour across the Atlantic, Mrs Hannam won the Canadian singles at mixed titles at Montreal, the Tri-State singles and mixed titles at Cincinnati and the doubles and mixed at Niagara-on-the-Lake - quite a successful trip!"