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Electronic Research Collection of Ephemera Offers New Insights into Three Centuries of World History

ProQuest has launched <i>The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera</i>.  The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) funded a unique partnership between ProQuest and the Bodleian Library to digitise more than 65,000 items from the Bodleian Library's John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera.  <i> The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera</i>, which will be the largest collection of its kind,   is now available free of charge to all staff and students in colleges and universities in the UK through funding from the JISC Digitisation Programme, and available through ProQuest for purchase and subscription to libraries worldwide.

"Until now the materials in The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera in the Bodleian Library have remained largely hidden to scholars and researchers" said Mary Sauer-Games, ProQuest's Vice-President of Publishing for Chadwyck-Healey.  "We are very pleased to work with both the Bodleian Library and JISC to conserve, catalogue, and digitise this highly prized evidence of Britain's cultural, social, industrial, and technological heritage.  Ephemera provide scholars and educators with a wholly untouched record of the past."

Richard Ovenden, Associate Director and Keeper of Special Collections, Bodleian Library, said: "Regarded as the most significant single collection of ephemera in the UK, The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera has been one of Bodleian's least known treasures. Through the digitisation programme we are now able to make this valuable primary resource available to researchers and the general public worldwide."

Alastair Dunning, JISC digitisation programme manager said, "The academic value of printed ephemera is often overlooked, so providing digital access to such a collection will open up new historical perspectives. When this resource is combined with other collections currently being digitised with JISC funding, it will have a significant impact on the scholarly landscape."

Housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera is widely recognized as one of the most important collections of printed ephemera in the world, and generally regarded as the most significant single collection of ephemera in the UK. The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, ranging in date from 1508-1939, spans a wide range of printing and social history. It was assembled by John de Monins Johnson (1882-1956), Printer to the University, who was visionary in his preservation of Britain's vulnerable paper heritage.

This new online collection, The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera makes available a wide array of rare or unique archival materials documenting various aspects of everyday life in Britain in the nineteenth century and before. The collection features playbills, programmes and handbills for theatrical and non-theatrical entertainments, broadsides relating to murders and executions, book prospectuses, popular and topographical prints, and a wealth of different kinds of printed advertising material.  The collection will form an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the histories of consumption, leisure, gender, popular and commerce.  As each item will be presented as a full-colour facsimile, it will also be invaluable for researchers studying the development of printing and visual culture in modern Britain. 

The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera will consist of five different categories of material taken from The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, housed at the Bodleian:

Nineteenth-Century Entertainment
- which falls into two distinct groups: theatre material and non-theatrical entertainment material. Both categories provide a wealth of insights into nineteenth-century leisure activities, popular and high culture (especially the performing arts), and the development of different types of entertainment.

Booktrade material
- examples include publishing material (e.g. prospectuses of books and journals) and bookplates. The former items will be of interest to anyone studying the history of the publishing industry, or the reception of certain kinds of thought or learning during the period; the latter will prove invaluable to those interested in the provenance of books, or in design history.

Popular prints
- these items provide an invaluable record of locations and landscapes, architecture, popular tastes and appetites for artistic works and topography.

Crime, Murders, and Executions
- a mixture of single sheets and pamphlets. These resources give insights into the judicial system, and punishment, notably the application of the death penalty and of transportation. The Murders and Executions broadsides are currently highly popular with a variety of researchers (women and crime, iconography of the woodcuts, etc).

- social and economic historians, historians of popular culture, trades and industries, students of typographic design and many others will find that these items offer important insights into the past.

For more information about The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera, or any ProQuest product, visit or


About ProQuest
ProQuest creates specialized information resources and technologies that propel successful research, discovery, and lifelong learning. A global leader in serving libraries of all types, ProQuest offers the expertise of such respected brands as Chadwyck-Healey™, UMI®, SIRS®, and eLibrary®. With Serials Solutions®, Ulrich's™, RefWorks®, COS™, Dialog® and now Bowker® part of the ProQuest brand family, the company supports the breadth of the information community with innovative discovery solutions that power the business of books and the best in research experience.

More than a content provider or aggregator, ProQuest is an information partner, creating indispensable research solutions that connect people and information. Through innovative, user-centered discovery technology, ProQuest offers billions of pages of global content that includes historical newspapers, dissertations, and uniquely relevant resources for researchers of any age and sophistication—including content not likely to be digitized by others. Inspired by its customers and their end users, ProQuest is working toward a future that blends information accessibility with community to further enhance learning and encourage lifelong enrichment.

For more information, visit or the ProQuest parent company website,

About the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford. It is also a copyright deposit library, its collections being used by scholars from around the world. Founded in 1602, the Bodleian Library is home to over 9 million volumes and a large number of manuscripts and rare printed books. It is the largest university library in Britain and the second largest library in the UK. For more information visit:

About JISC

JISC's activities support education and research by promoting innovation in new technologies and by the central support of ICT services. JISC funds a wide range of projects, services, developments and infrastructure. Most of these initiatives originate from a successful response to a circular or tender, inviting organisations to bid for funding. For more information about JISC, visit
About JISC Digitisation Programme
This project forms part of the current Digitisation Programme of the UK higher education body, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) The JISC programme represents a total investment of nearly £22m in the digitisation of high-quality online content in a wide range of media, including sound, film, images, journals, newspapers, maps, theses, pamphlets and cartoons.

23 April 2008

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