The John Johnson Collection: an Archive of Printed Ephemera (ProQuest)


The John Johnson Collection, an archive of printed ephemera is now available free of charge to EVERYONE in the UK through this url:

About the Project

The John Johnson Collection, an archive of printed ephemera is the product of a unique partnership between the Bodleian Library and ProQuest which conserved, catalogued and digitised  67,754 documents (a total of 174,196 high-resolution colour images) drawn from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera. The project was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) through its Digitisation Programme. It broadens access to a wide array of rare or unique archival materials documenting various aspects of everyday life in Britain in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The project is available free of charge within the UK. Outside the UK, an institutional subscription is needed. Free trials can be requested by institutions.

The material selected for conservation, cataloguing and digitisation comprises a wide array of different types of printed document, including posters and handbills for theatrical and non-theatrical entertainments, broadsides relating to murders and executions, book and journal prospectuses, popular topographical prints, and a wealth of different kinds of printed advertising material. The resulting online collection forms an invaluable resource for researchers interested in the histories of consumption, leisure, gender, popular culture, commerce, technology, crime, and a host of other areas. With each item presented as a full-colour, high-resolution facsimile, the John Johnson Collection is also indispensable for researchers studying the development of printing and visual culture in modern Britain.

The John Johnson Collection offers access to 67,754 documents (a total of 174,196 high-resolution colour images) and consists of five different categories of material:

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.

The Booktrade - examples include publishing material (e.g. prospectuses of books and journals) and bookplates. The former 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 that afford unique insights into the judicial system and its punishments, notably the application of the death penalty and of transportation. The Murders and Executions broadsides are currently much used in a variety of research areas (e.g. women and crime, woodcut iconography)

Advertising - social and economic historians, historians of popular culture, trades and industries, students of typographic design and many others will find that these items provide an invaluable insight into the development of consumerism.

The records are included in the John Johnson Collection catalogue, but the images are only available through the ProQuest site.

The database has sophisticated functionality, including full-text searching (through OCR of letterpress ephemera), search-screens tailored to each of the five sections, image manipulation, lightboxes, refworks, academic essays, etc.

Mapping Crime: Enhanced Records for Crime, Murders and Executions

Of the five major categories of material included in the John Johnson Collection, an archive of printed ephemera the Crimes, Murders and Executions section is one of the most popular and most often consulted, providing documentary evidence which supports research in various aspects of social history. This section of the resource comprises more than 1,400 records, all with associated digital images, and includes both broadsides and pamphlets.

With funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) through its e-Content Programme, the Bodleian Library and ProQuest have enhanced this material by mapping individual records to the appropriate entries in a number of external online resources that contain references, citations or other related material, thereby offering users the scope to explore more easily themes and narratives encountered in the John Johnson Collection. The Mapping Crime project guides researchers to other information directly related to their line of enquiry, and allows them to build connections or follow trails between different resources. The four main open-access resources to which the project provides links are the Old Bailey Proceedings Online; Harvard Law School Library's digitized broadside collections, Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders; the Newgate Calendar, hosted by the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin; and the Bodleian Library's digitized catalogue of broadside ballads.

Links to external online resources from the ProQuest site that have been created as part of this initiative are displayed under the heading Related Resources on the Full Record display for items from the Crimes, Murders and Executions collection. Users can restrict searches to items for which Mapping Crime resources are available using the new checkbox that appears above the Keyword(s) field on the Search: Crimes, murders and executions search screen.

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