John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera

The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library is one of the most important collections of printed ephemera in the world and is a very rich source for social and printing historians.  Assembled by John de Monins Johnson (1882-1956), papyrologist, and Printer to the University, it contains c.1.5 million items. Spanning from 1508 to 1939 (and beyond in some areas), the strengths of the Collection are in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The John Johnson Collection (formerly called the Constance Meade Memorial Collection of Ephemeral Printing) was transferred to the Bodleian Library from Oxford University Press in 1968.

We continue to collect modern ephemera.

Subject headings

John Johnson aimed to collect ephemera (retrospectively) representing a wide range of social and printing history. He grouped his material into 680 subject headings, the main themes of which are: Advertisements; Artists; Authors; Booktrade and Publishing History; Education; Entertainment; Form (genre of ephemera); Political, Religious, Social and Economic History; Printing Processes; Private Presses; Transport and Travel.

John Johnson Collection website

The John Johnson Collection website provides four principal access points to the Collection:

  1. Lists of the main headings, grouped alphabetically and by theme.
  2. Hypertext links from these lists to word-processed indexes. Based on Johnsonís original indexes, these show the scope of the material in a given section and its physical arrangement.
  3. The online catalogue. This is (and will be for many years) incomplete. It contains 117,774 records, many accompanied by digital images.
  4. Online exhibition: A Nation of Shopkeepers: trade ephemera from 1654 to the 1860s.


  • Toyota Project: The Bodleian Libraryís first digital project, covering all motoring ephemera in the Collection and including 1,000 images of other forms of transport, is now available as an archived site only. The images can be browsed, with new finding aids.
  • Ballads: all Bodleian ballads, including those from the John Johnson Collection., with digital images (from microfilm) and some sound files.
  • Writing Blanks, Board Games, and Other Educational Games of the 18th and 19th centuries from the John Johnson and Harding Collections, and 18th Century Entertainment. Both projects are available through Digital.Bodleian.

The John Johnson Collection: an archive of printed ephemera (ProQuest)

This JISC-funded project provides extensive metadata and images for over 65,000 items (c. 170,000) from the following subject areas: Booktrade; Advertising; 19th century Entertainment; Crime, Murders and Executions; and Popular Prints. The Crime section was further enhanced by an add-on project, Mapping Crime. All are available free of charge throughout the UK through the following url:

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