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 Johnson’s 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 61,500 records, many accompanied by digital images.
  4. Online exhibition: A Nation of Shopkeepers: trade ephemera from 1654 to the 1860s.


  • Toyota Project: the Bodleian Library’s first digital project. It covers all motoring ephemera in the Collection and includes 1,000 images of other forms of transport.
  • 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 are digital projects, supported by detailed metadata

Electronic Ephemera

This JISC-funded project has created metadata and images for over 65,000 items (c.170,000 images) from the Collection in the following areas: Booktrade; Advertising; 19th century Entertainment; Crime, Murders and Executions; and Popular Prints. Records and images will be fully accessible through the site of our commercial partners, ProQuest, although the catalogue records are available as soon as created through the John Johnson Collection online catalogue. The site is available free of charge to UK HE, FE, Public Libraries and Schools at:

Mapping Crime

Further funding from JISC has facilitated the enhancement of records for the ca. 1300 broadsides and pamphlets in the Collection’s Crime, Murders and Executions section. This is being achieved through the creation of direct links to associated material in other online resources, namely the Old Bailey Proceedings Online; Harvard’s digitized broadside collection Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders, the Newgate Calendar, British Periodicals (published by ProQuest), 19th-century UK Periodicals and British Newspapers 1600-1900 (both published by Gale Cengage), as well as the Bodleian’s catalogue of broadside ballads. This additional functionality is due for release in autumn 2010.

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