Printed Ephemera Collection gets a new lease of life online

18 April 2008

polkaThe Bodleian Library, University of Oxford has joined forces with the leading electronic publisher, ProQuest, in launching The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera. The aim of the project, funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), has been to catalogue, conserve and digitize approximately 65,000 items from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, housed in the Bodleian Library. 

The two-year collaboration which began in spring 2007 will allow users full access to over 150,000 high-resolution full-colour images accompanied by detailed descriptive metadata, searchable text and introductory essays delivered in an interactive interface. The web-based resource will feature five broad subject headings: 19th-century Entertainment; Booktrade; Popular prints; Crimes, murders and executions; and Advertising.

The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera is one of the largest and most important collections of such material in the world, consisting of over 1.5 million items. The Collection provides extensive documentary evidence of our cultural, social, industrial and commercial history over the last five centuries. Assembled by John de Monins Johnson (1882-1956), Printer to the University from 1925 to 1946, it was transferred from Oxford University Press to the Bodleian Library in 1968. 

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 has been one of Bodleian’s least known treasures. Through the digitization programme we are now able to make this valuable primary resource available to researchers and the general public worldwide.’ 

‘Until now the materials in the John Johnson Collection 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 JISC and Bodleian to conserve, catalogue, and digitize this highly coveted evidence of Britain’s cultural, social, industrial, and technological heritage.  Ephemera provide scholars and educators with a wholly untouched record of the past.’

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.’

The John Johnson project is part of a £22m digitization programme being managed by JISC with funding from HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) to make available a wide range of heritage and scholarly resources of national importance, including sound, moving pictures, newspapers, maps, images, cartoons, census data, journals and parliamentary papers for use by the UK further and higher education communities.

The official website of The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera is

For further information on the JISC digitisation programme, please go to:

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