The Bigger Ephemera World: The Ephemera Society (ES), United Kingdom – Wendi Bradshaw
Within the top banner of the home page of “The Ephemera Society” ephemera-society.org.uk is an image of the great diarist Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703), and in the section About us they explain that Pepys was probably the first real ephemerist, due to his collection of “trade cards, board games and labels as well as ballads and other street literature’. Although not referred to in Pepys’ diary, these items are in a collection of over 1,000 items within two large albums housed at the Magdalene College, Cambridge. An impressive inspiration for such a society.
In the introduction ES explain the intent to educate and promote the conservation of both printed and handwritten ephemera, going on to define what items the term covers. This includes items similar to those ESA members would be familiar with, and a quote from the society’s founder, Maurice Richard confirms these as “the minor transient documents of everyday life”. There is an allusion here to the more ordinary, especially for the handwritten scraps that may have an even greater ephemeral transience than printed material. As with the American and Australian societies, ES suggest the appeal for collectors are guided by interest of a particular trade, hobby or profession with many being concerned with social and graphic history. Ultimately, they state, many ephemera collectors enjoy collecting “simply as evocative reminders of the past”.
ES produce a quarterly journal, The Ephemerist, which contains member as well as academic article contributions. International subscriber membership for the “Rest of the world” members is £60 p.a. – $110 AUS.
The website has a dealer-member page, which is a list of individual business/collectors who collect or trade in ephemera; there are 11 links to the sites of traders in games, rare books, manuscripts, diaries, posters, journals, maps and even a collector dealing in passports.
Within the News tab is a summary of the current The Ephemerist issue which includes articles about Sumner’s paper bag; a collection of shipping cargo notices; and a study of airline menus. Also within the News tab are brief segments of local exhibitions and recently published books, including brief reviews.
The Events tab documents upcoming fairs and exhibitions run by the ES or independent exhibitors; the Links tab contains a substantial list of other member affiliates, actual communities of ephemera collectors. The ESA is listed, along with libraries, book collecting sites and specific interest categories. All up, over 80 links to affiliative organisations are available to anyone who accesses the site.
The current Item of the Month tab displays a set of 1930s posters with accompanying description, and a side bar lists previous Items. The Articles tab has a fascinating discussion with beautiful imagery of bookplates – and I would recommend anyone with such an interest to check it out, as further discussion here would not do justice to the visual and theoretical content. There is a side bar here with links detailing previous Articles. Topics include: funeralia, vintage radios, Art Deco, car park tickets and film ephemera.
All members are encouraged to check-out The Ephemera Society site. As an organisation whose country has a longer ephemeral past than ours, regular research into the activities and articles offers incredible and valuable supplementary potential to any ephemera collections begun or established here in the Antipodes.
The Ephemera Society – ephemera-society.org.uk