Ephemera Bibliography

A lot has been written about ephemera over the years, and authors are adding to the literature with increasing frequency.

Of course, the Ephemera Society has been an active publisher since it was established in 1980. In 1994, the society issued a book, Rewards of Merit…, by Patricia Fenn and Alfred Malpa, and since its founding has published a quarterly newsletter, Ephemera News, containing brief articles on different kinds of ephemera. Ephemera Journal, published in nine numbers since 1987, features lengthier pieces. The next, volume 10, will have an international flair, featuring among other articles a study of ephemera from Poland and "Chromolithography: The Legacy of Old Europe," by Michael Twyman.

This Is EphemeraOur British counterpart, the Ephemera Society of England, has an enviable list of publications too, including The Ephemerist, its newsletter, and the monumental The Encyclopedia of Ephemera…, by Maurice Rickards and edited by Michael Twyman and others.

A good way to start reading about ephemera is to pick up a copy of This is Ephemera: Collecting Printed Throwaways, also by Maurice Rickards, published in 1977. It is brief at 64 pages, but contains a wealth of information about different types of ephemera. Its first chapter, "The World of Printed Oddments,"provides a fine introduction to collecting.

Monographs are many and varied. One of the most interesting is Lick ‘Em Stick ‘Em: The Lost Art of Poster Stamps, by H. Thomas Steele. Prized for its content, the colorfully illustrated volume offers a summary of the history and design of poster stamps; regretfully, it is out of print. In 2001, Rachael Huener added to the literature on poster stamps when she completed a dissertation, Reklamemarken in Wilhelmine Germany: Consuming Fictions, in which she studied poster stamps in Germany from 1910-1914.

Another special type of ephemera, paper soldiers, garnered the attention of Edward Ryan. In 1995, he published Paper Soldiers: the Illustrated History of Printed Paper Armies of the 18th, 19th & 20th Centuries. In hardback and consisting of 528 pages, the wonderfully illustrated volume leads its readers through the development of paper soldiers over the course of three centuries, beginning in the 1770s in Strasbourg, France.

A Nation of Shopkeepers: Trade Ephemera from 1654 to the 1860s in the John Johnson Collection, was published in 2001 to accompany an exhibition at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University. The 150+ page exhibition catalog is divided into thirteen chapters ranging from "The Printing of Trade Cards" to "Shop Signs," from "Women in Trade" to an examination of ephemera associated with "The Great Exhibition." It includes 200 color illustrations.

In the United States, Princeton University held an exhibition of its ephemera collection in 1992 and issued a catalog that has lived beyond the show. Compiled by Dale Roylance, it is called Graphic Americana: the Art and Technique of Printed Ephemera from Abecedaires to Zoetropes.

Ephemera Society member John Margolies enlivens his publications with images of ephemera. Home Away from Home: Motels in America, from 1995, and Fun Along the Road: American Tourist Attractions, published three years later in 1998, feature depictions of postcards, travel brochures, promotional material, maps, and photographs.

A scholarly work by Ellen Garvey, The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s, explores readers' interactions with advertising during a time when both consumption and advertising were beginning to take hold in the United States. "Readers own participation in advertising, not top-down dictation by advertisers," she notes, "made advertising a central part of American culture."

Articles on ephemera have appeared in many magazines. Heading the list is Northeast Journal, which has published this column since 1999, as well as other articles on ephemera. Each year from 1981, until it ceased publication in 1999, AB Bookman devoted an issue to ephemera, customarily around the time the Ephemera Society held its annual conference and fair each March. Society member Diane DeBlois currently contributes a regular column on ephemera to Book Source Monthly. And in the autumn of 1990, the Louisiana Library Association devoted an entire issue of its quarterly, then entitled LLA Bulletin, to ephemera; its contents are available on the Ephemera Society's web site.

Auction catalogs are also valuable for their illustrations and descriptions of ephemera. One firm, Swann Galleries, a New York City auction house and corporate supporter of the Ephemera Society, issues informative catalogs of its auction offerings. Several on posters especially stand out.

To keep up on the bibliography of ephemera, join the Ephemera Society and see the regular column in Ephemera News, "Interesting Books," for reviews of newly published items.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

[This article originally appeared in the Northeast Journal of Antiques & Art.] Photo courtesy of Carnegie Hall Archives

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America