About Curators’ Choice

The image below, a 19th-century advertisement for Golfer Oats, comes from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. One of the largest and most important collections of printed ephemera in the world, it contains a wealth of information for scholars interested in such things as social history and popular culture, printing history, design, illustration or the history of collecting. Now, a partnership between Oxford University and the electronic publisher ProQuest is making part of the collection available online through The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera with help from a grant from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) through its Digitisation Programme.

Food 3 (1) A single-sheet advertisement printed for John Hunter & Son, Edinburgh

Golfer Oats

A team of experienced librarians and conservators at the Bodleian Library have been joined by digitization and tracking specialists in order to process around 65,000 items (more than 150,000 high-resolution images) for this online resource. Part of our job involves researching the items that we are cataloguing or conserving: how was this item made? who printed it? and just what is it talking about? Sometimes it’s as easy as the Golfer Oats advertisment where a colour lithograph humorously links the 1897 Silver Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria with Golfer Oats as “the two safeguards of the constititution”, punning cleverly on the double meaning of “constitution”. Other items need more work, however, their meaning lost through time. This blog intends to share some of the fruits of our work, highlighting pieces that have caught our fancy through their interesting content, their striking imagery or even their clever construction.

We’ve divided the blog into five sections, mirroring the five sections included in the online John Johson Collection: Nineteenth-Century Entertainment; Crimes, Murders and Executions; Book Trade; Popular Prints; and Advertising. These broad catagories include many different sorts of printed documents: theatre programmes and playbills, handbills for circuses, exhibitions and pleasure gardens; broadsides describing lurid murders and tearful confessions, book and journal prospectuses, humorous prints, topographical noteheadings, and an amazing collection of rare advertising material.

More information about the ephemera that is part of the John Johnson Project is freely available from the Bodleian Libary’s website. The project would not have been possible without funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) through its Digitisation Programme. The Proquest database may be accessed in the U.K. by those with access to higher or further education institutions, or through your public library. ProQuest provides a subscription service for those outside the UK interested in the database. To find out more about accessing the database, ask your librarian.

Image: Ask for Golfer Oats. Shelfmark: Food 3 (1) (ProQuest durable URL)

Copyright © 2008 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Reproduced with the permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction prohibited without permission


Comments are welcome for sharing with other users, but regrettably the editors of Curators’ Choice are not necessarily able to respond to enquiries.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: