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Digitisation helps preserve printing history

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The UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) will fund a partnership between ProQuest CSA, part of Cambridge Information Group, and Oxford University Library Services (OULS) to digitise more than 65,000 items from the Bodleian Library's John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera.

‘The Electronic Ephemera project will make available to researchers deep resources relating to British social and cultural history found in the Bodleian's John Johnson Collection,’ said Richard Ovenden, keeper of special collections (associate director) at the Bodleian Library. ‘The material which will be included in the project consists of exceptionally rare survivals of the kind of advertising and promotional literature that permeated British culture in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries but has survived only sporadically in a few major collections of ephemera.’

Housed in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, UK, the John Johnson Collection is widely recognised as one of the most important collections of printed ephemera in the world. It contains 1.5 million items ranging in date from 1508 to 1939 and spans the entire range of printing and social history.

The project will make available a wide array of rare or unique archival materials documenting various aspects of everyday life in Britain in the nineteenth century and before. The collection features posters and handbills for theatrical and non-theatrical entertainments, broadsides relating to murders and executions, book prospectuses, popular topographical prints, and a wealth of different kinds of printed advertising material. Each item will be presented as a full-colour facsimile.

Investment by the JISC and OULS will cover the costs of digitisation and cataloguing, including conservation costs associated with digitisation, while ProQuest CSA will bear the cost of interface development and long-term sustainability.