The Ephemerist

The Summer 2003 issue of The Ephemerist, the journal of the British ephemera society, is devoted to London as a tribute to the late Peter Jackson, founding member and past chairman of the British society. In March 2003, the American ephemera society honored Peter and his wife, Valerie Jackson Harris, by giving them the Maurice Rickards Award for achievement in the world of ephemera, the highest award the organization bestows.

Peter's passion as a collector was London, and over the years he amassed what is probably the largest privately held collection of ephemera ever put together on the city. In 2000, Peter gave the banquet address at Ephemera 20, the American society's annual conference and fair held in Greenwich, Connecticut, highlighting the many treasures of his collection.

The Summer 2003 issue of The Ephemerist contains six articles, including collecting ephemera on cricket, the Thames Tunnel, the Crystal Palace, an exhibition at the British Museum, posters, and the collection of ephemera at the Museum of London. Interspersed among all of the words are many illustrations, adding visual luster to their topics.

The Ephemerist has been published since November 1975, and the current issue is number 122. A complete run is available in the archives of the American ephemera society, located in the library of the Winterthur Museum, near Wilmington, Delaware.

Over the years The Ephemerist has contained countless announcements of society sponsored events, advertisements, reviews, and articles; Peter Jackson, himself, was responsible for responding to many questions in the "Notes & Queries" section. One article from the journal in particular has an appeal to ephemerists everywhere, regardless of where they are from or what they collect. The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, has given a stamp of approval for it to be reprinted here. It first appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of The Ephemerist.

Ephemera and the Compulsive Reader

It is a well-known fact that the most interesting item in the newspaper is the one which lies on the kitchen floor, preferably upside down. Similarly, the possible side-effects of the new ointment or medicine become of greater interest when the accompanying leaflet is hanging out of the wastepaper basket. But surely it is breakfast time when the compulsive reader is most hungry, and the cereal packet is there to meet the need. What are those encouraging figures of vitamin content—cornflakes enriched with iron, comparative amounts of calories—as enjoyed by the famous sportsman or pop singer? They are there to be studied, before the papers and the post arrive: the history of the product, a fascinating glimpse of its making, twice baked, and shot from guns, grown in the rich heartlands of Utopia, picked by local people in a sun-drenched land—or is that the tea packet?

Don't miss the free offers—plastic cups if you send two coupons and 90p P&P—but how does that compare with X's offer of a striped apron, or Y's set of dinosaurs? These questions must be seriously addressed.

The junk mail arriving on the mat includes a new logo on the charity appeal—pause to see if it is done by what's his name.

Working out the instructions on the DIY kit for assembling new bookshelves, it becomes imperative first to study the enclosed leaflet in four languages, exercising rusty skills by checking out the equivalent words in French, Spanish and Dutch—or is it Swedish?

The family in the next street is wishing to extend their garage, or the back porch—can't make out the official form posted on their fence, but there's quite a bit to read there, and also a notice on the tree about a lost ? with brown ears, answering to the name of ?, manuscript illegible.

Time waiting at the bus stop is never wasted when the shelter is plastered with group flyers with ingenious new titles. And there's a handy phone box for that just remembered call which may reveal new attractions.

Fortunately for the compulsive reader, the supply is never ending: ephemera is all around us.

[signed] An Addict

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

[This article originally appeared in the Northeast Journal of Antiques & Art.]

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America