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John Johnson Collection for Local Historians: Home

This guide is intended for students/researchers studying Local History at the University of Oxford and elsewhere, although students/researchers from any field may find it useful.

Use this guide to find out how to find ephemera  in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera relating to London and a wide range of cities and towns in Britain, including trade cards, advertisements, circulating library labels and playbills.

Why ephemera?

Trade card for Hugh King of Bournemouth, showing his premises

Trade Card of Hugh King, Bournemouth

(C) John Johnson Collection: Trade Cards 21 (110)

Advertisements, catalogues, bill headings, handbills or flyers, playbills, trade cards, headed notepaper.... all these ephemera disappear so rapidly, taking with them tiny insights into social and commercial history. 

The John Johnson Collection contains a wealth of such material. Furthermore, a large proportion of ephemera of interest to local historians is catalogued (providing access by place) and digitised, providing information about your town which it might be difficult to find elsewhere - who was trading in a particular street, what their premises looked like 150 years ago....  Ephemera don't contain the whole story, but provide bits of the puzzle that is local history. 



Trade card for Philip Mose, wine and spirit merchant in Holborn, showing New Furnivals Inn coffee house, tavern and hotel

(C) John Johnson Collection: Trade Cards 14 (30)


The John Johnson Collection is a great resource for the local historian, wherever you live in Britain.

Unlike many of the collections in London institutions, the John Johnson Collection is strong not only in London but also in provincial ephemera, and includes Irish, Scottish and Welsh material.

The aim of this guide is to outline what types of ephemera you might expect to find and how to access them.

Please bear in mind that by no means all our material is catalogued. Where it is, we have recorded not only towns but addresses, for tradesmen, printers, publishers, venues, etc. 

The Collection also includes many views, and these too are indexed by place.

Key web sites

John Johnson Collection website:

Online catalogue:

The John Johnson Collection: an archive of printed ephemera (ProQuest). A major digital project of five sections of the Collection: Advertising, 19th century Entertainment, Crime, Popular Prints and Booktrade. Available to all in UK free of charge:

Indexes: Finding aids to the headings in the collection, arranged alphabetically and by overall theme:

JJ Coll LibGuides landing page (with links to guides):

Librarian of the John Johnson Collection


John Johnson Collection
Bodleian Libraries
Broad Street