Printed ephemera

Literature more lowly even than a pamphlet is termed ‘ephemera’, and the Museum contains a great deal of this elusive type of historical source material. Except for certain clearly defined categories, it forms part of the collections of prints or manuscripts.

Printed ephemera can include:

  • trade literature, such as price lists, instruction leaflets, advertisements, and trade cards;
  • educational ephemera like syllabi, lecture notices, and examination papers;
  • documents issued by institutions and societies, such as brochures, menus, membership cards, and circular letters; and
  • any of the other printed by-products of historical activity.

Unmounted printed-paper instruments, and ‘broadsheet’ publications (single large sheets, popular in the 18th century, typically describing astronomical events or new inventions), are other examples.

A group of 18th-century auction catalogues for the sale of scientific instruments was transcribed in 2007.

Auction catalogue page fragment

18th-century auction catalogues of scientific instruments