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Victorian Ephemera

The word ephemera derives from the Greek word ephemeron meaning 'about a day' and refers to something that lasts through the day. Ephemera is therefore by definition transient material, originally intended to be thrown away after use. The scope of such material includes greeting cards, bookmarks, cigarette cards, bills and tickets, billboards and posters and other advertising ephemera.

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W Turner, detail of Magdalene Tower from New College, Oxford, Sketchbook (1823)

Sir Harry Page Collection

Special Collections hold two major collections of Victorian ephemera, each collection in two sections. The Page Collection, created by Sir Harry Page, includes around 300 original albums and commonplace books mainly compiled by Victorian and Edwardian ladies in their leisure time. These albums contain all types of material: original watercolours, drawings, verse and prose, alongside prints, cuttings, cards, scraps and calligraphy. The second part of the Page Collection consists of some fifty scrap books of similar material compiled by Sir Harry Page. We also have a number of albums of twentieth century bookplates, each themed by subject by Sir Harry.

Such items can tell much about social and business history, printing history and methods of design and production. Ephemera can be a rich primary source for historians or designers, offering delightful forays into nostalgia or as sources of design inspiration.

The Laura Seddon Collection of Victorian and Edwardian greeting cards contains about 32,000 cards by major publishers of the day such as Marcus Ward and Raphael Tuck. The Seddon Collection of Valentine cards has 450 cards dating from the early nineteenth century. The collections are not available via the Library's catalogue but can be accessed from various guides. There is a handwritten guide to the Page Collection compiled by Sir Harry Page. An article by H.R. Page, Collecting Victoriana, was published in The Manchester Review, Summer 1958, pp161-179.

Sentimental souvenirs: Victorian scrap albums from the Sir Harry Page Collection by Gaye Smith gives a flavour of the collection's scope. For the Laura Seddon Collections see the published catalogues: A Gallery of Greetings and Victorian Valentines both by Laura Seddon.

Contact the Victorian Ephemera Collection

Access to the collection is by appointment, on a weekday basis Monday - Friday 10.00 - 16.00

It is open for private research by staff, students and external visitors.

Phone +44 (0)161 247 6107


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