If ever you found an advert overblown, or laughed at the boasts about the latest West End show; if ever you gasped with guilty pleasure at details of a juicy murder; if ever you sneered at (or secretly admired) the frocks at a charity premiere, then the John Johnson Collection is for you.
John Johnson was Printer to the University of Oxford in the early part of the Twentieth Century, and had a thing about ephemera – handbills, pamphlets, adverts… anything printed but not designed to last (or be collected!). JJ was interested in theatre, so a lot of the stuff he collected related to theatre and other entertainment, a rich source of colourful material. The physical collection is housed in that holy place of books, manuscripts and so on, the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
But the Bod recognised that the Internet was made for stuff like this, so they acquired a commercial partner (Proquest), and got digitising. You can still make an appointment to see the original items, but you can see so much of it online (nearly 68,000 documents, since you ask), and search it by category, author, artist, keyword, or date. If you choose to browse, it’s a bit clunky, but stick with it for rich rewards. It’s a veritable “olio of oddities”!