Sorting the Lennox-Boyd Collection

Trade card for Bourn, goldsmith Lennox Boyd Collection
Trade card for Bourn, goldsmith
Lennox Boyd Collection

The Lennox-Boyd Collection (of printed ephemera) was accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by H M Government from the estate of the Hon. Christopher Lennox-Boyd and allocated to the Bodleian Library in 2015.  Christopher Lennox-Boyd (1941-2012) was an antiquarian scholar and an avid collector, most notably of mezzotints,  but also of ephemera, fans, picture frames and much else. He owned Sanders (the antique print shop) in the High Street, Oxford.

The ephemera collection arrived in 61 boxes (some very large) and bags. CLB had begun to sort some sections but a great deal of the ephemera remained unsorted, often still in dealers’ bags. (although provenance of individual items is not documented).  It is, therefore, a delightful and privileged voyage of discovery – a rare opportunity to discover a private collection.  My trusty team of volunteers and I are currently undertaking an initial sort, and are turning up all sorts of gems.

The material is more varied than I had realised and our list of categories now numbers over 30.  The meat of the collection, however, is in the trade cards, bill headings and note headings. There is a substantial corpus of material relating to hotels.

Bill Heading for Lamplighter, 1773
Bill Heading for Lamplighter, 1773

The smaller, but choice, Ceremonial and Funeralia sections have already been sorted by our History graduate student, Leea.

Coronation ticket, 1761
Coronation ticket, 1761

Another volunteer is cataloguing a small collection of Bookplates.

An index will be produced in due course, and it is hoped also to catalogue the trade cards, which complement those already catalogued and digitised in the John Johnson Collection.  Meanwhile, the focus is on appropriate housing for the collection – in the system of Conservation-quality ring binders with melinex pages begun by Christopher Lennox-Boyd.  We were fortunate to raise money for this at Duke Humfrey’s Night 2015 (item 37).

We will post about the collection from time to time, but here are some items which have caught our attention as we sort:

Visiting card for Marwood, executioner. Lennox Boyd Collection
Visiting card for Marwood, executioner. Lennox Boyd Collection

First an Executioner’s trade or visiting card – the first I have seen. An unassuming item, it is attached to an album page (sadly all that we have) with images of crimals or suspected criminals, two of whom (Peace & Lefroy) are among the 176 people he executed. William Marwood merits his own Wikipedia article.  He developed the ‘long drop’ (more humane) method of hanging.

List of Bristol executions, c. 1829
List of Bristol executions, c. 1829

While on the subject of crime, this handbill listing  hangings in Bristol (42 in 89 years) forms a fascinating overview of the application of the death penalty.






Some of the humblest scraps of paper can prove fascinating, as is the case with this advertisement for the hire of umbrellas, to avoid the inconvenience of carrying them on dry days!

Letterpress advertisement for the hire of umbrellas
The London Umbrella Company advert (recto)
List of stations for the hire of umbrellas
The London Umbrella Company hire stations








One of the more unusual Lost notices I have seen is this one:

Lost notice, for Wooden leg and foot
Lost notice, for Wooden leg and foot

While most of the ephemera pre-dates chromolithography, volunteer Caroline was delighted to find this early 1900s novelty advertisement for Au Bon Marché.

Au Bon Marché ad: front
Au Bon Marché ad: front
Au Bon Marché: inside
Au Bon Marché: inside







Au Bon Marché ad: back
Au Bon Marché ad: back

Watch this space, as we uncover more treasures!  We will also post gems from the collection as we find them on our Instagram page.




Shakespeare in the John Johnson Collection for scholars and dilettantes

The Bard immortalized in ephemera

Such is Shakespeare’s fame, that he has, inevitably, permeated the culture of our land. Quotations and misquotations from his works pepper advertisements from cosmetics to shoe polish, artificial teeth to linen mesh underwear. The Bard lent a certain gravitas.

Keen's mustard detail
Food 7 (38b) detail
Keen's mustard ad
Food 7 (38b)

Shakespeare’s portrait graced match boxes and cigar labels, and advertisements for (among others) soap, patent medicines, mustard & candles. In her excellent work Portraits of Shakespeare (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 2015) Katherine Duncan-Jones situates these humble ephemera as derivative of the Droeshout engraving or the Chandos portrait.

Shakespeare: Great English writers on candles
Oil and Candles 1 (57)


Shakespeare cigar lights
Labels 12 (43c)


Pears soap ad showing Shakespeare
Soap 7 (14)




Cellular cloth and clothing catalogue showing Shakespeare collar, 1892
Oxford Trade Pamphlets (7) p. 13







A women’s clothing company (The Shakespeare Manufacturing Company of  Manchester) took his name and a collar was called after Shakespeare.

Inevitably, many circulating libraries and bookshops bore his name or his portrait on their trade card.

Clubb & Greening trade card with Shakespeare portrait
Booktrade Trade Cards 4





Hodgson's New Characters in The Tempest Miniature Theatre sheet, 1823
Hodgson’s New Characters in The Tempest Miniature Theatre sheet, 1823

In our ProQuest project (free within the UK), in addition to advertisements, there are sheet music covers, minature theatre sheets, popular and humorous prints, scraps and prospectuses.

However, the major corpus of Shakespeare-related ephemera in the John Johnson Collection is theatrical, with over 2,000 playbills and programmes from London and provincial theatres fully indexed and digitised on our ProQuest site with some playbills from the end of the 18th century on DigitalBodleian.  These playbills constitute a major scholarly resource.

Mrs SIddons in Macbeth, April 14 1812
London Playbills Covent Garden vol. 1811-1812 (159), with Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth

Not only can researchers find details of which plays were performed, when and in which venue, but also who performed them, in whose edition and in what context. As all performers are indexed, scholars can find Sarah Siddons in Macbeth, John Kemble in Coriolanus, Edmund Kean in Richard III.

The couplings of Shakespeare tragedies with somewhat lighter works are alien to our current theatre-going practices and reveal much about the nature of an evening’s entertainment expected by Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians.  Inserted into these long evenings were songs, dances, ballets, burlettas, masquerades, etc.  Musicologists can search for specific pieces or composers of incidental music or discrete works.

In addition to resources available electronically, there are eight boxes and three folders of ephemera and secondary material relating to the Bard, including undigitised prospectuses of Shakespeare editions. The Shakespeare index is online.

Don’t forget to explore ballads relating to Shakespeare too:

Bodleian exhibitions and the John Johnson Collection

King Arthur at the Lyceum
JJ Lyceum 1 (26)

This evening is the official opening of the Bodleian’s superb new exhibition The Romance of the Middle Ages.  As the exhibition curator explores his theme across the centuries, I am delighted that he displays a programme for King Arthur at the Lyceum with Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in the cast, music by Arthur Sullivan and costumes by Edward Burne Jones.

The John Johnson Collection is often used in exhibitions and smaller displays  and  there have also been three major Bodleian exhibitions showcasing the Collection. The first was in 1971 and was curated by Michael Turner, who brought the Collection from the Oxford University Press in 1968.  The catalogue: The Johnson Collection, catalogue of an exhibition is the standard work on the history and formation of the Collection and the text is  online as a pdf.  We hope to add images of the exhibits in due course.

The second, in 2001, was A Nation of Shopkeepers, trade ephemera from 1654 to the 1860s and this catalogue too is online with images of all exhibits

The most recent is Children’s Games and Pastimes, which I co-curated in 2006 with Clive Hurst. The guide to the exhibition is online.

Smaller displays have included The Season for Love: a selection of choice valentines and The London Year: London Transport Posters of the 1930s (both in 2010).

I am already looking forward to the forthcoming major Dickens exhibition.