England Bookplates, Inscriptions, Ephemera, Posters, Programmes, Menus, Tickets, Trade Cards (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Bookplates and Inscriptions[edit | edit source]

Your ancestors’ books may give you some surprising information, including:

  • Ÿ Subject matter of interest to him or her.
  • Ÿ Inscriptions if they were presentation volumes. An example is my grandfather, Dashwood John Thom’s retirement gift, a copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury with a calligraphy inscription and signatures of his co-workers at USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) . I sent a copy to the union archivist and they put me in touch with a 79-year-old former colleague whose name appeared on the list. I received a long letter from him with memories of my grandfather.
  • Ÿ Signatures of owners, perhaps a succession of them.
  • Ÿ Bookmarks and what they tell you about the owner (I once found a $10 bill used as a bookmark!)
  • Ÿ Pressed flowers or other treasures.
  • Ÿ Printed bookplates, a selection of which can be seen in Charts 86 and 87 courtesy of my bookbinder brother, John Gardner; a little research indicates that:
  • C. Reginald Grundy was the editor of The Connoissuer around 1915-1921 and his delightful bookplate is entirely appropriate.
  • Algernon Graves was a Fellow of the Society of either Antiquaries or Arts, probably the art historian, printseller and dealer 1845-1922, and the magnificent heraldic device will probably identify his family roots.
  • Frank W. Arkwright has a crest surrounded by a garter with a motto which originally belonged to the inventor Sir Richard Arkwright.
  • Francis Edward Durnford’s bookplate shows a crest which could be identified with the help of Fairbairn’s Crests, and there is an Anglican minister by this name.
  • Newbon is a resident of the Inner Temple, which indicates he is a lawyer of some kind, possibly Joseph Newbon 1840-1901, a councillor of the City of London.

The British Museum has the Franks Collection of 36,000 British bookplates and illustrations and information can be found through the Bookplate Society

A caution: I have hundreds of books in my collection which have fly leaf dedications along the lines of, “To David on his birthday with love from Auntie Edie” or “Given to Doris Brown for punctual attendance at Ashbourne School 19 July 1893”—all bought at secondhand bookshops and having no relationship to myself. Just because they’re in the family doesn’t mean that they always were, or that the inscription is relevant.

Book Inscription

Book Inscription-England.jpg

(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)


Book Plates, England.jpg

(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)

Ephemera[edit | edit source]

The term ephemera includes hand written or printed papers arising from everyday life and not meant for posterity but which are now often valuable historical sources. The category includes:

Posters[edit | edit source]

These can be for government propaganda, elections, public information, or advertising which can be especially useful for the family historian. For example Ambra Books had for sale a 17” x 11” poster from Ashby-de-la-Zouche listing 190 lots of teas, spices etc. to be sold by auction by Mr. Chubb, on the premises of Mr. H.C. Dewes on Wed. Nov. 15th, 1854.

Programmes, Menus and Tickets[edit | edit source]

These can give an idea of what the participants considered a great night out. One shown below features a concert with the Royal Artillery band and named performers in Woolwich in 1846. Another featured below is from annual theatre matinée and dinner in wartime London held by my mother’s employer, the builders Gee, Walker and Slater. If they had attended the evening performance they would have missed the last train home to Buckinghamshire!

Theatre Royal, Woolwich 1846

Theatre Royal program, London.jpg

(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)

1941 Menu & Theatre Tickets

Menu and theatre ticket 1941 - England.jpg

(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)

Trade Cards[edit | edit source]

An extensive collection of London trade (business) cards is held at the Guildhall Library, and local libraries and archives collect ones for their own areas.

Trade Card of John Lewis Topping

Business card of John Lewis Topping, London.jpg

(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)

The Bodleian Library also has a collection of trade cards which is described in detail online, and

Other types of ephemera which can each tell a story are:

  • ŸAdvertising, labels, wrappers and packaging.
  • ŸAmusements guides and visitors’ lists for spas and seaside resorts.
  • ŸBills
  • ŸBroadsheets, the single-sheet, irregular forerunner of the newspaper, but other types as well.
  • ŸHandwritten notes
  • ŸInvitations
  • ŸLetterheads

Members of the Ephemera Society include museums, libraries, universities and individuals in many countries and a number of meetings and fairs are held. Their journal, The Ephemerist carries articles, news, notes and queries, members sales and wants, book reviews and notices of exhibitions. The website has some excellent coloured illustrations of ephemera.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.