A Gallimaufry of Ephemera

 
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Many a person new to letterpress printing begins with something ephemeral. Gutenberg did, printing Indulgences and no doubt learning the limits of the process that would define the book work developed in his printing house. The same purpose is served to this day with beginning letterpress printers learning the art with poetry sheets, business cards and cd covers. Ephemera is the name given to the printed matter that is not really expected to survive, like train and bus tickets. So Amos Paul Kennedy's posters are artwork, curated in galleries and collected in museums and other art collections. On the other hand, the poster advertising the Wednesday night film show is ephemera, not expected to survive once the film has been screened. The intended function of the printed piece defines ephemera, not its art, its beauty, or the social significance that might subsequently be discovered. Ephemera is printed to be discarded, lost, disregarded, no matter how much effort went into the design or execution.

 
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This sort of printing was once the work of a whole class of printers, and no town would be without a few jobbing printers who could make something good out of any text brought through the shop door. Mostly these printers have gone to the wall now, as much of this sort of work was transferred to the computer printer and standard sized white 'copier' paper. Paper bags rarely carry the name of the locally owned shop; notices for lost cats dribble away in the rain as modern printer ink is fugitive; letters, those few that have not been replaced by email now flow straight from computer to printer and include the address of the sender, so even the job of printing personal headed notepaper has been lost.

 

 
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Now we please ourselves with our books; that is the biggest part of the definition of a private press. Over the past couple of years particularly, a lot of ephemera has come from the Press. Too preoccupied with other matters to properly focus on the long and complex job of designing books, we have found in these single sheets a way to continue working. They can be developed in conversation, verified in proof, corrected, then printed all on the same day. There is something pleasing about this instant gratification! Thus we have continued to print, sometimes just for fun, sometimes to support friends in their endeavours, and in the process supplying our Subscribers with amusing bits and pieces in lieu of the books they expect from us. Some of this ephemera will go with detailed explanations in a planned pair of themed volumes, but there are many leftovers. Rather than throw them away, we have designed a portfolio to suit, covered in marbled paper made by Louise Brockman, and closed with ribbon ties. Within it are over forty pieces of ephemera, the smaller ones tipped onto backing sheets. No bus tickets, but a gallimaufry of song sheets and illustrated postcards, commemorative cards, handbills and silent agitators, a beer mat, keepsakes and trade cards, jar labels and notices, bookmarks and even a battledore of sorts. There is no text other than on the items themselves, but a decent spread of typefaces in wood and metal, prints from lino and wood, uncommon borders and a few fair fists to point the way. Take a look at it in our Shop and you will find a few more photos to add to those seen here.

 

Graham Moss