Category Focus | Vintage Ephemera

by Les Phipps – Business Development Manager

Ephemera has many definitions and according to the dictionary, it can be described as something that is short lived or not expected to last for a long time but for many collectors that’s not the case. The word actually comes from the Greek word Ephemeros and is more widely recognised today as Ephemera, which is a descriptive word to cover many items that have become accepted into the world of antique collecting, such as pamphlets, tickets, brochures, theatre and sports programmes, posters, letters and covers a lot of paper-based product. This can be extended to include packaging, newspapers and documents from everyday life and in many cases in can also include weird and wonderful objects that can be difficult to categorise. It more recent times the category sometimes extends to include old maps and prints, which is why it’s difficult to truly pin down a definition or description that would encompass everything as so many people have different ideas as to what should be included!


In my own experience at World of Rare Books, in the short time we have had since starting the category, one of the most popular items has been old photograph albums  and in particular those that have survived from the Victorian era or the early 1900’s, when you see these it’s not hard to see why. The images are from a bygone era that catch the mood of the times perfectly, most of the images are quite formal shots which encapsulate the moral code of the time but still produce some stunning pictures.

My own favourite items are movie magazines from the 30’s to the 50’s, mainly in black and white but so stylised and somehow more graceful. This is where you can see many of the Hollywood greats in their early years in the posed studio images but also the text that accompanies them can prove to be just as interesting and enlightening, though it’s easy to spot the ones where the studio writers have scripted the text!

Ephemera is always a hugely entertaining area that really does serve as a window into past lives and is always fascinating, what is one person’s junk, is treasure to another and that’s one of the best things about Ephemera and why it will always be of great interest to many people.

Stock up on our great vintage Ephemera here at World of Rare Books.