The Life and Times of a busy bookseller, her husband and Gordon setter dogs in North Norfolk.

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Born In Essex, UK.
School in Luton.
College - Sussex.
Worked in Cambs.
Now Living in Norfolk.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Collecting Ephemera

I know, I have been slow to blog again. It could be to do with work, work, work,  that and trying to keep up with the never ending round of social networking with social media. I now not only tweet - as one does on twitter, but have a facebook page, and a Peakirk book facebook page to maintain ( - please please 'like' it if you have a moment, it means I get extra information from the people who run it!).  I am also well and truly 'Linked in' - oh what a social networking whirl, how did I ever manage before with pen and ink and the boring old telephone. However, for business reasons, I am told, one has to do these things, so I try my best, and trail along behind 'tweeting' and 'poking' and anything else I should be doing to generally make a nuisance of myself and generally get me and Peakirk Books noticed.  I'm not convinced it works, but with so much competition out there in the book selling world, you have to do your best. Meanwhile, my poor old Blog has been neglected.

During the summer there have been fewer book fairs to attend, although, starting with the large international one in York, they will soon be back in full swing. However it is the time when Vintage Paper Girls and our ephemera make more of an appearance at Fakenham Market - the flea market on a Thursday, in the car park near Argos for those who know it!  As ephemera is paper based we have to anxiously watch the weather forecast every week to see whether we can attend. Rain, damp or excess windy weather does not mix with paper on the stand. Knowing how accurate the weather forecasts are (cough, splutter) we spend an anxious Wednesday deciding whether to pack up the car or not, before making our way to the stall on a Thursday, bright and early.

When I tell people that I have a new string to my bow, in the business sense, and that is the selling of ephemera, a puzzled look crosses most of their brows.  It's often a word that they have heard before, but are not sure just what it is. Sometimes they ask, sometimes they try to just look knowledgeable, but unless I am talking to people in the book trade, most people don't know just what ephemera is - and its quite difficult to explain. I believe the Ephemera Society call it broadly 'the minor transient documents of everyday life' - but I suspect if I quoted that, most people wouldn't be a great deal clearer. It includes the many thousands of printed and handwritten oddments that civilisation emits daily -  tickets, receipts, menus, pamphlets, brochures, letterheads, ............daily living in scraps of paper. As we live, we produce paper, in both handwritten and printed formats. We produce lists, keep records, write reports, send cards, produce certificates, send bills, invoices & receipts, we advertise, we produce newspapers, magazines, journals, comics,information sheets.

Some paper is produced to last minutes, some a day, some longer. Most pieces are quite transient. Some are produced quite basically and dully. Some are produced quite beautifully and decoratively.Most are somewhere in between.

In the more recent past, the layman & general collector has begun to join the academic student such as the graphic designer and the social historian, in acquiring and appreciating ephemera. 1975 saw the founding of The Ephemera Society (London) - and as the subject is so vast, they have had exhibitions themed on ephemera divided into certain areas eg their fifth Annual Exhibition featured items from collections from 60 of their members based on Transport and Travel. Under the title 'Going Places' the exhibition included paper fragments from the age of the stage coach to Space Exploration.

It included Baggage Labels, resort stickers, travel folders, posters, handbills, ship-board menus, passenger lists, airline boarding cards, stagecoach tickets, hotel brochures, touring maps, postcards, passports, timetables, broadsides, travel orientated toys & games, confectionary wrappers, cigar labels and much much more.

These little scraps of paper, put together, tell a story. Some are ordinary, some are quite beautiful. Some are common, some remarkably scarce - after all, they certainly weren't meant to last.  Many certainly tell a story.   We find them fascinating - and we have lots of them for sale on our stand - in Fakenham, and soon in Kings Lynn at the flea Market there on September 7th  and back in Norwich at St. Andrews Hall on September 14th. Hope to see some of you there soon.