Developing research with collections and archives in Typography

Dr Rob Banham’s HCIC Fellowship is aligned with Typography’s Collections Research Framework that is seeking to demonstrate and enhance Typography’s renowned reputation and success in obtaining funding for research using collections and archives, and for its publications that have shown how studying the material attributes of text is a lively, cross-disciplinary area of study.

Typography’s Research Framework is grounded in collaboration, within the University, and beyond. We are delighted to have appointed Dr Laura Carnelos and Dr Sallie Morris as Collections Research Assistants to help us deliver our ambitions.

Some upcoming events:

7 March 2018: ‘Dating ephemera’, a day-workshop organised by the Centre for Ephemera Studies, the John Johnson Collection and UMASCS. We are looking forward to welcoming colleagues from the British Museum, the British Library, the V&A and Wellcome, as well as interest from across the University.

23 March 2018: ‘Structures of the printing press 1450–1830’. A master-class for PhD students and ECRs as part of the Gutenberg celebrations in conjunction with the Institute of English Studies, University of London and Bodleian Libraries.

June 2018: ‘London Rare Book School (LRBS) at Reading’ course on ‘Colour Printing 1800-1950’ This will make use of the collections relating to printing processes, which are unique, and will include workshops using our collection of historic presses.

June 2018:  With SOAS, a two-day interdisciplinary symposium, ‘Multiple impressions: the coexistence of scribal practices and printing technologies in text’, for doctoral students and ecrs. One day will be held at SOAS, and one day at Reading which will feature of textual reproduction demonstrations; typographic printing from metal and wood type, and lithographic printing, with a display of artefacts and materials from the Non-Latin Type collections.

This work will supplement our themed ephemera workshops on ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Dialogue and interaction’, which have attracted interest from colleagues in English Literature, Construction Management and Henley Business School. By request, we are running future workshops on the themes of ‘Health’ and ‘Food’ in the summer term. Our posters workshop in September 2017, co-organised with the V&A on behalf of the Arts Council, was a great success.

Our new seminar series (with support from HCIC), ‘Collections, archives, research: the material text’, begins in the Summer Term, and will highlight work that shows the burgeoning cross-disciplinary interest in print, printing and its usage.

Fine Art and Ephemera: an exploratory workshop

The Centre for Ephemera Studies (CES) joined forces with the  John Johnson Collection of Ephemera on Wednesday 1 November 2017 for a workshop on Ephemera and Fine Art. It was held in the Weston Library, hosted by Julie Anne Lambert, Curator of the John Johnson Collection. The aim of the day was to explore ways in which history of art and ephemera are linked through various collections and research topics.

The first talks explored the advertising and fine arts and how fine art prints found their way into the Victorian homes, through lotteries, advertising and collectable cards. Examples from Pear’s soap and Hennessy cognac in the John Johnson collection stimulated discussion. Questions were raised about who selected or commissioned the artwork, production costs and whether this commercial use of art was in any way philanthropic.

The second session was about the use of fine art and artists for commercial branding looking closely  at the Pear’s and Sunlight soap adverts, particularly their use of Millais’ Bubbles and Frith’s New Frock. These artworks were used and edited many times, which raised some interesting questions around copyright at the time.

History of Art student Madeleine McCarthy gave a presentation on research she had undertaken on a small Docteur Pierre advert she selected from the John Johnson Collection. The small advert is a scaled down version of a poster designed by Maurice Pillard Verneuil, a copy of which is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Madeline discovered that the advert was quite unusual for a number of reasons. First, Verneuil is better known for pattern design oppose to posters, and secondly, that the poster was produced by chromotypography, an uncommon printing process. Furthermore, the poster is an early example of a commercial company commissioning an artist to design an advertising poster.

Michael Twyman and Claire O’Mahoney considered the varied work of Jules Chéret including public building murals, Rimmel adverts and sheet music covers, and  discussed why Chéret had such a varied career and his relationship with his commissioners.

Michael Twyman presented the evolution of private view cards, using examples from the John Johnson Collection. He began with typical nineteenth-century  letterpress handbills for single work exhibitions, then invitations designed by featured artists, followed by the use of halftone photographic images. He concluded by looking at invitations produced as part of museums’ and galleries’ branding.

Nicholas Knowles shared his research of medley prints for screens and albums, produced by Ackerman and Rowlandson. Questions were raised about the high retail cost of these cut-out images, the rarity of finding un-cut sheets and how the images have been inspired and influenced by previous works of art.

The day concluded with a look at Michael Twyman’s collection of Mourlot exhibition posters, and discussion of the skill of the lithographer and the accuracy of the reproduction of artists’ work for the advertisement of exhibitions.

The workshop is one of a series of events to celebrate 25 years of ephemera studies through the work of CES, and its collaboration with the John Johnson Collection. The next event is an open afternoon on Wednesday 15 November 2017 on the theme ‘Dialogue and interaction in business and commerce: forms, invoices, correspondence, trade cards’.  This will be held in the Typography Department, University of Reading, from 2.00 to 4.00 pm.