Pamphlets and Papers: Collecting and Preserving Bound Ephemera

Jim Kuhn, former Head of Collection Information Services, curated Pamphlets and Papers: Collecting and Preserving Bound Ephemera for The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

Pamphlets were an easy means for quickly reaching an audience in early modern Europe. They are of scholarly interest for their content, providing a unique window onto fleeting or passionate issues of their day. But pamphlets pose interesting questions to the student of book collecting as well. Typically printed on a single folded sheet of inexpensive paper stock, but sometimes extending to multiple quires, these “throw-away” ephemeral items are still available for consultation precisely because they were saved: carefully covered in decorated papers, scraps of manuscript, or more elaborate bindings, and kept from the rag man. The Folger’s growing collection includes over ten thousand early printed pamphlets from France and the Low Countries (the sovereign states of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg). Truly one of the library’s “hidden collections,” these extensive holdings are uncataloged or under-cataloged and therefore remain comparatively unexamined.

The above image is the cover of a pamphlet providing the text of the 1598 Franco-Spanish Treaty of Vervins. It was at some point bound in a late-fourteenth-century manuscript fragment of Papal Bull Pastoralis cura. Issued in March 1314 by Clement V, this significant legislative work affirmed principles of due process and the limits of an emperor’s power. The text in this manuscript was written in Italian Gothic book script, rubricated, and heavily glossed by contemporary readers—before being cut up for scrap!

Listen to former Head of Collection and Information Services Jim Kuhn describe this text and its illuminated manuscript wrapper.