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Two terms are commonly applied to the category of work discussed in this chapter: jobbing printing and ephemera. The first, which strictly speaking relates to work printed on a single sheet, is a printer’s term and focuses on the means of production; the second, which puts emphasis on the brief life such documents were designed or likely to have, tends to be used retrospectively. Both are more easily defined than applied, and they are used somewhat loosely here. In a publication concerned with the history of the book it might have made more sense to call this chapter ‘non-book printing’. But this too is far from ideal, since newspapers, journals, maps and music are considered elsewhere in this volume. Even without such categories, however, this chapter is wide enough in scope to embrace scores of different kinds of printed documents.
Seen from the point of view of book production, the period covered by this volume is broadly one of continuity and consolidation, but when we turn to ephemera this is less obviously the case. Though most routine work of this kind was printed from type matter in the eighteenth century and followed the conventions and typographic style of books, this was to change significantly in the early nineteenth century. At this point several innovations left their mark on the design and production of ephemera, which had the gradual and long-term effect of distancing them from book printing.
All kinds of printing establishments produced ephemera. Some were large letterpress firms that also printed books and newspapers; others were small letterpress houses for which large-scale book production would have presented a real challenge; yet others were intaglio workshops that had as much to do with printmaking as printing. Ephemera may also have been produced in workshops with both letterpress and intaglio facilities, and in the nineteenth century by firms using lithography, either separately or alongside the older processes.
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