Items from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera

It may be asked what ‘the ephemera of our lives’, as Johnson called it, has to do with genius – which is exceptional and rare, and stands apart from the ordinary concerns of daily life. Ever since the word acquired this meaning, however, salespeople have had no scruples about using it for their own ends, and have cheerfully called upon it when promoting something. It is a sign of the extent to which the word has woven its way into the language that it may be used to describe the highest reaches of creative achievement, what is set to stand the test of time, and equally find a place in the more ephemeral worlds of fashion and the market, supporting the hyperbole of the salesperson and the critic.