My interest in Billheads began about 15 years ago when I unearthed a few in a failing “Antique Shop”. As an Engineer, a student of the Industrial Revolution, someone who has very vivid memories of grandparents Victoriana and a fascination with late Victorian society, this previously unknown category of ephemera became intriguing. (In actual fact most readily obtainable English illustrated billheads date between 1900 and 1930)
These documents encapsulated the spirit of Kingdom-Brunell Engineering, many originating from the Industrial Midlands (with which I had some ties) they represent a snapshot of products, prices, destinations, technology, transport and commercial practices of their era. Reason enough, therefore, to amass a collection; however there is one further aspect of this ephemera; it’s artistic quality.
Each Billhead could be considered a “limited edition” of genuine Antique Art, unique in design and telling of the many hours of artistic engraving that led to each example. Indeed this is probably the greatest attribute of this commercial ephemera.
On this basis I suggest that quality Billheads represent a superb piece of genuine and period art that could displace many of the reprints or limited print of more traditional art. In the same way that period posters and advertisements have been recognised for their artistic quality surely Billheads could enjoy a rediscovery. After all, would you rather have the two millionth reproduction of a bunch of flowers or a hay wagon adorning your walls or an original genuine antique example of Victorian art?