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The category “ephemera,” like the category “Literature,” is a classification that does powerful rhetorical, practical, ideological, and disciplinary work. This essay historicizes these value-laden classifications across disciplinary and period boundaries. It begins by suggesting how librarians and collectors have defined ephemera since the 1960s, then steps back to the eighteenth century in Britain, arguing that the categories of “ephemera” and “Literature” were reciprocally constructed parts of a classification system that was a response to the commercialization of letters and the proliferation of print. But today, new media technologies and digital archives are destabilizing centuries-old categorical distinctions, and eighteenth-century authors’ classification work can help us to think through the challenges and opportunities we face in the digital age.