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A History of Scrapbooking

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The word 'album,' comes from Greco-Roman times when a praetor's public notices were recorded on paper tablets or white tables. The earliest reference people have found to what we would now call a scrapbook is from 1598, but the use of notebooks to collect information started much earlier during the time of Aristotle and Cicero. These scholars, and their pupils of this time, used this earliest form of the scrapbook for philosophical, religious, and rhetorical discussions.

In addition, Giorgio Vasari, an Italian author in the sixteenth century, advocated in his book of Italian artists the saving of prints and drawings by placing them in albums, a recommendation that influenced the creation of museums and libraries during that time period and a practice that continued to be popular in Europe up until the 1900s.

During the Renaissance, the book came into its own as the period's overflow of information and culture needed a place to reside. There was a large renewal of popularity in the study of Greek and Roman culture as well as the rise of libraries and philosophical schools such as Humanism provided the perfect opportunity for the creation of commonplace books as scholars and other literary-minded people copied their favorite passages or poems into blank books to create personal anthologies of works that had inspired or touched them.

Commonplace books began in the 17th century.  People wrote poems, quotes, pasted newspaper articles, or shared hobbies like knitting in their books.  Some of these books were purchased but many were handmade, using wall covering for the cover. Granger books were printed books with blank pages in the back for personalizing. William Granger invented these books and also published a manual on how to do it. One of the interesting items is the friendship album.  These little books included quotes, poems, and thoughts. Hair weaving was a common thing in Germany in the 17th century. Girls would collect hair from all the friends and weave them into intricate designs including ribbon and pressed flowers, with a remembrance about that person. Laura L. Sherwin of Fairhaven, Vermont, wrote, "This lock of hair I will place in your little book for the remembrance of your friend," in Hellen Marion Adams' friendship album. In each place that her family lived, Hellen collected hair weavings and messages in a type of autograph album that originated in Germany in the seventeenth century. Young women in the Victorian period often created memory books or visitors albums filled with signatures, scrap, cards, hair, handwriting, poetry and even photographs of their family and friends.

The philosopher John Locke focused enough attention on the commonplace book in his 'New Method of Making Common-place Books' manual, published in 1706, to create a new and separate genre. His book discussed the proper technique for the preservation of proverbs, quotations, ideas, speeches, and other forms of written or spoken word that paved the way for the modern day idea of journaling. In 1769, one of the direct predecessors to our modern day scrapbook was created when William Granger published a history of England with extra illustrations of his text as an appendix. Later, he expanded on his idea by including blank pages which readers could use to add in their own illustrations or prints as desired. This process, known as grangerizing, came to mean any book that was rebound into a different edition with new additional prints, letters, or other memorabilia. These types of books were also known as extra-illustrated books and achieved the most popularity during the 1800s.

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, was one of the first well-known American scrappers, in a manner of speaking, as he saved newspaper clippings from and during his presidency into a series of albums for future reference. Other people during this time period saved notes, news articles and other clippings, illustrations, craft instructions, and even diary entries into homemade albums with wallpaper and cardboard covers. Some folks who could afford to 'waste' books in their collections actually pasted their ephemera, printed paper memorabilia like tickets or playbills, onto old book or catalog pages.

By the early 1800s, albums had evolved into ones resembling those of today with embossed covers, engraved clasps, and locks. Along with Granger books and commonplace books, people in the 1800s kept diaries, journals, and friendship albums. Friendship albums were almost exclusively owned by women and kept a lady's favorite quotes, poems, calling cards, and hair weavings in one place. Hair weavings, which started in Germany, were intricate weavings of pressed ribbons and flowers into a friend's cut strands of hair to display in an album along with a poem or remembrance of that friend.

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