Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A History of Scrapbooking

If you're anything like me, you want to know why you are doing something. I always like to know the origin of something, looking into the history of scrapbooking showed me that the origins are much further back than I expected.

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Scrapbooking has been around for far more years than most of us imagine. The earliest examples of what we now think of as scrapbooks were, in the 15th century, known as “commonplace books”. Basically it was a collection of little things that interested the collector, all stuck in the book.

It was later, though, in the 16th century, that the hobby became more widely spread. “Friendship albums” became popular amongst the middle class. In some cases friends or patrons were asked to add their names, titles and a small piece of writing or an illustration to the album. Friendship albums were also known to contain memorabilia of travels or occasions; pieces of art or coats of arms of people that the album owners came to know, even locks of hair. This was the first known opportunity that women found to record their personal history. It was a space to express personal thoughts, sentiments and memories.

These images are from Anne Wagner’s (1795-1834) “Memorial of Friendship”.

A page from the scrapbook that is devoted to Anne Wagner's friend, the Right Honourable Viscountess Kirkwall, Anna Kirkwall.

A page devoted to Mrs. Browne of Gwrych.

A page titled "Sappho" with the name of Anne Wagner's niece, Felicia.

A watercolour background is used for this collage page that includes decorative gilded paper cutouts.

Watercolour sketches of found objects, including a butterfly, a feather and seashells.

A silhouette portrait attached to a page as a memento of someone, with a handwritten poem beneath.

This page of Anne Wagner's scrapbook was created by her niece, Felicia, aged 12.

The verso side of the cover page of Anne Wagner's scrapbook


An elaborate example of a braided hairlock attached to a page. The inscription is from Elizabeth Venables; the location is given as Abergale, July 29, 1803.

This poem was handwritten for Anne Wagner by her brother, G.W. Wagner, August 13, 1795

The rise in popularity of the hobby caught the interest of manufacturers who soon began producing a variety of memorabilia that could be displayed in these Friendship Albums. Scraps were printed on to pieces of paper to be glued into the albums. They were ornately designed, with bold images of birds and flowers. In the mid 1800s, companies began to produce books with leather covers and preprinted with bold designs. 1837 saw the introduction of the first carte-de-visite albums. These albums allowed slots to display early photographs (known as carte-de-visites) and were adapted by some people to have space for watercolour paintings and pencil drawings. In 1872 Mark Twain drove the mass production of an album with pages that were prepared with adhesive. Around the same time, companies began producing embossed papers that could be cut out and used to embellish pages.

An example of an early carte-de-visite

Mark Twain's adhesive scrapbook earned him $50 000




Unfortunately, the popularity of scrapbooking declined drastically with the recession during World War 1. Another contributing factor was the mass production of photo albums in the 1940s. Scrapbooking would remain a low-key hobby for a few years to come.

 1980 marked a turning point in scrapbooking history. A woman called Marielen Christensen, of Spanish Fork, Utah, was asked to exhibit her work The World Conference on Records in Salt Lake City. She had been designing creative pages using her family photos and storing them in sheet protectors in ring binders. By the time she was asked to display, she had created 50 albums. She and her husband went on to publish a book, Keeping Memories Alive, and then to open the first scrapbooking store, also called Keeping Memories Alive.


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