Togetherness, inspiration and creativity

5 Surprising Facts About Scrapbooks

5 Surprising Facts About Scrapbooks

Although the term ‘scrapbooking’ is relatively new, the trend for recording items and information as a way of personal storytelling dates as far back as the 15th century. During the Medieval Period, well-educated people recorded their thoughts on their day-to-day lives in diaries and journals. The earliest known surviving journal is the journal of an anonymous French priest, entitled: ‘Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris’. Written between 1409 and 1449, it gives fascinating accounts of 15th-century life in the capital of France. If scrapbooking is your heart and soul, here are 5 remarkable facts about the amazing evolution of scrapbooks.

1. Scrapbooking Used to Be Restricted to the Educated

During the Renaissance, it became popular for noble and educated Europeans to keep ‘commonplace books’ – a bound journal of blank pages containing collections of notes on various topics, from various sources. With the invention of the printing press in the later years of the Renaissance, printed material was aplenty. Because of this, people used the ‘commonplace book’ to organise and prioritise this newfound flow of information. They were not personal journals for recording thoughts, but a way of recording information that was available to the masses. A gathering of informational ‘scraps’ rather than full, detailed texts.

2. Bibles Were Essentially Used as Scrapbooks

The invention and perfection of the printing press meant that bibles were also being mass-produced, instead of handwritten by scholars and purchased only by the wealthy. The new printed bibles contained blank pages at the front; many people used these pages to record their family histories. The annotations included the full names, dates of birth and marriage records of each family member. This was a practice that was followed for centuries. These records represent some of the first attempts to capture family history in books.

It was common for families to store important documents between the pages of bibles, too, essentially using them as scrapbooks. The ‘scraps’ included birth certificates and obituaries, and other items with sentimental significance to the families. By the 1800s, some bibles contained open portrait slots so people could also store photographs of family members. It seems that bibles were literally being used as family scrapbooks!

3. …This Was Until They Were Seen as ‘Defaced’

In the late 1700s, a practice known as ‘extra-illustrating’ became popular, in which people customised books by adding illustrations to them. Some people added their own illustrations directly onto existing pages, and some people added extra pages by taking a book’s binding apart and then rebinding it. Although controversial due to the ‘defacing’ and ‘destruction’ of the original prints, ‘extra-illustrating’ was a popular practice in the late 1700s and 1800s.

4. ‘Modern’ Scrapbooks Emerged in the 1800s

Scrapbooks that more closely resemble what we think of as a scrapbook today began to emerge in the 19th century, due to the development of the industrial printing press. The industrial printing press was mechanically powered. This meant that mass production of printed materials was possible in a way that hadn’t been seen before! Elaborately printed greetings cards, postcards and much more were viewed as keepsakes by recipients, as well as newspaper clippings of family mentions, recipes and historic news stories.

5. Photo Albums and Scrapbooks Somewhat Coincided

With the invention of photography in the early 19th century, the scrapbook as we know it today really began to take shape. A form of photography called ‘carte de visite’ (visit card) started to spread throughout Europe and to America in the late 1850s. ‘Cartes de visite’ was printed in sheets of eight photographs; it was traditional to trade the prints with family and friends. This led to people keeping photos in albums, thus creating the first true scrapbooks!

Scrapbooking has grown into a true art form and is still a much-loved hobby today. We now have an abundance of materials available to us to create scrapbooks that are truly personal to us. But scrapbooking is more than a creative hobby. It’s a family activity that takes us down memory lane and gets us sharing stories; stories that we can pass on for generations.

If you want to get into scrapbooking, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Scrapbooking. If you’re already a scrapaholic, feel free to share what you love most about scrapbooking! Tell us on Facebook or Twitter, or leave us a comment on the blog below.



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