Collecting Things in Books

Muriel Gerrard Scrapbook - Cover
Cecelia Davies Sylvester Scrapbook - Cover
Edward Morell Holmes Herbarium - Cover
English 19th Century Autograph Scrapbook - Cover
Ella Kidman album - Cover
Theatre Clippings Scrapbook - Cover
Lilian L. Kidman album - Cover
Cecelia Davies Sylvester Autograph Book - Cover

Pictured above: Front covers of Victorian scrapbooks/albums featured in this exhibit. All examples are housed at the University of Victoria Libraries Special Collections and University Archives.

The Victorian era is famously known as an era of collecting things. Victorians themselves acknowledged this defining feature; an 1869 edition of The Graphic reads: “This is a ‘collecting’ age. . . . Never was the vocation of the gatherer of curiosities more followed than at present. Not only pictures, prints, coins, birds, insects, and fishes are collected, but there are amateurs who form cabinets of postage-stamps, first numbers of periodicals, playbills, and street ballads” (qtd. in Hancock 2). Many Victorians felt that their carefully selected collections represented their identities. So, they proudly placed collected items on display.1 Displays could be found in museums, in drawing rooms, in cabinets, and—most importantly, for this exhibit—in books.2

“Never was the vocation of the gatherer of curiosities more followed than at present.”

The Graphic (1869)

The creation of scrapbooks and albums (terms often used interchangeably) was a wildly popular activity.3 However, the practice of collecting things inside of books has a long history, beginning well before the nineteenth century. In the middle ages, excerpts of religious writings were collected and copied into Florilegia4—early anthologies, the title translating to “a gathering of flowers.” Commonplace books became popular beginning in the sixteenth century. In these books, owners (often scholars) would copy important passages from their readings, sorting them into categories for later reference.5 Also beginning in the sixteenth century, European university students would often keep an album amicorum. In this predecessor of both the Victorian scrapbook and today’s yearbook, students would collect inscriptions and illustrations from professors and fellow students.6 During the same period, upper class Europeans collected printed materials and displayed them in albums. Although the term “scrapbook” was not widely used until the nineteenth century, these collections were precursors to the Victorian scrapbook/album.7

Continue to next page: Victorian Scrapbooks/Albums

  1. Hodgman par. 4 and Kingstone and Lister 1

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  2. Allen par. 1 and Hodgman par. 1, 6

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  3. Mecklenburg-Faenger par. 5, 21

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  4. Mecklenburg-Faenger par. 13

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  5. Garvey, Writing with Scissors 26 and Mecklenburg-Faenger par. 4

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  6. Good 562

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  7. Lynch 95

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