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“Yes, this is my album” Victorian Collections of Scraps, Signatures, and Seaweed

Part II: Autograph Albums

Many people have a theory that the personal character may be decided upon from the handwriting. But, if there is real foundation for this theory, it can only hold true when the pen, acting without restraint becomes indicative of the natural disposition. The flexibility of the muscles differs with every individual, and the emotions and habits of writers certainly bear a direct influence upon their penmanship.

– May Croly, “Writing in Autograph Albums” (1880)

As Croly writes in an April 1880 article from Demorest’s Monthly Magazine, many people in the Victorian era believed that handwriting style revealed truths about the writer. Solid letters were thought to indicate a “phlegmatic hand,” excessive blotting and erasing were thought to indicate a “slovenly person,” and neatness and order were thought to be “observable in the handwriting of the possessors of those qualities” (Croly 190).

This belief about handwriting was prevalent in Britain and in North America, and it supported another collecting craze; although the trend began in Europe in the sixteenth century, Victorians became increasingly fascinated with collecting autographs.1 According to an 1897 article published in The Girl’s Own Paper, many people collected autographs as decorations for their “furniture, quilts, tablecloths, etc.” (De Blaquière 500). And, of course, many more collected them to display in their scrapbooks/albums.

The next subsections of the exhibit explore two specific types of Victorian autograph albums: the celebrity autograph album, and the friendship autograph album.

Pictured to the right: Variety of handwriting styles evident in the Ella Kidman Album (created between 1897 and 1930).

Continue to next page: Celebrity Autograph Albums

  1. Lauer 143-4 and Matthews 125 Back ↑
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