Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recycling Books (in 1892)

One of my latest research acquisitions is an American lady's scrapbook dated 1892. If the price is right I'll buy something like this sight unseen, which was the case this time. This is also why I didn't know the lady had recycled a hardcover to serve as her scrapbook base:



A hundred and twenty-one years ago Florence Champlain decided to recycle a copy of Lockwood's Directory from 1887-1888, and began storing interesting bits in it. She did this (probably with flour paste) with about 100 newspaper articles, each one very precisely cut and fitted to each side of the directory's pages:



To keep the book from becoming overstuffed Florence cut out about half the pages, leaving behind just enough of the page to keep the binding intact.



Some of the pages in the very back were left uncovered, and contain some very cool 19th century advertising:



It appears that the scrapbook was preserved (and possibly added to) by at least two more family members; I haven't yet had time to date all the articles saved in it. The majority appear to be from the turn of the century, however, so I think Florence deserves most of the credit. There are at least a dozen obituaries of important folks including great writers (Victor Hugo), composers (Gounod) and poets (Tennyson), an interview with Tolstoy's widow and intimate profiles on the lives of men like George Washington, Edgar Allen Poe and James Fenimore Cooper. One article wrestles with the debate over divorce in America; another insists most "great" women never marry because no woman can sustain a career, a home and a family (ha.)

Along with newspaper articles Florence saved bits of poetry and humor, scholarly pieces on things like the study of heraldry and what sort of weapons were used in warfare before the invention of gunpowder. A friendly look at the life of the Czar of Russia, his wife and family takes up five pages, and there's a wonderful piece on the house in which Shakespeare was born. About half the articles in the scrapbook focus on writers, poets or books, reminding me of how well-read most people were in the 19th century (no radio, TV or movies for these folks.)

What Florence created with the scrapbook was not only a collection of articles she thought interesting or important, she opened a lovely little window into late 19th century America, and through it I can see exactly what she and her contemporaries were reading in the papers. As way-back machines go, this one is pretty fantastic.

To find antique scrapbooks like this one, check listings on eBay or Etsy, or do a search for rare booksellers online.


11 comments:

  1. Delightful find! I can't imagine how intriguing it is come across history this way, through the viewlense of someone from that time period. (Hugs)Indigo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really amazing, Indigo -- I've got so much information from the exact time period I needed I can hardly believe it. Every time I open the book I find something new I can use for my books. :)

      Delete
  2. "Uncle Sam's Toast" popped up on at newspaperarchive.org as appearing in the Fort Wayne News on July 4, 1899. Presumably it was celebrating the US victory in the Spanish-American War.

    Clicking on the link shows a thumbnail of the page on the right side, about halfway down (under "embed this page").

    http://newspaperarchive.com/fort-wayne-news/1899-07-04/page-15

    Scrapbooks are way cool. I remember one on eBay that someone had compiled with articles about Poe. I still kick myself for not going after it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the link, Bill -- very neat.

      As it happens I lost an eBay tussle yesterday for a Victorian UK lady's scrapbook that included original watercolors, photographs and a personal account of a visit from the Prince of Wales. As with all desirable things on eBay, everyone waited until the last possible second to bid, so I really didn't have a chance. But it was fun trying to win it.

      Delete
  3. What an amazing book, not only the period information for the new series, but also just plain enjoyment in traveling back in time. Very cool...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm having so much fun reading it, Terlee. The wording in some of the articles Ms. Florence saved is simply hilarious.

      Delete
  4. How very cool! I hadn't thought of looking at scrapbooks for my research.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've bid on a few on eBay, Deb, but I'm usually beat out by the last minute snipers, so I tend to look more on sites where I can purchase them outright, like Etsy.

      Delete
  5. Fran K3:44 AM

    How cool is that? What a lovely thing to own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a wonderful resource, Fran, as well as a nice chunk of history. Sometimes I feel a little guilty for acquiring such pieces (I always wonder why the family didn't hold onto them) but I am very careful about preserving them, so hopefully they'll be around for future generations to enjoy.

      Delete
    2. Fran K3:43 AM

      I'm ashamed to say I'm a chucker not a hoarder. I blame it on my RAF childhood and moving so many time before I was 11. You just don't have the space to hoard when you have to pack up the whole house every 2 years. I wonder if that's why families didn't hold onto things like this, considering them non-essential items?

      Delete