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.