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A7520 Scrapbooks (2), paper, maker unknown, place of production unknown, 1880-1890. Click to enlarge.

Victorian era scrapbooks

  • 1880-1890
These scrapbooks illustrate the Victorian preoccupation with collecting and arranging pictures. They are thought to have been compiled between 1880 and 1890.

As well as amassing wealth and material goods, the Victorians were avid collectors and were eager to demonstrate their interest in culture, the natural sciences, literature or art through their collections, These ranged from pressed flowers to art prints, and from shells to insects. The most popular form of collecting was the creation of scrapbooks, which were first put together by adults. These contained a haphazard arrangement of literary and pictorial cuttings assembled at a time before the advent of public education. Much pleasure was derived from creating and examining these scrapbooks, which appealed to the industrious, sentimental, neat and thrifty Victorians.

As weekly and monthly periodicals began to enter the home containing large amounts of fascinating information about the world at large, there was no longer a need to clip and hoard cuttings. The making of scrapbooks then became the amusement of children, especially when pictures, called scraps, were expressly made for pasting into albums. Early scraps were made from hand-coloured pieces but, from 1860 and the development of chromolithography, scrap manufacturers produced a large number of high quality pieces for scrapbooks. Victorian scrapbooks reached the peak of their popularity in the 1870s and 1880s.

These scrapbooks were thought to have been compiled by a child or children. The pictures themselves are charming reminders of the type of decoration and preoccupation with romantic and sentimental subjects such as baby farm animals, children with puppies and kittens, garlands of flowers, angelic children and fashionably dressed ladies. They also show a fascination with exotic places, people and animals. While the allure of earlier scrapbooks was their assumed literary and artistic value, the brilliantly-coloured and realistic scrapbook pictures in these albums were designed for their visual appeal. Their glossy embossed surfaces also offer a sensory stimulus.

Scrapbooks were considered by later Victorian parents to be an educational tool to teach children how to organise and classify information and to develop their 'artistic' senses. These scrapbooks provide a fascinating insight into the Victorian period. The images and cards survived because they had been glued into the albums.

Lichten, Frances, "Decorative Art of Victoria's Era", Bonanza Books, New York, n.d.

Miller, Judith and Martin (eds), "Miller's Toys & Games Antiques Checklist", Reed International Books Limited, London, 1995.

Margaret Simpson
8 January 2008


Object No.


Object Statement

Scrapbooks (2), paper, maker unknown, place of production unknown, 1880-1890

Physical Description

The two scrap albums or scrapbooks feature covers with elaborately-embossed bindings. Inside are pages of colourful pictures, which have been commercially produced, embossed and die-cut, then glued onto the heavy pages. The pictures or 'scraps' are in most cases carefully arranged by themes including flowers, butterflies, baby farmyard animals, and well-dressed ladies and children. Some of the pictures are more exotic and include children in various national costumes, mounted cavalry, as well as humorous caricatures and the more sentimental elements such as white doves, angels and Christmas themes. A few of the pages have pressed and dried flowers and ferns and birthday cards with verses.



  • 1880-1890


Scrap is the term used to describe pieces of paper, usually printed in colour and often embossed or die-cut, which were collected and arranged in albums.

The earliest scraps appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century and were simple black and white engravings which were often hand coloured. By the 1820s scraps had become more elaborate and were produced on picture sheets on a matt surface which children were intended to colour or draw from. Embossing soon followed which involved a die being stamped into the reverse side of the paper giving it a raised quality. Printing and embossing became automated and large quantities could be made inexpensively, especially in Germany, where bakers and confectioners used small scrap reliefs to decorate cakes and biscuits for special occasions such as Christmas, Easter and for weddings and christenings. They were also used by various trades as a type of collector card.

The invention of colour printing process known as chromolithography enabled brightly-coloured scraps to be made and sold in sheets. After printing, the sheet of scraps were coated with a gelatine and gum layer which gave them a glossy surface. The scarps were them embossed to give them a three-dimensional look. The final process was the punching and stamping press which cut away the unrequired paper from the design and left the individual pictures attached to each other by small lengths of paper. These often featured the name or initials of the makers. This meant that a minimum amount of cutting was required by the scrapbook compiler as the scraps had been finely cut during the manufacturing process.

As well as the commercially-made scraps, scrapbooks and albums were also decorated with Valentine, birthday and Christmas cards.

History of Scraps, Mamelok Press,


Credit Line

Gift of Neville Williams, 1981

Acquisition Date

16 March 1981

Cite this Object


Victorian era scrapbooks 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 November 2020, <>


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