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, which 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.
8 January 2008