The History of Scrapbooking!

When I say scrapbooking, what is the first thing that comes into your head? Maybe it’s childhood memories of cutting things out of magazines to stick into a scrapbook? Or it’s topic books that you had to make at school as a child? Perhaps it’s your school yearbook? It could be something more recent, such as a scrapbook you made as an adult to commemorate a special occasion, for example planning your wedding, or the London Olympics. The reality is that scrapbooking has been around for centuries in various forms, and now has evolved into a digital format, which will keep your treasured memories safe for many years to come.



So where did it is all start? Scrapbooking has evolved from the merging of personal storytelling and printed images over many centuries.


Notebooks are great for scrapbooking or journals

Diaries and journals can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when well-educated people recorded their thoughts on activities and events in their life. These then developed into “commonplace books” during the Renaissance period. These books were a bound journal of blank pages, in which notes on different topics from various sources would be recorded, rather like the “Bullet Journals” which are in favour today. If you enjoy journaling, or traditional scrapbooking then one of my Personalised Notebooks from And Other Memories would be ideal. With a personalised message on a hardback cover in a choice of colours, it is sure to inspire you.


It was the development of the printing press that caused a big explosion in the use of journals or “commonplace books”, as books and printed information became more widely available. More people were able to study and then needed to record what they studied and their thoughts. In addition, ladies used these books to record recipes, bible passages and other quotes from books. So, in all forms, these books were a gathering of random pieces of information or “scraps”. Scholars even wrote books on how to use a “commonplace book”, similar to a “How to Scrapbook” guide that we have now! Famous people whose “commonplace books” have been preserved in archives include Charles Darwin and Beethoven.

The first pages of Bible's were used to record family trees.

It wasn’t just the well educated that started to record things with the advent of the printing press; early bibles show that many families used the blank pages at the front of the family bible to record their family history by creating a family tree. This custom became so widespread that publishers later often included pre-printed pages to store this information. In addition, the bible was often used to store important clippings from newspapers and family documents. By the late 19th century, some bibles even had slots to store photographs of family members, thus creating a bible which was also a family “scrapbook” or record.


At the same time, during the 17th and 18th century, the first collections of prints, drawings and other artwork were being compiled into albums, which were known as a “cabinet of curiosities” and would display historical and natural relics. Samuel Pepys had a large collection of such albums as well as writing his diaries.

Drawings and Artwork were compiled into albums known as a 'cabinet of curiosities'

Towards the end of the 18th century, it became popular to add extra illustrations to books to make them more personal, whether it was adding them to existing pages or putting extra leaves in. Books were even published with extra blank pages to encourage this idea.


So far, I have talked mainly about hobbies being linked to early forms of scrapbooking, but there are also records of early forms being used to aid political and social change. One such example is the posting of Catholic saints into a Church of England bible during the English Reformation, so a catholic could appear loyal to the new Church of England.


As printing developed further and mass production became possible, scrapbooking that is more similar to today’s versions emerged, to record personal memories. Greetings cards, post cards, trading cards etc were now readily available and people wanted to store them as keepsakes. Also, as newspapers were readily available, many people kept clippings from these. All these printed materials gave people the content they needed to fill the blank books which previously they could only write in, and so the first scrapbooks as we know them were created. The use of cards, delivered in person, to invite someone to meet them, meant that the wealthy had many “calling cards” and the women of the household started to collect these in albums. Previously, much of the collecting had been a male domain.


A modern day scrapbook with business cards

During the early 20th century, cooking magazines became more popular and again, this meant cutting out recipes and storing them somewhere, often alongside hand-written family recipes.


Although the addition of photographs to family bibles has already been mentioned, it was a form of photography called the Visit Card in the mid-19th century, that caused an explosion in the development of photo albums. These were small photos, a similar size to a calling card, printed in sheets of eight (so a bit like having wallet photos now!) and it was common to swap them with friends and family (think of your official school photos!), or purchase prints of celebrities.


It wasn’t until the 19th century, however, that the word scrapbook was first used, both as a noun and then later as a verb. It was late in this century that companies began selling blank scrapbook albums and glue. In fact, one of the inventors of a self-pasting scrapbook, was none other that the writer Mark Twain! His self-pasting scrapbook, which had adhesive pre-applied to each page meaning only a little wetting was required, was so popular that it is reported that his earnings from it were approximately a third of his total earnings from the scrapbook and all his books combined.

The Brownie camera changed scrapbooking.

With the invention of the Brownie camera at the turn of the 20th century, the face of scrapbooking changed forever, as photography started to reflect everyday life, rather than being a stiff family portrait. However, photo albums were usually kept quite separate to the rest of the memorabilia that people wanted to preserve. The current model of scrapbooking is essentially an embellished version of this family photo album that was born from the invention of the Brownie.


From the early 1920s to the 1970s, scrapbooking slowly evolved. Family photographs were usually kept in an album of paper pages, held in place with glue or photo corners. Captions were handwritten underneath to provide dates and other information. Alongside these, the scrapbook albums were usually bound books with empty white, cream-colored or black pages inside for photos and writing. Specialist books such as baby books and wedding books started to appear in the mid-20th century.


In the 1970s photo albums which had a sheet of cling film to hold the photo in place became a quick and convenient way to store photos and memorabilia. (You or your parents might remember these!) Sadly, though, the materials used in these albums destroyed photos, newspaper clippings etc, and so now we are obsessed with photo-safe materials!


Modern Scrapbooking is generally accepted to have been established in 1980 at The World Conference on Records. However, it became more mainstream with the advent of digital photography in the late 20th Century, as the cost of taking photographs was massively reduced. In addition, the rise in popularity of scrapbooking led to craft shops including scrapbook supplies alongside other craft supplies, and there were magazines and courses to teach people how to scrapbook.


These days anything can be digitised and added to a scrapbook.

The beauty of the modern technologies we have now is that we can digitise everything to enable it to be preserved for a lifetime once it is printed into high-quality albums. This enables the problems with earlier incarnations of scrapbooks to be avoided; there are no things which can drop out of albums, nothing that can tear easily, nor deteriorate with time; and they can more easily be looked at over and over again.


The only thing standing in our way of scrapbooking now is time. How many times have you collected things to create a scrapbook but have never found the time; well now you can safely hand over all your items to be digitised and displayed in a bespoke album, in the layout you want. A digital version of your final layout is always agreed before the scrapbook is created in hard form, so you know exactly what you receive. A benefit of the digital era is the simplicity of rearranging items compared to when you had to commit to sticking things in and then it was almost impossible to change your mind! And Other Memories can create a bespoke digital scrapbook, for whatever occasion you require, from the photographs, keepsakes and other information you wish to preserve, for years to come.


To find out more about And Other Memories Luxury Scrapbooks, please get in contact. I'd love to help you out!