An Intriguing Victorian Scrapbook
I have been fortunate to be sent a very special Victorian scrapbook by a private client: he had inherited it from a relative believed to have bought it at a car boot sale or similar. The substantial volume, measuring 37.5 x 27.5 cms, had no apparent connection to their family and its origins and provenance (ownership history) were unknown.
The scrapbook looks plain enough from the outside, but inside, arranged on 69 pages of stout card, lies a visual treasure trove – engaging and vibrant images ranging from photographs, through hand-crafted paintings and sketches to complex montages, such as that on page 1, displaying a horseshoe, masonic emblems, a bible and pictures of half-ruined Welsh priories.
Scrapbooking was very popular in the 19th century, especially amongst ladies and children, who collected and organised all manner of ephemera and mementoes, including letters, decorative greetings cards, trade cards, favourite poems, even locks of friends’ hair. The rise in production of printed photographs from the 1860s onwards meant that portraits of relatives, pictures of family homes and other familiar people and places could also be added to the collection of personal memorabilia inside a scrapbook. In this instance the compiler has re-touched or decorated many such photographs, using watercolour paint, creating attractive and unique images.
In fact the only clues as to who may have compiled this fascinating book and whom it could possibly represent rests with the many portraits of people and depictions of country houses displayed inside. A few of these are identified but many remain anonymous, although dating the photographs confirms that they originated during the 1860s and 1870s and were probably arranged in the scrapbook around that time.
Research into this intriguing album is beginning to reveal aristocratic connections, stately homes and privileged country life in Huntingdonshire in the mid-Victorian era.