DEN Project

Fashions From The Past Blog

Short History of Friendship Books

Back in the 17th century there were books known as commonplace books. These books were used to record information, such as weights, poems, medical formulas and prayers. Instead of trying to remember all of this information, it was written into a commonplace book. Commonplace books were used by students to record the information learned.

Over time commonplace books also held newspaper articles, recipes and illustrations. Commonplace books were a way to share information.

The first scrapbooks in the 18th century were not about preserving photos as cameras weren’t created yet. So what sort of scraps did the people collect in their albums? Mainly mementos such as quotes, poems, calling cards (decorated cards left behind at a friend’s home), religious cards, paper cuts, and other ephemera.There were also friendship albums that were created and given as gifts.

 By the early 1800s, albums had evolved into ones resembling those of today with embossed covers, engraved clasps, and locks. Along with commonplace books, people in the 1800s kept diaries, journals, and friendship albums. Friendship albums were almost exclusively owned by women and kept a lady’s favourite quotes, poems, calling cards, and hair weavings in one place. Hair weavings, which started in Germany, were intricate weavings of pressed ribbons and flowers into a friend’s cut strands of hair to display in an album along with a poem or remembrance of that friend.

Later, with the advent of photography young women in the late 1800s often created memory books or visitor’s albums filled with signatures, scrap, cards, hair, handwriting, poetry, and photographs of their family and friends. Again, these were a permanent way of preserving memories.

The modern resurgence of interest in scrap-booking has led people to create both traditionally crafted friendship books with an artistic approach to the presentation of the pages, and electronic versions of the friendship book which are computer generated using formatted backgrounds and uploading digital images from cameras.


Finished Student Pages