Synopses & Reviews
Combining pictures, words, and a wealth of personal ephemera, scrapbook makers preserve on the pages of their books a moment, a day, or a lifetime. Highly subjective and rich in emotional content, the scrapbook is a unique and often quirky form of expression in which a person gathers and arranges meaningful materials to create a personal narrative. This lavishly illustrated book is the first to focus attention on the history of American scrapbooksand#151;their origins, their makers, their diverse forms, the reasons for their popularity, and their place in American culture.
Jessica Helfand, a graphic designer and scrapbook collector, examines the evolution of scrapbooks from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present, concentrating on the first half of the twentieth century. She includes color photographs from more than two hundred scrapbooks, some made by private individuals and others by the famous, including Zelda Fitzgerald, Lillian Hellman, Anne Sexton, Hilda Doolittle, and Carl Van Vechten. Scrapbooks, while generally made by amateurs, represent a striking and authoritative form of visual autobiography, Helfand finds, and when viewed collectively they offer a unique perspective on the changing pulses of American cultural life.
Published with assistance from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund
"Scrapbooks were 'the original open-source technology,' says graphic designer Helfand, who teaches at Yale, in this appreciative and analytical tour through a century's worth of visual historical record books. This 'eclectic, yet inclusive genre provide[s] a cross section of the range and pluralism of more than a century of modern American experience.' The scrapbook compiles artifacts that illustrate their times, ranging from photographs of Rita Hayworth to ration cards, yet also render psychological portraits of their makers, whether young Victorian school girls, the mother of F. Scott Fitzgerald or WWII soldiers. A scrapbook's historical lessons can be gleaned by studying its content, form, commentary and even the wear of included items, and its intended viewers. Tracing the evolution of the scrapbook from a documentary record through manifestation of fantasy to nostalgic rendering or compendium of loved things, Helfand roughly sketches American history through creating her own scrapbook of scrapbooks. This book is colored at times by her privileging of older forms, which she sees as more personal and authentic expressions than the products of today's craft-oriented scrapbookers. But like any good scrapbook, this is a personal collage of a collective experience." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This lavishly illustrated book focuses its attention on the history of American scrapbooks--their origins, makers, diverse forms, the reasons for their popularity, and their place in American culture.
About the Author
Jessica Helfand is a partner at Winterhouse, a design collaborative in New England, and a founding editor of Design Observer. She is senior critic in the Yale School of Art and has written several books on design and cultural criticism. She lives in Falls Village, CT.