Synopses & Reviews
Scrapbooks have been around since printed matter began to flow into the lives of ordinary people, a flow that became an ocean in nineteenth-century America. Though libraries can show us the vast archive--literally thousands of dailies, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies, and annuals were flooding the public once mass-circulation was common--we have little knowledge of what, and particularly how people read. Writing with Scissors
follows swimmers through that first ocean of print. We know that thousands of people were making meaning out of the swirl of paper that engulfed them. Ordinary readers processed the materials around them, selected choice examples, and created book-like collections that proclaimed the importance of what they read. Writing with Scissors
explores the scrapbook making practices of men and women who had varying positions of power and access to media. It considers what the bookmakers valued and what was valued by the people or institutions that sheltered them over time. It compares nineteenth-century scrapbooking methods with current techniques for coping with an abundance of new information on the Web, such as bookmarks, favorites lists, and links.
The book is part of a developing literature in cultural studies and book history exploring reading practices of ordinary readers. Scholars interested in the burgeoning field of print culture have not yet taken full advantage of scrapbooks, these great repositories of American memory. Rather than just using evidence from scrapbooks, Garvey turns to the scrapbook as a genre on its own. Her book offers a fascinating view of the semi-permeable border between public and domestic realms, illuminating the ongoing negotiation between readers and the press.
"Ellen Garvey's Writing with Scissors provides a meticulously researched and provocative glimpse of the ways that men, women, and children used the newspapers they read in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States." --reception
"Writing with Scissors transports us beyond the well-known world of books, newspapers, and magazines, of internet websites, blogs, and databases into a bygone world of texts created with scissors and glue. Ellen Garvey shows us how nineteenth and early twentieth century readers became writers as they recycled and repurposed scraps from various sources to create secret, unwritten histories that often worked against the grain of accepted official narratives of the times."
--Carla L. Peterson, author of Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City
"American scrapbooks may just be our most precious time capsules. Fragile containers of personal memory and public reflection, they're potent--if ephemeral--receptacles of social history. To decode such volumes requires a curious mind, a steady compass, and a generous heart--qualities Garvey possesses in abundant supply. An extraordinary book."
--Jessica Helfand, author of Scrapbooks: An American History
"Writing with Scissors is cutting-edge! Drawing on an exquisite trove of original research, Garvey explains how earlier generations of Americans thrived amid an unprecedented onrush of information, tailoring media to individual ends and expressing--and making--themselves in the process. Writing with Scissors is the perfect prequel to Henry Jenkins's Convergence Culture, one part celebration of the grassroots and one part history of the ways that people consume the media they do."
--Lisa Gitelman, author of Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture
"By pointing out the connections between the paper technologies that preceded digital archives and social media, Garvey opens conversations between scholars of nineteenth-century print culture, twentieth-century modernism, digital humanists, and archivists. ...Writing With Scissors makes a huge contribution to scrapbook studies, and I imagine it will be a jumping off point for many further projects. Let's run with it."
--The GC Advocate
"A well-researched, well-written, thoroughly enjoyable book that provides a glimpse into the relationship between information and readers over a hundred-year span...Writing with Scissors shows us a way to glimpse their personal thoughts on their contemporary lives and times. In a way, it brings them back to life as human beings acting in their world."
"[A] well-researched study...Should appeal to a broad range of readers interested in visual culture and theories of communication--especially because of Garvey's judicious comparisons to contemporary digital strategies of engaging text...Highly recommended."
"[A] pleasure to read... Writing with Scissors adds invaluable material to a growing and significant body of research, and it also brings in theories about the connection between making scrapbooks and managing today's profusion of digital information."
--The Journal of American History
"[P]roves Garvey to be a dedicated archival researcher and a skilled cultural historian... Writing with Scissors is a richly imagined, original contribution to our understanding of periodical literature, book history, and the history of authorship and reading practices.
Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks-the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony, African American janitors to farmwomen, abolitionists to Confederates, people cut out and pasted down their reading. Writing with Scissors
opens a new window into the feelings and thoughts of ordinary and extraordinary Americans. Like us, nineteenth-century readers spoke back to the media, and treasured what mattered to them.
In this groundbreaking book, Ellen Gruber Garvey reveals a previously unexplored layer of American popular culture, where the proliferating cheap press touched the lives of activists and mourning parents, and all who yearned for a place in history. Scrapbook makers documented their feelings about momentous public events such as living through the Civil War, mediated through the newspapers. African Americans and women's rights activists collected, concentrated, and critiqued accounts from a press that they did not control to create "unwritten histories" in books they wrote with scissors. Whether scrapbook makers pasted their clippings into blank books, sermon collections, or the pre-gummed scrapbook that Mark Twain invented, they claimed ownership of their reading. They created their own democratic archives.
Writing with Scissors argues that people have long had a strong personal relationship to media. Like newspaper editors who enthusiastically "scissorized" and reprinted attractive items from other newspapers, scrapbook makers passed their reading along to family and community. This book explains how their scrapbooks underlie our present-day ways of thinking about information, news, and what we do with it.
About the Author
Ellen Gruber Garvey
is Professor of English at the New Jersey City University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Reuse, Recycle, Recirculate: Scrapbooks Remake Value
Chapter 2: Mark Twain's Scrapbook Innovations
Chapter 3: Civil War Scrapbooks: Newspaper and Nation
Chapter 4 Alternative Histories in African American Scrapbooks
Chapter 5: Strategic Scrapbooks: Activist Women's Clipping and Self-Creation
Chapter 6: Scrapbook as Archive, Scrapbooks in Archives
Chapter 7: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth-Century Scrapbook