Victorian Pleasures

Scrapbook cover

My friend Shirl is an ephemera magnet. I don’t know where she finds what she does! We’re talking seriously good ephemera. And she’s also extremely generous, much to my good fortune.

She recently gifted me with a scrapbook from the 1880s. The binding has completely come apart and the spine covering is gone, which, for me, is a large part of its attraction.

Victorian scrapbook spine

Its spine was formed by layers of paper that were folded, accordion-like, to form guards. The folios were inserted into the valleys. It was all sewn together over tapes.

There is only one folio still (barely) attached. It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but, if you look carefully, you can see that it had been sewn into the valley.

Spine sewing

There is also a single fabric endband still attached.


Dang, I just love looking at old deconstructed bindings.

The actual content is marvelous too. It’s a fairly typical Victorian scrapbook filled with advertising cards and whatnot. I plan to photograph or scan some of it later.

Advertising cards in scrapbook

Sweet 16

Advertising ephemera

And, by coincidence, I also recently acquired another Victorian-era treasure. A Webster’s dictionary from 1859! It was being sold in two pieces with a few pages missing, which made it affordable. Aside from that, the pages themselves are in good shape.



In the front there is a section of illustrations (some of which I am later planning to photograph more properly). As you can see in the photo below, some of the “birds” are a bit… interesting… to our modern eyes. (The “fishes” are similarly a bit surreal  — apparently, for example, seals were considered a type of fish.)

The Birds

All the latest in science is here too:


And some botany:


Among other things, I was surprised to discover that as relatively recently as 1859, the word “weird” still solely meant something to do with witchcraft.


It has a handy usage guide too.See Insanity

I also have been enjoying Webster’s essay detailing why, for instance, he has taken the “u” out of words like “colour.” “That Johnson,” you can almost imagine Webster sighing and shaking his head as he wrote.

We took the u out of colour


Ground Squirrel

The Paper Ground Squirrel somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring…

Note: if you want a close-up look of any of these, click on the photo. It will take you to another page where it won’t look any bigger. However, if you click on it again from the other page, it will then display a larger version. Sorry for the inconvenience of having to click twice. It’s the native WordPress way, apparently.

10 thoughts on “Victorian Pleasures”

  1. What a treasure. Looking forward to seeing it soon. I will be teaching a course this spring that uses an accordion spine. Would be great to have photos to show them.

    • I look forward to showing it to you. I especially was intrigued that the accordion was made from multiple layers. These were just quickie pics, but I could do some better detail ones for you later, if you’d like.

      That is, if the camera will cooperate! Would you believe, I’m having camera problems again?! Something’s up with the lens… :-(

  2. Wat a true treasure you got. I had a couple myself of those and the binding is so well done. Real artwork in itself. Sometimes they have a clasp too… Yours is fab because it has all those pages still inside, can’t wait to see what you will do with it!

    • Thanks Catherine! I’m not sure I’m going to do anything with the scrapbook other than just scan some of the material (and what I’ll do with that, I’m still not sure!). We’ll see. I am having fun looking at the binding. For now I’m just enjoying them both. I’ll bet the ones you had were fantastic!

  3. what a nice gift and find. I find the webster very interesting. It is funny to see how quickly such information becomes wrong. Makes you wonder what not so very future generations will think about what we hold true. – Finding Bats among the birds is amusing :-)

    • Thanks Hilke. I have the same thought when looking at these things. What “true” and “scientific” information that we hold as fact will, in reality, look ridiculous in the next century? Plenty, I suspect. (And, yes, I think the bats listed under Birds was probably one of my favorite things in the whole dictionary!)


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