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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, by Ellen Gruber Garvey

In my previous blog I mentioned a brief history of scrapbooks, and several books on the
subject. Writing With Scissors is probably the most scholarly of these, focusing as it does on some of the most historically significant albums and collections.  

Hooked on the subject by the discovery of a farm woman’s scrapbook of clipped articles dedicated to the environment of the home that she discovered in a used book store, Garvey went on to explore the world of scrapbooks housed in libraries, archives, and historical societies. Scrapbooks are often extremely personal, miniature archives of daily life not meant for public consumption. “Every scrapbook is its own world,” she writes, “compelling and impossibly frustrating.” She quotes from James Tate’s poem “Horseshoe” to describe the experience of puzzling over these volumes, 

          I can’t read the small print in the scrapbook:
          does this say, Relinquishing all bats, feeling faint
          on the balcony? There is so much to be corrected here,
          so many scribbles and grumbles, blind premonitions.
          How does one interpret, on this late branch, the unexpected?