What is it about?

This essay considers the fixing of fragments of medieval manuscripts into blank books during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It demonstrates the ubiquity of the practice of presenting and preserving miniatures and examples of calligraphy in such contexts, and considers when, why, by whom, and how these assemblages were created. Though now mostly associated with male collectors, the likelihood that women were involved in the physical assembly of albums and scrapbooks is explored, through a focus on Glasgow University Library MS Euing 26 and its creator Esther Cory. In very many instances such albums were subsequently disassembled to facilitate the more profitable sale of individual fragments. Lot descriptions in nineteenth-century sale catalogues provide important testimony to the existence of now vanished albums, and that evidence is interrogated for information about their nature and material forms.

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Why is it important?

Much scholarly energy has been spent on reuniting detached manuscript fragments with their original medieval codices, but far less attention has been paid to the pre-twentieth-century albums and scrapbooks which were these fragments' transitory homes. A preliminary checklist of extant and disassembled albums and scrapbooks is included in an appendix; this will aid future work in this area.


I hope this essay might raise awareness of the value of old scrapbooks. Whether or not they contain cuttings from medieval manuscripts they are always fascinating respositories that have much to reveal about their makers.

Professor Margaret Connolly
University of St Andrews

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This page is a summary of: The Album and the Scrapbook, Florilegium, April 2022, University of Toronto Press (UTPress),
DOI: 10.3138/flor-2022-0003.
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