Thursday, January 6, 2011
This dispatch is about a mysterious title page from an early 19th C scrapbook that turned up in the Peter Harrington rare book shop in London last year. This scrapbook was typical of the kind often purchased from stationers of the day by wealthy young women. Long before the term scrapbooking became popularized as a verb, it was a fashionable activity in that day, for young people to fill them with prints and ephemera. The books were often nicely bound blank pages with the exception of a title page intended to be removed by the owner. This particular scrapbook was produced in 1829, according to the title page, and it was lovingly filled with ephemera dating from the late 1700s to the mid-1850s. What is most unusual about this book is not only having the title page still intact, but it is truly a typographic wonder. Most likely it was printed as a steel engraving and it included very tiny bits of hand-lettered text amongst all of the decorative flourishes of the designer's hand. (Be sure to click on the title page to view full enlargement.) I love how it states that it is expressly designed to divert the anxious, amuse the studious, cheer the gloomy and employ the idle. Isn't that why we have reality TV now?