Happy Friday all! Today is my birthday so I wanted to make a quick little post about a cool little birthday book that we have in our archives.
Did you know that autograph books have been around for centuries? They were most popular among students from the 15th to 19th century. Traditionally, an autograph book would be exchanged between friends, colleagues, family members, and classmates. In it, they would write notes and poems, draw or paint pictures, and occasionally even exchange contact information. In this way, the autograph book would sometimes function as an address book as well.
Nowadays we think of autograph books as place where we put signatures from famous people (or characters from Disneyland!) and yearbooks have generally replaced the original autograph books.
We have a few autograph books in our collection, but the one that I chose to write about today is the Edith Autograph Book (1500-001-10). This book was a gift from Edith’s grandfather for her birthday and it is full of beautiful paintings, poems, and notes from people written between 1881-1887. What a lovely birthday gift!
I do not know if the sentiments inside were written before or after the book was gifted. Do you think her grandfather gave her a blank book to fill with her own memories? Or do you think that he solicited notes from well-wishers prior to gifting her the book? Or perhaps it was a bit of both? We do not know much about Edith or her book, but we do know that she was loved.
My favorite part about this book is the penmanship. I have read quite a few old documents with cursive on them in my time as an assistant here and I have never seen a book filled with so many examples of stunning cursive- I can’t quite read all of them though! I get the feeling that the “autographers” wanted to make sure that their handwriting was exemplary in this book- everything is so neat and tidy and thoughtful.
I would love to receive such a thoughtful birthday gift, would you? This book is still in fantastic condition considering the fact that it was obviously passed around to many hands over a hundred years ago! You could start an autograph book today and fill it with sentiments from your family and friends and then someday pass it on to your children or great grandchildren…
If you’d like to see this book or anything else in our collection, TU affiliates are still welcome to come view items in our collection with an appointment. Please feel free to email us if you would like to come visit. Non-affiliates are still able to request scans of items that they would like to see. Stay safe and wear your mask!