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Scrapbooks: An American History Hardcover – 9 Sep 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (9 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300126352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300126358
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 31.4 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,193,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Helfand persuades us that scrapbooks are far more than mere curiosities. She connects them to broader themes that spark ideas and our imagination."-George Miles, Yale University -- George Miles "Anyone can make a scrapbook, and it sometimes seems that everyone has. From this most democratic of art forms, Jessica Helfand has created a national self-portrait of remarkable breadth, depth and beauty."-Michael Bierut, author of Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design and partner at Pentagram -- Michael Bierut "The history of scrapbooking long predates the recent explosion of interest in this hugely popular hobby. Jessica Helfand uses her subtle curatorial eye and her sharp critical perspective to shed light on this indigenous creative discourse. This book will be an invaluable inspiration to anyone practicing the art of scrapbooking today, as well as to anyone fascinated with American visual history, photography, and popular culture."-Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution -- Ellen Lupton "Helfand's richly detailed account integrates the chronology of scrapbooks within philosophies of public and individual memory. In her scholarly and engaging work, readers are presented with moments of delight recorded by various people as they made their own way towards remembering themselves."-Susan Tucker, Curator of Books and Records at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Tulane University, and co-editor, The Scrapbook in American Life -- Susan Tucker "Wow: what a cool, gorgeous, entrancing, brilliant, mysterious book! The scrapbook fragments-these beautifully presented time capsules of so many bygone times and places and lives-are deeply fascinating, but the effect of the whole is as moving and sublime as fiction. Scrapbooks: An American History is close to perfect."-Kurt Andersen, host of National Public Radio's Studio 360 and author, Heyday -- Kurt Andersen "Scrapbooks are a shared American art form, transcending race and class and gender, fragments of memory that, pasted, taped, and glued into a whole, define the heritage of a family, like a patchwork coat of arms. Jessica Helfand's delightfully charming and informative book is filled with captivating stories about the generations of family members on whose shoulders each of us stands. Pity the family that has no inherited scrap books; pity the reader who does not own this astonishingly delightful book. This is a book that defines our common American heritage, and it is long overdue."-Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University -- Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine Choice "Scrapbooks: An American History, by Jessica Helfand, is a handsome, oversized and extra-illustrated volume in the traditional shape of a scrapbook. It is the first serious history of an American phenomenon."-Richard H. Dillon, The California Territorial Quarterly -- Richard H. Dillon The California Territorial Quarterly

About the Author

Jessica Helfand is a partner at Winterhouse, a design collaborative in New England, and a founding editor of Design Observer. She is senior critic in the Yale School of Art and has written several books on design and cultural criticism. She lives in Falls Village, CT.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I bought it because I am studying scrapbooks and this book is amazing. Beautifully laid out it gives a very clever view of scrapbooks and their makers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x885321e0) out of 5 stars 33 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x882d4438) out of 5 stars The history of scrapbooking 28 Nov. 2008
By U2Kitteh - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book allowing us a glimpse into some gorgeous examples of vintage scrapbooks. The photos of the books are so well done you feel like you could touch the different textures of photos and scraps attached to the pages. If you are interested in the history of true scrapbooking then you should definitely buy this book. It is a work of love.

That said, modern scrapbookers beware. I agree with the author that the kind of scrapbooking she is presenting is closer to the original meaning of the word and hobby. Everyday scraps of ephemera are collected and pasted onto pages...with no thought to design or it's future readers other than what pleases the maker. It was a beloved personal hobby that can now, unknowingly, give us glimpses into what life might have been like for that person, or at least what might have been on their mind.
I agree with the author that modern scrapbooking has become almost soul-less...all about expensive papers, embellishments and posed photos. In this modern manufactured world, it seems that scrapbooking memories is also as such.
If you are interested in how scrapbooking began, about how generations of women (and intelligent men!) before us saved their memories, you will love this book. If you've gotten stuck in a modern scrapbooking rut and want to put more meaning to your hobby, this book will be inspiring and may change your direction.

The only element that I do not like about this book is that there is a bit of snobbish-ness about the whole phenomena. I respect that Ms.Helfand is an art critic and graphic designer, but I wish that she would have left her opinions about the books she is presenting out and just concentrated on the history of scrapbooking itself.

The people who created the vintage scrapbooks and the people who create modern scrapbooks share one thing...scrapbooks are born of their love, of their sense of fun, and their awareness of the life they are living, however they choose to record that in a book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x882d448c) out of 5 stars Jessica's book on scrapbooks: An Ameican History 8 Dec. 2008
By Lee Moody - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The reason I love this book is because finally Jessica put in words what I could never do....tell the story of peoples collected memories. Beautiful photos ! If you have a drawer in your house, or a relatives house that is filled with old pictures or a saved collection of anything -you will not be able to put this book down. If only I had thought of writing the book first !
I highly recommend buying a few copies to remind people of the love of collecting warm memories. I curled up with a cozy blanket and read it for hours- and then I gave it to my Mom and she read it for hours. We all are information over loaded...but reading this book was equivalent to sipping rich hot chocolate from your favorite mug on a cold winters night.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x886b0930) out of 5 stars A Literary Treasure 8 Dec. 2008
By Julian Burgess - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jessica Helfand's book is nothing less than a living, breathing slice of American history: a beautiful, funny, exciting living collage of who we are, where we came from and what we're all capable of being -- flawed, human, deep and joyously alive. On a design level, it's a visual feast. On a literary level, it's full of stories of the famous and the anonymous, each one riveting. Botton line: the scrapbooks she has unearthed, and their fascinating minutiae, make up nothing short of the perfect archaeological find for anyone interested in/fascinated by our collective national heritage; you could literally spend the next twenty years, if you wanted to -- and I think I will -- poring over each and every one of the things in these scrapbooks, and marvelling in the stories they tell.

As for the flap over the author's apparent intent/attitude concerning scrapbooks in general: isn't it completely irrelevant? Judge the book not by its author, whoever she is. Check out the book. It's a marvel. It's a museum between two covers. It's a journey through time. It's a hoot. It's a gem.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x882d4714) out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Touching 20 Dec. 2008
By Jessica G. Gladstone - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Turning the pages of Jessica Helfand's beautiful book is like turning back time. Each selection is layered with import, curiosity and the promise of story. It's a wonder the author was able to edit down any of her findings as each one launches you to a distant world. My eyes and mind were completely engaged as I wound through the pages - as if I was a treasure-hunter seeking clues to understand the pathology of collections.

As a modern day scrapbooker, I was inspired and reminded to privilege the everyday ephemera I've kept along with my images and notes of random thoughts and comments. For, these examples assert that this "lost" kind of labored expression still exists today, only we've grown accustomed to a blanketed and generalized editing mentality.

I'm not sure that modern scrapbooking is entirely bereft of individuality...but rather the tools of the trade found so easily in craft stores today are not our ready-made "answers to scrapbooking" but should be considered as entry-points to story-telling.

If you are interested in scrapbooking you will enjoy this book. It's a wonderful gift and an unusual take on what it means to make memories.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x882d4954) out of 5 stars Scrapbooking for EVERYONE! 8 Dec. 2008
By Eric Baker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Scrapbooks: An American History

Scrapbooks: An American History by Jessica Helfan is a book for all lovers of ephmera and Americana. It is neither high brow nor low brow. It captures the passion and history of peoples love of memory. The images are beautiful and the text is accessible.

What is most intriguing, and almost voyeuristic, is to see a persons life progress though the years, the places they have been, the events they witnessed and the people they loved.

To sit with the book is to take a trip through time.


Eric Baker
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