Praise for Scrapbooks: An American History
“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.
“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.”
Curator, Newcomb College Center, Tulane University
Co-editor, The Scrapbook in American Life
“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.”
Author, Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design
“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.”
Curator, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
“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.”
Host, PRI Studio 360 and author of Heyday
“One of the best thing about Scrapbooks: An American History
is its ability to immerse the reader simultaneously in the diaristic act of archiving and the formal process of making. More than a simple inventory of scrapbooking history, the book takes us through some intensely personal moments, life-affirming reflection, and kick-ass vernacular design.”
“Helfand persuades us that scrapbooks are far more than mere curiosities. She connects them to broader themes that spark ideas and our imagination.”
Reviews of Scrapbooks: An American History
"Scrapbooking has become a popular and widespread activity for those who wish to create commemorative collection which is usually themed based and showcasing a particular life, event, or subject. In Scrapbooks: An American History, academician and design expert Jessica Helfand as written and compiled a fascinating and seminal history of the scrapbook as a cultural phenomena from the late 19th and early 20th centuries down to the present day. Identifying notable scrapbookers ranging from Zelda Fitzgerald to Lillian Hellman to Anne Sexton, "Scrapbooks" draws from Jessica Helfand's own personal collection of more than 200 scrapbooks that collective span more than one hundred years of American history. Scrapbooks also covers the techniques and tools of scrapbook making, many of which are still applicable to create unique scrapbooks without the use of pre-fabricated materials such as those readily available in any craft store today. Profusely and colorfully illustrated throughout, Scrapbooks is a work of impressive and articular scholarship, making it an enthusiastically recommended addition to academic and community libraries, as well as informed and informative reading for anyone who has engaged in scrapbooks for themselves or a loved one."
Midwest Book Review
, December 2008
"Scrapbooking supplies — stickers, colored paper, ribbon, adhesives — line the aisles of craft and general merchandise stores, but scrapbooking, while wildly popular now, is hardly a new trend. In Scrapbooks: An American History (Yale University Press, $45, 190 pages, ISBN 9780300126358), designer, writer and scrapbook-collector Jessica Helfand presents a visual history of these “ephemeral portraits,” from the 19th century to the present. The books featured here had to meet Helfand’s five criteria: they must be beautiful, tell a story, be eclectic and American, and represent celebrities and ordinary folk alike. As such, readers can explore the pages of scrapbooks created by Zelda Fitzgerald (photos, magazine covers, reviews) and Lillian Hellman (correspondence, drafts of her radio broadcasts), as well as civilians Dorothy Abraham (valentines, calling cards, a piece of school chalk) and Lawrence Metzger (invitations,
canceled stamps). Pre-manufactured memory and baby books began to appear in the early 1900s, representing what the author calls a “significant cultural shift,” noting “the
anticipation of memory as a core emotional need . . . was a uniquely twentieth-century conceit.” Just as Helfand worked to display and offer insight into these revealing keepsakes, she has succeeded in making Scrapbooks a valuable cultural artifact in its own right."
, December 2008
"Whatever form the scrapbook takes, digitized, commercialized, or homespun, the reader comes away from Helfand's splendid book with a heightened appreciation for this humble (but in its way ambitious) avatar of Americana."
"This fine book makes a stirring case for the importance of material culture to the study of the past. Its elegant fusion of the material with the textual demonstrates with verve and intelligence how looking at history with one's eyes as well as with one's head can only enrich and expand our historical imagination."
Jenna Weissman Joselit "Paste and Future"
The New Republic
, November 19, 2008
“'To read another person's scrapbook' observes Jessica Helfand in Scrapbooks: An American History, "is to acquire a body of knowledge about an entirely different time and place." Helfand — a prominent graphic designer, art critic, and author — has combined her considerable talents to create one of the most interesting and category-defying books on American culture this year. Through some 200 albums dating from the Victorian era through the present day, Scrapbooks tells the story of ordinary and extraordinary lives, innovative visual ideas, and social change within the larger context of American history. The perfectly presented color photographs of album pages and schematic renderings draw readers right in, and Helfand's detailed yet evocative interpretations will keep them glued to the page. Like any first-rate scrapbook, Scrapbooks is a treasure-trove worth poring over for hours and hours.”
Lauren Nemroff, “Best Books of November”
Amazon, November 2008
“How to elevate the “happy homemaker” perception of scrapbooking? Ask an articulate and scholarly (Yale graduate-school teacher and published author) designer to collect, comment on, and illustrate a memorable, thoughtful history of American scrapbooks. With more than 475 graphics, Helfand begins her journey into personal memory books by, first, defining the criteria for selection: beauty, eclecticism, storytelling, celebrity and civilian representation, and U.S.A.-centric. Then using five “complete” scrapbooks, from 1913 to the 1980s, as chapter introductions, the author investigates the principles of time, space, sentiment, nostalgia, and posterity, using not only her showcased items but also interweaving examples and commentary from her overall research: the diary of a Filipino American doctor; the proliferation of preformatted memory books; the very personal tales of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Buckminster Fuller, and among other famous and regular Janes and Joes (yes, men did keep these records, too). An excellent foray into the examination of a longtime cultural phenomenon.”
, November 2008
“I'm not into scrapbooking. Just not my thing. But I picked up Scrapbooks: An American History
by Jessica Helfand, and an amazing world opened. I read Scrapbooks
in one sitting. It's not just pictures. It's sociology. It's history. It's passion.”
Diana Page Jordan, “Scrapbooking, Might As Well”
Diana Page Jordan
, October 24, 2008
“Weaving visual artifacts from filmstrips to food labels to army propaganda into a compelling narrative about our collective past, she shows that to record history — whether through textbooks or ticket stubs — is to change it.”
The Editors, “More Titles”
, November/December 2008
“The scrapbook is a mongrel form. Jessica Helfand, clearly loves old scrapbooks, and through her research in historical societies, family attics, and eBay auctions, she has unearthed some choice and evocative examples.”
Thomas Hine, “Scraps of Memory”
Yale Alumni Magazine
, September/October 2008
"That Helfand succeeds in analyzing the scrapbook in all of the appropriate dimensions is only partly due to her unassailable credentials. An acclaimed designer, author and teacher, she also brings the heartfelt attention of the creative artist to analyzing hundreds of scrapbooks compiled by people from every walk of life .... She probes the paradoxical nature of scrapbooks in her erudite, evocative text and presents an epic of American history in images. Visually absorbing, emotionally captivating, Scrapbooks: An American History
immediately becomes the definitive study of its subject."
The Editors, “Good Books”
Step Inside Design
, September/October 2008
"Scrapbooks: An American History
(Yale/Winterhouse), by Jessica Helfand. Scrapbooking may have jumped the shark, in recent years, but visual historian Jessica Helfand, co-principal of the design collaborative Winterhouse and author of an excellent history of volvelles, would have us understand that they have a long and colorful history. She's traveled the country in search of scrapbooks that are beautiful, eclectic, and that tell a good story; scrapbooks, she says, are visual autobiographies. We're treated to excerpts from 200 years' worth of scrapbooks, by well-known Americans like Zelda Fitzgerald, Anne Sexton, and Carl Van Vechten, which is fun. But we're also afforded a glimpse into the life and times of ordinary Americans. What a cool project.”
Joshua Glenn “Brainiac Summer Reading”
, June 27, 2008