Pet Book #3: Scrapbooks

At first glance, Arctic Explorations doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with scrapbooks. Elisha Kent Kane didn’t cut his stories out of newspapers to present them in this book. The images in his book were painstakingly created for the exact words he wrote. Yet there are still some similarities in motivation and purpose. As I said in my previous post, Kane probably originally wrote this book as a journal or diary he kept while he was actually on the expedition—it certainly says that the images are from drawings he made. These diaries could have been loose or hard to read; it makes sense that he would want to compile them into a single, legible work. Like someone making a scrapbook, Kane (and the agency that sponsored his expedition) didn’t want to search through his papers in order to make a coherent story. So they put it all together in book form. In this sense, it reminds me of the scrapbook in the BPL that had all of the historical articles put together, because all of these episodes are longer (and therefore equate to longer, serialized articles).

I also found a strong connection with Arctic Explorations and Edward Everett Hale’s scrapbook at the BPL. Hale included pages that he had ripped out of books in his scrapbook that were articles/essays that he had written. That reminds me of Kane’s book because he could have also been doing the same thing but at a much larger scale with his book. In addition, Hale’s scrapbook leads directly up to the end of his life in 1909. It’s final few pages are filled with articles from Woman’s Home Companion that he never had the chance to paste down. Likewise, Kane died the year after Arctic Explorations was published, so he was just able to see the final product. For both of them, their books were kind of their major collections of the things they’d done—though it’s important to remember that the books we have of there are limited to the things they chose to include. So they both had similar goals when creating these works.

In chapter 1 of the Garvey reading, she discusses the importance of the dissemination of articles between newspapers and how articles were shared and spread widely around the country. For Kane’s Arctic Explorations, the printing of a book, as nice as it is, shows that Kane and the publisher wanted it to have some sort of broader readership. They wanted to spread it across some sort of area, whether it was the whole country for any reader, or more specifically through the government or the military or schools, for example. So I feel like in that time one thing that was really important to both newspapers and books was trying to get a wider distribution of the material.

Finally, I think there is a lot of value for scrapbooking in the engravings in Arctic Explorations. Although there wasn’t much evidence of imagines being cut in the three scrapbooks I looked at in the BPL, we saw a lot of images in some of the books online, like Lewis Carroll’s, Willa Cather’s, and the book of Frederick Douglass’ funeral. Even though the images are not from a newspaper, I think they are the type of images that someone might see and want to cut them out because they like them so much and don’t want to have to search for them in a book every time they want to look at them. Honestly, my inner bookshop employee cringed really hard at that, but I have to admit it’s true. They’re definitely images I would want to take today and make into a poster or something so I could look at them more easily and more often…which was kind of the idealized point of scrapbooks!

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