This newspaper article is beautifully prophetic, given that it was written more than 120 years ago. My favorite line of this whole story is at the end. So you don’t miss it: Scrapbooks “keep for another time what one day made us smile or weep; a biography, a history, a journal written by a thousand other hands, and yet our own.”
Scrapbooks, their value, and the changes in taste which they show
Who so keepeth a scrapbook keepeth a good thing, and the manner in which it is kept is an indication of the presence or absence of certain qualities in the “keeper,” as order, perseverance, continuity of purpose and fixedness of memory.
A scrapbook is, moreover, an index of literary taste and feeling, and a scrapbook, or a series of scrapbooks kept for a number of years, shows how that taste may change, broaden and rise with reading and the reception of new ideas and impressions.
Could we have all the scrapbooks of one lifetime extending from youth to age, we should have a literary history of that life. Those scrapbooks are most interesting and valuable which may be classified as personal; kept by someone individual for personal use and behoof; which record the workings of one brain and, in a way, the emotions of one heart.
These, preserved, become in time histories and autobiographies. Next in interest to these private scrapbooks are those which are kept for a purpose; to collect and preserve facts in regard to some event in history; some historical character, as Washington or Napoleon, or better yet, some contemporary personage.
From these the biographer of the future may collect his choicest material; for be it known that newspapers from which scrapbooks are generally made are no led longer the “abstract and brief chronicles” of the time, but are extended and even diffuse chronicles, telling all an there is to tell.
Anyone who has had occasion to write a post-mortem sketch of any modern statesman has me found his facts stated at length, not in books, but in newspapers. And yet newspapers are evanescent and perishable.
Out of the one hundred thousand copies a newspaper issued on a certain day, it is quite possible that to every copy may have disappeared in a few days, except the half-dozen preserved on files.
It is well, then, that the scrapbook keeps the cream, the gem, the one poem, or sketch, or speech or story that made a certain copy of the newspaper sought after and valuable for clipping purposes.
It is a fact that every reading person must have noticed, that there is not in the world a perfect book of quotations. Complete as the work on hand may be, it frequently does not contain the line, the verse, the “eloquent extract” one is looking for.
Scrapbooks, old scrapbooks, are the repositories of these things; these poems by unknown authors; by the poets who wrote but one poem each, and never got credit for that. These are very often resurrected from antique scrapbooks and sent on their anonymous round through the newspapers, to be again secured in the scrapbooks, and, again, for a time forgotten.
The scrapbook, or rather the keeping of it, is an aid to the memory. One does not entirely forget that which he takes time to cut out of a book or newspaper and fasten to the receptive page, and perhaps (as he should) record it in an index. He retains a portion of it, a scrap of the scrap, as it were, in his mind, so that in any event he knows where to find it.
The practice of keeping scrapbooks, considered by many persons old-fashioned, is none the less an excellent fashion; preserving to us in our youth; keep for another time what one day made us smile or weep; a biography, a history, a journal written by a thousand other hands, and yet our own.
Now: A poem from 1894
If you have a kind word — say it,
Throbbing hearts soon sink to rest;
If you owe a kindness — pay it,
Life’s sun hurries to the west.
Can you do a kind deed — do it,
From despair some soul to save;
Bless each day as you pass through it,
Marching onward to the grave.
If some grand thing for to-morrow
You are dreaming — do it now;
From the future do not borrow;
Frost soon gathers on the brow.
Speak thy word, perform thy duty,
Night is coming deep with rest;
Stars will gleam in fadeless beauty,
Grasses whisper o’er thy breast.
Days for deeds are few, my brother,
Then to-day fulfill thy vow;
If you mean to help another,
Do not dream it — do it now.