THE VICTORIAN SCRAP
Courtesy of Mamelok Press (www.mamelok.co.uk)
(Editors Note: Many collectors of early baseball cards are familiar with the 1888 Baseball 'Scrapps,' or die-cut busts of prominent baseball players (one shown above right). As the following article and images detail, scraps encompass much more than baseball and sports ….. Scraps are different than trade cards, which also can be die-cut. Unlike trade cards, scraps were not advertising pieces.)
The word "scrap" is often used to describe a piece of paper, usually small, printed in colour and often also embossed and diecut. In Victorian times these scraps or "cut-outs" were an integral part of various pastimes for both adults and children, and they remain popular as such in many parts of the world. Meanwhile, the original Victorian scraps have become small vivid emblems of the decorative and sentimental preoccupations of their era, with a romance and appeal all of their own.
Scraps first appeared at the beginning of the 19th Century in the form of simple black-and-white engravings, often later tinted by hand. By the 1820's the scraps had become more elaborate and were sometimes embossed - a process by which a die was stamped into the reverse side of the paper, giving the front a raised three-dimensional appearance. Within a decade, both the printing and embossing processes were automated and volume increased. Many of the best-quality scraps of the period were produced in Germany, where bakers and confectioners used small reliefs to decorate cakes and biscuits for special occasions such as christenings, weddings, Christmas and Easter.
In 1837, the first year of Queen Victoria's reign, came the invention of the colour printing process known as chromolithography and scrap manufacturers were quick to apply the new technology to their products. Now brightly coloured and embossed scraps were sold in sheets with the relief stamped out to the approximate shape of the image. These pre-cut scraps were connected by small strips of paper to keep them in place.
The laborious task of cutting out small pictureswas thus removed, and sales of scraps began to increase significantly. Collections of scraps were pasted into specially produced albums, together with other decorated paper items such as calling cards, food wrappers and pictures from magazines and catalogues. Scrap collectors would fill the pages of their albums with pictures grouped in themes. Often the pictures would be supplemented by personal notes, lines of poetry or dedications from friends and relatives.
The Victorians delighted in romanticism and sentimentality. Sought-after subjects for scraps included angelic-looking children, fashionably dressed ladies, birds, butterflies, pets, angels and fans. Also popular were military and naval themes and scraps depicting Victorian pastimes such as the circus and outings to the seaside.
Before long, scraps were being pasted into autograph books and diaries, on calling cards, friendship cards and not surprisingly, they were also used to create the most unashamedly romantic Valentines. These cards were often composed from an extravagant array of diverse materials such as paper lace, embossed gold foil, ribbons, lace fresh flowers and feathers with the scraps as the main focal point.