The Creepy, Beautiful "Blood Book" Made By A Scrapbooking Victorian Gentleman

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Oct. 31 2013 9:00 AM

The Creepy, Beautiful "Blood Book" Made By A Scrapbooking Victorian Gentleman

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The decoupaged pages of this scrapbook are covered with carefully cut-out engravings, quotations from Scripture, and religious exhortations. Each page has been finished with red India ink, painted in droplets so that the engravings appear to be dripping blood. (Hence, the colloquial nickname for the volume: "The Blood Book.") The writer Evelyn Waugh, who collected Victoriana, bought this book to add to his library around 1950. It survives for our examination because it’s been preserved, along with the rest of Waugh’s papers and books, at the Harry Ransom Center.

The inscription at the beginning of the book, from John Bingley Garland to his daughter Amy on September 1, 1854, reads as follows: “A legacy left in his lifetime for her future examination by her affectionate father.” As the Ransom Center’s Richard Oram writes in his post about the book, a year after this dedication Amy was married, so it seems that this book may have been a betrothal present from a father to his daughter.

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Oram notes that scrapbooking, while a common nineteenth-century pastime, was traditionally done by women, and usually served a function of collecting newspaper clippings. (See, for example, these pages from Susan B. Anthony’s scrapbook, which used cut-and-paste assembly to comment upon the news.) Garland’s project, which contextual clues indicate was assembled by the father himself, was unusual in its male authorship and its use of art. Some of the engravings, of which there are several hundred, appear to be taken from books of the etchings of poet William Blake

While this book looks like “outsider” art to contemporary eyes, Garland was a respectable businessman who was the first speaker of Newfoundland’s parliament. And the religious sentiments and related visual effects didn’t startle his family at all. Oram writes that Garland’s descendants said of the book, when asked: “It is a precious reminder of the love of family and Our Lord.”

Click on the images to arrive at zoomable jpegs, or visit the item’s page in the Ransom Center’s digital collections to see all 43 collages.

BloodBook1Final

Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center.

BloodBook2Final,jpg

Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center.

BloodBook3Final

Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center.

BloodBook4Final

Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center.