Only three inches tall and five inches wide, featured here are select pages from a fascinating “friendship book” found in the Carl H. Pforzheimer collection of the New York Public Library. What is a friendship book? As Dr Lynley Anne Herbert relates in her post for us on a seventeenth-century specimen, it is a lot like an early version of social media, a place to record friendships and social connections:
Books of this kind grew out of university culture in Germany in the sixteenth century, but by the seventeenth century had become a form of social networking used by people of all professions and stages in life – the seventeenth-century Facebook.
Friends and family would, over a period of many years, contribute pages — often messages of love, encouragement, and admiration for the owner of the book, in addition to a variety of images. The particular friendship book featured here belonged to a woman from Lancashire named Anne Wagner. We don’t know too much about Anne, but she is notable for being aunt to the poet Felicia Dorothea Browne, who herself has a number of childhood contributions to the album including some verse penned at just twelve years old, two years before she was to have her first poems published (and garner the, perhaps unwanted, interest of a certain Percy Bysshe Shelley). Among Felicia’s contributions are also a few wonderful mixed-media collages, a technique which occurs on many pages of the book, often with a maritime bent (perhaps due to their proximity to the sea). It is a theme that adorns the cover too, the central emblem of which declares, beside an anchor and from the wash of blue watercolour waves, “Memorials of Friendship. Anne Wagner. 1795”. Read more about the book here.