Beginning in the 15th century, commonplace books, popular in England, emerged as a way to compile information that included recipes, quotations, letters, poems and more. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator's particular interests.
Friendship albums became popular in the 16th century. These albums were used much like modern day year books, where friends or patrons would enter their names, titles and short texts or illustrations at the request of the album's owner. These albums were often created as souvenirs of European tours and would contain local memorabilia including coats of arms or works of art commissioned by local artisans.
Starting in 1570, it became fashionable to incorporate coloured plates depicting popular scenes such as Venetian costumes or Carnival scenes. These provided affordable options as compared to original works and, as such, these plates were not sold to commemorate or document a specific event, but specifically as embellishments for albums.
In 1775, James Granger published a history of England with several blank pages at the end of the book. The pages were designed to allow the book's owner to personalize the book with his own memorabilia. The practice of leaving pages to personalize at the end of books became known as grangerizing. Additionally, friendship albums and school yearbooks afforded girls in the 18th and 19th centuries an outlet through which to share their literary skills, and allowed girls an opportunity to document their own personalized historical record previously not readily available to them.
The advent of modern photography began with the first permanent photograph created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. Photography became available to an ever-widening population with the invention of George Eastman's paper photographs in the late 1880s and the mass production of the Kodak Brownie, a camera designed to be simple (and inexpensive) enough for a child, in 1900. This allowed the average person to begin to incorporate photographs into their scrapbooks.
Old scrapbooks tended to have photos mounted with photomounting corners and perhaps notations of who was in a photo or where and when it was taken. They often included bits of memorabilia like newspaper clippings, letters, etc.
In addition to the collection of photographs, tickets, postcards, and other memorabilia, journaling is often a principal element in modern scrapbooks.
Journaling is text that describes, explains, or accents the photographs on a scrapbook page. Contemporary journaling can take many forms. It can be reflective and story-like, take a reportive tone, or simply be a list of words. Journaling may also include song lyrics, quotations, and poems. The value of journaling lies in the fact that it provides an account of family histories that may otherwise not be preserved.
Many consider journaling one of the most important elements of any scrapbook. Journaling is a personal choice and it can describe the event, the photographs, or relate feelings and emotions. Handwritten journaling is considered best by some scrapbookers who see handwriting as valuable for posterity, but many people journal on the computer and print it onto a variety of surfaces including vellum, tape, ribbon, and paper.