Victorian Die Cuts – Early Scrapbooking Embellishments

Scrapbooking is a very popular hobby nowadays. The hobby’s first heyday was in the Victorian era and today those early scrapbooks are highly collectible. Some of the most common embellishments in Victorian scrapbooks, and now popular with vintage ephemera collectors, are die cuts.

Victorian die cuts – colorful printed items, cut so little or no background accompanied the image – came in a multitude of varieties. Animals, insects, fruit, flowers, beautiful women, adorable children, religious images, boats, angels, food, vocational imagery, circus scenes, and an endless variety of other subjects can be found on Victorian die cuts. Beautifully detailed even in the smallest sizes of an inch or even less, the largest can be over a foot high or wide.

Victorian scrapbookers collected these richly colored embossed “scraps,” as they were called, and arranged them on their scrapbook pages. Young ladies of some means were the typical scrapbook compilers during the Victorian period. Their finished creations would be proudly displayed for family, friends and visiting guests. Today these vintage scrapbooks sell for hefty sums on sites like eBay or etsy. Many ephemera dealers carefully remove the original die cuts from the old pages and sell the vintage scraps individually. Prices for unusual images can be substantial.

Advances in printing technology made die cuts possible. The development of chromolithography in the mid-1800s led to creation of the vibrantly multi-colored images. The scraps were then glazed, embossed with a die-punch and cut with cutting dies. Scraps were often sold in sheets with small paper tabs called “ladders” connecting multiple images on one sheet. The ladders often contained identifying information for the images and the publisher’s name. Many die cuts were made by German companies. In England Louis Prang produced many beautiful scraps that are highly sought by today’s collectors. Companies in England and Germany have continued to produce die cuts often with more contemporary designs and many who grew up in Europe have fond memories of collecting scraps as children.

Today, as a scrapbooker you can make good use of Victorian die cuts in your creations. The rich colors and variety of images make exceptionally attractive additions to your pages. Perhaps, however, you don’t feel quite right using the original antique paper. Scanners and color printers enable you to use a facsimile copy and preserve the original. You can even cut down on your costs substantially by purchasing a digital copy of the original paper image. Rather than paying top prices for original antique scraps that will then be sent through the mail you can download a quality scanned image for a dollar or two and have it delivered immediately to your computer. Digital scrapbookers don’t even need to worry about printing and can easily use the scanned images in their digital scrapbooks.

Victorian die cuts have stood the test of the time. Their enduring popularity is a testament to their high quality and appealing imagery. Today’s scrapbookers can ensure that these beautiful images will be introduced to new admirers and future generations.