Autograph Albums: A Trend with Lasting Historical Significance and Value

Raab’s Recent Sale of a 19th-Century Friendship Album Calls to Mind Other Historical Autograph Collections

Autograph collecting comes in many forms, and beginning about 200 years ago, the autograph album became popular. These handy volumes, bound in leather or cloth, could be carried by anyone to events or on holidays, where one might gather the signatures and well wishes of friends, family, and prominent citizens, even, perhaps, a famous figure. 

Three examples of autograph albums recently acquired by The Raab Collection all share a common goal of recording and preserving information, although the circumstances of each volume’s creation is different, and each tells a unique story. 

Friendship Album 1823-1825

Early American Autographs, Including John Adams 

“Friendship albums became popular in America in the 1820s,” according to historian Cassandra Good. The friendship album that we recently discovered and sold to a private collector for $40,000 was started in 1823 by a young woman in Quincy, Massachusetts. Filled with advice and poetry that indicates she was preparing to marry, this album has a very special signature: that of President and Founding Father John Adams, who happened to be her neighbor.  

Even without the presidential autograph, this book would have been a remarkable artifact of early America. As Nathan Raab put it, “You get a glimpse into the life of a woman like her at the start of our nation.”

Indeed, friendship albums such as this one preserved seemingly mundane details about private lives and relationships that offer historians fresh source material to better understand and explain the past. 

Mikulec Album Lloyd George Autograph

The Largest Autograph Album Ever Assembled 

One of the most fascinating treasures to come to us in recent years is an enormous collection of autographs and sentiments bound in two volumes; the main one containing more than 1,000 pages and nearly 60,000 signatures. It was carried around the world by a Croatian traveler named Joseph Mikulec over two decades in the early twentieth century. 

Mikulec collected the autographs of presidents, kings, and early Hollywood stars, and his experiences were reported in newspapers around the globe. The volumes were thought lost for nearly a century, until The Raab Collection acquired them from the descendants of Mikulec’s patron, the entrepreneur Samuel Robinson. 

Mikulec’s autograph collection evolved over time and included stamps, ephemera, and travel notes. It thus became something of a cultural survey and time capsule, documenting not only the famous, but the forgotten: people Mikulec had met on the road on six continents. It is an unrivaled achievement, and one that deserves closer examination and widespread awareness. 

The discovery of this volume was reported in Smithsonian Magazine and further covered in an episode of the BYU podcast Constant Wonder 

Zarach Autograph Album

Collecting Iconic Signatures: Queen Elizabeth II to Mick Jagger

During the Swingin’ Sixties, London was the preeminent destination for fashion, music, and pop culture. A boutique called Zarach was at the heart of it all, and its hip, A-list clientele included actors, rock stars, designers, socialites, and royals.  

Those who came ‘to see and be seen’ at Zarach also signed the shop’s Visitors Books, of which two have survived, covering the years 1967-1971 and 1971-1974. One can only marvel at the signatures collected between the pages of these defacto autograph albums: Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, Julie Andrews, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Donovan, Twiggy, Cecil Beaton, and so many others. 

Any of these iconic autographs alone would be collectible. But together, in this context, they dazzle. This collection defines an era that continues to resonate today. 

How and Why to Collect Autographs 

If you have a collection of historical autographs or are thinking about starting one, we have some resources to guide you, including:

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