The personal Autograph Book of
Miss Sarah S. Woodward
Entries from 1831 – 1852
I have a friend who discovered this charming autograph book in a Salvation Army thrift store in the Boston area, about 30 years ago. It once belonged to a young woman by the name of Sarah S. Woodward. It is filled with philosophy, poetry, and loving sentiments from friends and family. It also has a rare collection of art prints made by the Scottish born engraver, James Smillie (1807-1885), not to be confused with his son James David Smillie, also a painter and an engraver.
This book is nearly 200 years old and has lots of foxing (those brown spots that occur over time, usually due to the acidic ph of the paper and moisture). It’s fragile to the touch and the pages are well worn.
I have tried to reproduce these beautiful images, along with the writings and sentiments as best I can, knowing this special volume will probably not hold up another century. This book gives us a rare look into the life of an American young woman living on the east coast in the early 1800’s.
I could not reproduce the entire book, so I have chosen selections that seemed to emulate the nature of this gentle young woman. In the very center of the book Sarah made a list of all the people she wanted to make entries. One by one they are “x’d” off. It is charming to see the value she placed on her relationships by circulating such a book. There was a piece of old lace pressed between the pages and various flowers and leaves. One page has been ripped out, while another has been erased and written over. There are entries written in French, Latin, and English, as well as many poems which are often marked “selected” instead of crediting the poet.
Several of the entries mention “The Furmen Institute” which was established in 1826 in South Carolina as an academic and theological place of learning. It is the 64th oldest school in America and helped establish what is now The University of South Carolina. Associated with the institute was a women’s college in Greenville, SC. which traces its charter to an even earlier date during the 1820’s. Other entries include “Longtown”, “Plymouth”, “Charleston”, and “Fairfield”.
In a time when many women did not have opportunities to learn and develop, Sarah S. Woodward appears to have enjoyed some social privilege and educational opportunities. She clearly associated with friends in intellectual circles and was familiar with Latin, French, philosophy, and religion. I imagine her life as abundant and that she was a modern young woman of the times.
I feel like Sarah is an old friend, and it has been my honor to read and make selections from these most personal and revealing entries made in her autograph book. I am personally grateful for this young woman and for her vision in preserving these sentiments and images. I am sure she never imagined so many others would be examining her life nearly 200 years after this book was written. I find these excerpts and art as inspiring and relevant today as they must have seemed to her 185 years ago.
I hope you all enjoy this look into a past era and culture. I also hope you will enjoy using these images in new and creative ways.
Thanks Sarah Dear,
View the PDF of some of the amazing pages and artwork from this book.
Stamps Sets created from Sarah’s Book. Buy all 3 sets and save!
Sarah’s Book Digital Kit