It might be hard to believe that friendships were collected and manifested in 16th century material culture in a way not dissimilar to today’s social networks, but a new exhibition at the British Library reveals that young aristocrats were just as passionate about showing off their extended circles as the Kardashians.
The library has gathered together over 500 Alba Amicorum or ‘friendships albums’ dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. These pocket-sized books, a mix between commonplace books and diaries, are filled with diverse ephemera including signed declarations of friendship, sketches of parties, and musical odes.
Social media-generated travel envy might seem like a modern day phenomenon, but it turns out these books started to gain popularity as students went on tours around Europe. Recurring images of Venice seem to be the Renaissance equivalent to the ‘hot dog legs’ on the beach snapshot.
The exhibition suggests that these books were interactive items in the way that Facebook and Instagram are today. Does this mean that people also had to deal with the problem of ‘fake friends’? Perhaps, but it’s hard not to smile at affectionate scribbles such as ‘When this you see, Remember mee; When this you Sing, Your thoughts then fling, Int’ England Faire, For ‘twas made there'.
|What||Friendship Before Facebook: Social Networks in a Pre-Digital Age, British Library|
|Where||British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||King's Cross St. Pancras (underground)|
26 Feb 19 – 12 May 19, 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|