The advent of modern photography began with the first permanent photograph created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. This allowed the average person to begin to incorporate photographs into their scrapbooks. However, books or albums made specifically for showcasing photographs alone were not popularized in the United States until closer to 1860. Before that point, photographs were not thought of as items to be reproduced and shared. Demand for photo albums was spurred on in large part by the growing popularity of the carte de visite, a small photograph distributed in the same manner one might a visiting card.
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 yearbooks, 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 colored 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 pasting engravings, lithographs and other illustrations into books, or even taking the books apart, inserting new matter, and rebinding them, became known as extra-illustrating or 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.