As everyone knows, L.M. Montgomery was an avid record keeper of her life, keeping hundreds of letters, and souvenirs, and writing 5 journals. Montgomery also kept scrapbooks, which kept records of her book reviews as well as mementos from her childhood. These scrapbooks are currently kept at the University of Guelph Library Archival and Special Collections, as well as the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, PEI.
The Cavendish years (1893 – 1911) on Prince Edward Island were when Montgomery started publishing many of her poems and stories, and eventually her first novel Anne of Green Gables. During this time, she kept two scrapbooks which are differentiated by the colors of their front covers, the blue scrapbook, and the red scrapbook.
She started putting together the blue scrapbook in 1893 when she was 19 years old, and it covers roughly the years 1893 to 1897. During this period, she finished her schooling in Cavendish; earned her teacher’s license at the Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown, attended Dalhousie College in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and taught at three Prince Edward Island schools.
The red scrapbook roughly covers the years 1901 to 1911. However, a few items from before 1901 are also included, such as an image of Sally Ward from 1896. During this time Montgomery went to work for the Halifax newspaper The Daily Echo, as well as spent the majority of the years living in Cavendish and taking care of her grandmother, and publishing her first novel Anne of Green Gables.
The red and blue scrapbooks are known as the island scrapbooks because they mostly cover the period of her life before her move to Ontario. In 1911 Montgomery married Reverend Ewan Macdonald and they left Prince Edward Island, beginning a new life in Leaskdale, Ontario. Montgomery created new scrapbooks which would contain mementos of her children’s early years and information on her activities and interests. She had 4 scrapbooks covering the years 1910 –1936, with an additional fifth one covering newspaper reviews of her books. They are kept at the University of Guelph Library Archival and Special Collections.
The collection of these scrapbooks began in 1981 when the University of Guelph purchased Montgomery’s scrapbooks as well as her journals from her son Dr. E Stuart Macdonald, who also served as her literary executor. After his death, additional materials were purchased in 1983 and 1999, such as the original manuscript of Rilla of Ingleside, which was thought to be lost. Montgomery's final note dated 22 April1942, written two days before her death, was also donated to the library in 2009.
Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Epperly, is the first author to publish books showcasing Montgomery’s scrapbooks. She was born in the United States but moved to Canada for her love of Montgomery’s writing. She was the first student to register for the University of Prince Edward Island in 1969 and served as the first female president of UPEI from 1995 to 1998. She is the founder of the L.M. Montgomery Institute (LMMI), serves on its International Advisory Board, and serves on the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority. In 2008 she published her first edition, Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery.
The island scrapbooks contain hundreds of personal items from Montgomery’s everyday life which Epperly identified, such as programs and articles from her Prince of Wales College days, pressed flowers from her outings with friends, fragments of fur from her pet cats, and writeups of weddings and obituaries of family members and friends. However, sources of illustrations and articles from newspapers, magazines, and catalogs that Montgomery pasted on many pages had not been located when Epperly first published the edition.
After Epperly’s first edition was published in 2008, L.M. Montgomery Literary Society member Christy Woster began searching for the sources of these clippings. Her findings were published in the 2008 newsletter edition of The Shining Scroll, the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society newsletter. (THE SHINING SCROLL L.M. Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables Periodical - The L.M. Montgomery Literary Society (weebly.com)
After Woster passed away in 2016, Carolyn Strom Collins, also an L.M. Montgomery Literary Society member, took over the project. She put together an exhibit in Charlottetown in June 2018 showcasing the results of the massive scavenger hunt at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Robertson Library.
Together, Woster and Collins had identified the sources for about 125 items, including magazine and catalog images found in Montgomery’s blue and red scrapbook clippings, which would be known as the Woster-Collins Collection. Woster and Collins were able to determine what kind of periodicals Montgomery was reading through at the time, such as Ladies' Home Journal, Youth’s Companion, Munsey’s Magazine, and the London Illustrated News. Publications Montgomery later wrote for herself.
In 2018, Collins and the family of the late Woster donated their collection to the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island, so they could be looked at and studied in context. In 2019, Epperly published a new edition of the scrapbooks called Imagining Anne: L. M. Montgomery’s Island Scrapbooks. She made some adjustments and corrections in this new edition and reprinted the text and images as they appeared in 2008.
Epperly’s published books contained items from both the blue and the red scrapbooks. Out of the 7 scrapbooks in total, the first two Island scrapbooks are known to exhibit the liveliest and most colorful side of Montgomery, full of youth and optimism, and show insight into life during the time Montgomery was writing one of the most beloved characters and novels recognized today, Anne of Green Gables.
Dr. Elizabeth Epperly to launch compilation of L.M. Montgomery's scrapbooks |University of Prince Edward Island (upei.ca)
Cutting and Pasting: What L.M. Montgomery’s Island Scrapbooks Reveal about Her Reading| Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies (journaloflmmontgomerystudies.ca)
What L.M. Montgomery's scrapbooks can tell us about Anne of Green Gables | CBC News
L.M. Montgomery | Library (uoguelph.ca)
Find out more about L.M. Montgomery in the following books: