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The Menlo Park Scrapbooks, Volumes 1-40, are a set of fifty-seven technical scrapbooks (many of the volumes are sub-numbered) plus an index volume. They are the first in a series of scrapbooks begun by William Carman and Francis R. Upton in 1878-1879. New books were added, and old ones continually updated, by Upton and others until 1882. The books were occasionally updated thereafter until about 1889. There are approximately 150 scrapbooks still extant, and there are indications that the series may have comprised over 200 books at one time.
The clippings are primarily from technical journals, although some are from popular magazines and newspapers. They cover a wide range of subjects, including telegraphy, electricity, electric lighting, the telephone, and the phonograph. Most of the material in Volumes 1-40 dates from the period 1875-1881, although there are some clippings from as early as 1873 and others from as late as 1889. The remaining volumes are primarily for the years 1881-1882.
Most of the scrapbooks have titles placed on them by Edison's assistants. Although these titles adequately describe the general character of each volume, many of the books also contain miscellaneous clippings about other scientific and technical subjects.
Although each scrapbook page is represented on the microfilm from which the images in the digital edition were created, the contents of the scrapbooks were not filmed in their entirety. Many scrapbook pages contain oversize and odd-shaped clippings that could not be completely unfolded without obscuring other clippings. Moreover, it is not uncommon for many successive pages in a technical journal, and occasionally even an entire issue, to be pasted onto a single scrapbook page.
In most cases, each set of facing scrapbook pages was filmed only once, in such a manner as to convey the greatest amount of bibliographic and substantive information about the clippings on those pages. Most of these clippings do not relate directly to Edison but deal instead with scientific and technical subjects in which he and his assistants were interested. The clippings that are directly concerned with Edison and his inventive or business activities were filmed in their entirety.