album (n.)

1650s (albo) "souvenir book," from Latin album, which in classical times was a board chalked or painted white, upon which public notices (the Annales Maximi, edicts of the praetor, lists of senators, etc.) were inscribed in black, hence "a list of names." Latin album is literally "white color, whiteness;" it is a noun use of the neuter of the adjective albus "white" (see alb).

This Latin word was revived 16c. by German scholars, whose custom was to keep an album amicorum of colleagues' signatures; its meaning then expanded to "book with blank leaves meant to collect signatures and other souvenirs." Johnson [1755] still defined it as "a book in which foreigners have long been accustomed to insert autographs of celebrated people."

 The English word in reference to bound photographic collections is recorded by 1859. The meaning "long-playing gramophone record" is by 1951, because the sleeves they came in resembled large albums.

updated on September 16, 2022