Star Wars Scrapbook: The Essential Collection by Stephen J. Sansweet (1998, Chronicle Books)
As anyone who would take the time to even skim this review likely knows, today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. I won’t regale you with pages of history that has been extensively recorded elsewhere in better words than mine, but, as you probably are aware, Star Wars became a virtually instant cultural phenomenon upon its debut. With the first release of the movie came a flood of merchandise and, inevitably, legions of collectors.
Today, most dedicated Star Wars fans love to show off their collections. Mine is modest compared to most: just a few action figures and my ever-expanding collection of Star Wars novels. I haven’t the money to amass piles of prop helmets, Force FX Lightsabers, and the like. Of course, if I’m wowed by a few Lego starfighter models, I’m sure you can imagine and sympathize with how I feel when faced with the Star Wars collection of Stephen J. Sansweet.
Sansweet, a long-time Lucasfilm employee, is most famous for having the most extensive private Star Wars collection in existence. Star Wars Scrapbook: The Essential Collection is a large coffee table book that showcases the highlights of that legendary and staggering array of Star Wars memorabilia.
A heartfelt intro from Sansweet about the joy he derives from sharing his collection with other fans opens the book, and then the reader is knee-deep in all manner of gems.
The first issue of the Official Star Wars Fan Club newsletter is here, reproduced in full.
This 1976 article from the Los Angeles Times quotes George Lucas as saying “I doubt if I’ll ever do anything this big again.”
Sansweet relates the saga of the infamous empty box, a certificate issued by Kenner good for four Star Wars action figures later in the year, when they could actually ship them. I was very amused to discover that Leia’s iconic hairstyle from the original Star Wars not only had a name listed on the back of the empty box, but that name was both trademarked—and ridiculous.
The book is otherwise full of fascinating Star Wars curiosities. In the pages of this book you can find: fan club exclusive material; silly merchandise, like C-3PO’s and BBQ Stars; behind the scenes material including set photos, an Empire Strikes Back call sheet, VIP passes, and the like; international merchandise; and stickers and punch-outs that are actually ready for use, if you’re so inclined.
Each of these items is accompanied by a few lines or paragraphs of commentary from Sansweet. This mostly consists of straightforward explanation and presentation of the visual material, but the occasional glib turn of phrase keeps things fresh. This and a few accounts of items’ histories gives the book a personal touch.
The last thing to appear is a collection of Ralph McQuarrie’s Star Wars Christmas cards, followed by blank pages. The fact that Sansweet didn’t include an afterward or even a short “about the author” blurb detracts ever so slightly from this book, but ultimately, a collection this impressive doesn’t require a proper conclusion.
Despite the fact that today, fourteen years after the publication of this book, a lot of what’s printed here can be found all over Tumblr’s Star Wars tag, you can’t top the physical presentation of this collection. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Star Wars Scrapbook: The Essential Collection is definitely worth your time and the fairly reasonable prices I’ve seen online.
I wish you the best on this, the thirty-fifth anniversary of Star Wars. Happy Star Wars Day. May the 25th be with you… okay. I see how that isn’t as catchy, I suppose. At any rate, regular reviews will resume next week, with a look at Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Crystal Star.