Here is a “museum” page that I wanted to begin in the late-1990s, but has sat in drawers. Back in the early 1990s the books in collections that I purchased were early, and often with wonderful ephemera tucked inside, including bookmarks or bookmarkers. I pulled them out, and set them aside. I was ‘hooked” especially when this two-sided handmade marker, by Michele, tumbled out of a book. What a bright and intelligent child.
Early on I discovered “the first book devoted solely…” to the subject. R. W. Coysh published COLLECTING BOOKMARKERS in London in 1974. In this book he divided bookmarks into four main periods, beginning in 1850. As this page develops I will add more history for you to enjoy. When my bookshop was in Haddonfield, New Jersey, in the early 1990s, I prepared many exhibits for local libraries, including on Bookmarkers. And, yes I still have my exhibition labels with my collection.
To the left is my earliest bookmarker, a woven silk from the 1854 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London (click for a larger view). Early this January I received an email stating “…I am a book collector in Chicago and a member of the Newberry Library, a large research library. I have a collection of book store and book seller book marks. Eventually my collection will be archived at the Newberry. I am now trying to expand my collection.” He was asking if I could add my bookmarks to his collection. I just needed a nudge. So, thanks to a pandemic, and a snow-storm on Ground-Hog Day, 2021, this page has begun. Please stop by and watch it grow – I have hundreds of fine examples of book marks to share here with you. Thank you, RAY
Continuing on —
In the “olde days” I would find interesting things in books. Bookmarkers, yes, some news clippings and other ephemera. Money? Only once. During a scouting trip from Connecticut in the late 1990s I purchased a number of books in a barn bookshop in Bradford, NH. When I got home I found a five dollar bill in one of the books. I had paid five dollars for that book. In the 1990s I would go to book sales and in pre-internet days they were amazing. I have not attended a library sale in almost 15 years. At an early sale I purchased a biography of Sir William Osler, one of the founders of John Hopkins Hospital. Carefully attached to the book block with a piece of thread was a folded over letter – yes written and signed by Osler. A couple weeks later an autograph dealer offered me $400 for it, based on its content.
My favorite find I showed you above, the marker made by and signed Michele. My most unusual find – a strip of bacon. Yes, cooked, and laid between pages. The adjoining pages were not nice. Many items are left in books to mark a reader’s place. I can picture the phone ringing while the reader was eating breakfast, and the nearest item to serve as a “marker” was that strip of bacon. I did not keep that strip of bacon, but while digging through the things I did save from books, two I immediately placed for sale on eBay. A 1959 Frito bag topper which as a premium has Lone Ranger Tattoos, and a unique cigar wrapper from 1898.
The majority of my collection of bookmarkers I have found in books. Tying in with my interest in World’s Fairs, I did aggressively buy woven silk ribbon, Stevengraph style, markers in the early days of eBay. I have about twenty unique ones. A few of my celluloid and aluminum bookmarkers I have purchased, but most everything else I have found. So, please browse through my collection and enjoy it as I start documenting it here.
It was early in the history of bound books that the need to mark one’s place was recognized. It is recorded that Queen Elizabeth was presented with a fringed silk bookmarker in 1584. The common bookmarker in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a narrow silk ribbon, often bound into the book, at the top of the spine, for ready use. In COLLECTING BOOKMARKERS, (1974), A.W. Coysh divided the history of bookmarks into four main periods. Although written from a British perspective, these periods would be similar in the US. Quoting from his book:
1850 – 1880 — THE RIBBON PERIOD
Markers were often home-made from pieces of ribbon embroidered by hand, or more usually, to which an embroidered perforated card or small water-colour drawing was stitched. In the 1860s and 1870s woven silk bookmarks flooded the market. They were made by several firms in the Midlands (UK) of which Thomas Stevens of Coventry was the most important.
1880 – 1901 — THE VICTORIAN ADVERTISING PERIOD
After about 1880 markers were printed on stiff paper or thin card. They usually carried advertisements, sometimes for a single product, sometimes for a range of products, especially soap, ladies corsets and garments, popular foods and quack medicines. Most of these advertisements were brash and insensitive.
1901 – 1914 — THE PRE-WORLD WAR I PERIODIn Edwardian times advertising became more restrained and respectable. The insurance companies and publishers made great use of bookmakers to interest the public in the services they provided. Brash advertising declined.
1915 – Present Day — PUBLICITY AND GREETINGS PERIODAlthough some advertising continued on bookmarks after World War I, much more use was made of markers to carry publicity material and propaganda for non-profit enterprises.
as I illustrate this page, I will tell you about categories for forming your bookmarked collection – by type of material, and/or subject matter.