by Lois R. Densky-Wolff
For answers to your questions about bookmarks send an email to
W. Coysh in his work Collecting Bookmarkers, a history
of English bookmarks, states:
The need for some device to mark the place in
a book was recognized at an early date. Without bookmarkers, finely
bound volumes were at risk. To lay a book face down with pages open
might cause injury to its spine, and the crease on a page that had
the corner turned down remained as a lasting reproach.
With the rise of printing in the fifteenth century, books were
published in limited numbers and were quite valuable. The need to
protect these precious commodities was evident. One of earliest
references to the use of bookmarks was in 1584 when the Queen's
Printer, Christopher Barker, presented Queen Elizabeth I with a
fringed silk bookmark.
Common bookmarks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were
narrow silk ribbons bound into the book at the top of the spine
and extended below the lower edge of the page. The first detachable
bookmarks began appearing in the 1850's. Most nineteenth century
bookmarks were intended for use in Bibles and prayer books, and
were made from silk or embroidered fabrics. Not until the 1880's,
did paper and other materials become more common.
The great period of bookmark design and the use of luxuriant materials
were during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The idea that a bookmark
be used to keep one's place and protect one's book caught on, and
bookmarks have been produced in a variety of materials ever since.
A.W. Coysh divides the history of bookmarks into four main periods:
Ribbon, 1850-1880, Victorian Advertising, 1880-1901, Pre-World War
I, 1901-1914, Publicity and Greetings, 1914-Present.
Another way to categorize bookmarks has been promoted by Joan Huegel,
editor of Bookmark Collector; the only newsletter published
in the United States devoted to bookmarks. Huegel identifies thirteen
categories, which classifies old and new bookmarks as: Advertising,
Commemorative, Foreign, Government, Handmade, Libraries, National
Organizations & Chains, Novelty, Other Materials, Publishers
& Booksellers, Religious, Silk, Woven & Ribbon, and Souvenir.
Bookmarks and pagemarkers are made from a variety of material including
paper, celluloid, silver, gold, pewter, wood, brass, copper, ivory,
aluminum, chrome, tin, plastic, leather, Fiberglas, ribbon, and
Victorian and Edwardian paper and celluloid bookmarks were a favorite
medium for publicizing goods and services, and as publicity for
non-profit organizations. Booksellers, publishers, stationers, insurance
companies, and manufacturers were quick to utilize the medium. Products
such as soap, pianos, stoves, furniture, perfumes, patent medicines,
shoes, clothes, tobacco, and foodstuffs were all promoted on bookmarks.
The travel and entertainment industries also publicized their services
using bookmarks. Highly colorful and decorative, often given away
free, they were distributed by the thousands from Victorian and
later merchants to their customers. The upsurge in the use of chromolithography,
developed in the mid-nineteenth century, was a boon in the creation
and marketing of these small works of the printer's art.
Advertising bookmarks were often produced as sets or series, usually
produced in groups of four, six, or eight. They were offered as
a give-away or product premium with proof of purchase. Soap makers,
perfumeries, insurance companies, and food and furniture manufacturers
all produced bookmark sets.
Celluloid, the forerunner of plastic, was first introduced into
the United States in 1869 as a cheap substitute for ivory. Products
made from celluloid were inexpensive to purchase, and popular with
the public. Like paper, celluloid bookmarks advertised
products, services, and events, and were also inexpensively marketed
for sale. Many celluloid bookmarks were die-cut, as were paper-advertising
Pagemarkers are another name for bookmarks; typically referring
to those made of metal with pierced blades and manufactured in England.
These markers were crafted in novel shapes and often had ornate
handles many bearing the monograms of their owners. During the Victorian
era, publishers commonly bound books with the pages uncut. Book
buyers had to slit their own pages, and it did not take long for
combination bookmark-page cutters to appear on the market.
Some of these bookmarks were made of heavy paper but were not very
effective. Bookmark-page cutters, or pagemarkers, began appearing
in other materials such as tortoise shell, wood, sterling silver,
gold, brass, copper, and ivory. In addition to slitting book pages,
they were used as letter openers. When book pages no longer needed
to be individually sliced, separate letter openers were manufactured
that were distinguishable from pagemarkers.
Coysh, A.W. Collecting Bookmarkers. New York: Drake, 1974.
Coysh, A.W. and R.K. Henrywood. Bookmarkers. Buckinghamshire,
Great Britain: Shire Publications, 1994.
Evans, Sally. Bookmarkers: an Independent View. Published
for the 43rd Edinburgh Fringe Festival by Old Grindles Bookshop,
Godden, G.A. Stevengraphs and Other Victorian Silk Pictures.
London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1971.
Hechtlinger, Adelaide and Wilbur Cross. The Complete Book of
Paper Antiques. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1972.
Huegel, Joan L. "Antique Bookmarks," Paper Collectors' Marketplace,
11:7, July 1993: 20+.
Huegel, Joan L. "Collectors Put Bookmarks in Their Place," Antiques
& Auction News, 27:18, May 3, 1996: 1-2.
Jonker, Abraham. The Bookmarkers of the Scottish Widows Fund.
Torquay, Great Britain: Neopardy, 1981.
McClinton, Katharine Morrison. "Stevengraph Bookmarkers," Antiques
& Collecting, 91 (1), January 1987: 51-54.
Makespeace, Chris E. Ephemera: a Book on its Collections, Conservation,
and Use. n.p. Gower, 1985.
The Picture of Health: Images of Medicine and Pharmacy From
the William H. Helfand Collection. Commentaries by William H. Helfand.
Essays by Patricia Eckert Boyer, Judith Wechsler, and Maurice Rickards.
[Philadelphia]: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Distributed
by the University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.
Quale, Eric. The Collector's Book of Books. New York: Clarkson
N. Potter, 1971.
Rickards, Maurice. Collecting Printed Ephemera. New York:
Rivera, Betty. "Bookmarks (Collecting Now)," Country Living,
19 (1), January 1996:43+.
Roberts, F.X. "Bookmarks: Silent Sentinels," Wilson Library
Bulletin, December 1993: 40-42.
Staff, Frank. The Valentine & Its Origin. New York:
Stevens, Norman D. A Guide to Collecting Librariana. Metuchen,
NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1986.
Tharp, Mel. "Marking the Page: Bookmarks," Treasure Chest,
January 1995: 10-11.