Bookmarks: A brief history and exploration of styles

Contrary to a growing belief, bookmarks are not for quitters; bookmarks are for the note takers, artists, writers, logophiles and readers alike.

Bookmarks history dates back to the early days of bookmaking where highly skilled monks were called away to prayers and needed a way to quickly mark their spot in their incunabula or manuscripts. If the page was wet then they would have used a blank page or blotting sheet, for fine illumination pages they would use vellum, but if the page was mostly script and it was dry, a simple ribbon suffice.

The oldest bookmark that has been found is from 1584 when the Queen’s Printer, Christopher Barker, presented Queen Elizabeth I with a fringed silk bookmark.  The second oldest existing bookmark is currently in The Royal Museum of Brunei, it is an ivory bookmark which was made in India. It  has been embellished with a geometrical pattern made by piercing holes into the ivory, this bookmark is  dating from the 16th century.

Of course with the rise of literacy came the rise of the use of bookmarks. In the early 18th century book publishers often included a narrow silk ribbon, sewn or glued into the spine to act as a page marker, this is still seen in some modern books.

In the 1850’s the detachable bookmarks began were popularized. There is a reference to these loose bookmarks in in Mary Russell Mitford’s Recollections of a Literary Life (1852) but they are not called ‘bookmarks’ but were then known as “a marker”.

In the 1860’s woven bookmarks began to be manufactured. Thomas Steven bookmarks were la mode de jour, so much so that his marks became known as Stevenmarks. During this era of call cards, postcards, and the rise of other highly decorative ephemera, it is not hard to imagine why these became popular gifts, with high society members having their’s made of silk or adding text to the woven markers.

By the middle of the Victorian era the markers were seen in newspapers and magazines as cut-out advertisements. Some were decorative while others overtly featured items such as soaps, canned goods, or corsets. It was also during the Victorian era that so-called ‘woman’s magazines’ began to publish patterns for embroidered bookmarks.  During the Edwardian era celluloid bookmarks were cheap alternatives to ivory and much like paper could include advertisements. Most celluloid bookmarks were die-cut, using a technique called chromolithography,  much like the paper bookmarks.

Now bookmarks come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Lovers of bookmarks collect them. Currently the largest known collection belongs to Frank Divendal from the Netherlands, he collection includes over 103,009 different bookmarks from all over the world, which he has been collecting since 1982.

Here are some examples of popular bookmark types available at bookshops and online:

This metal monogram works like a giant paperclip. It is chic and else spotted but it retains heat on warm days, it can be bent or dinged, and worst of all it can leave permanent marks on pages.

These magnetic bookmarks have a front and back so you know exactly which page (not just between page 122 and 123) you left off on, but they too have their downside. They tend to be heavy and fall off, while doing so they can rip pages. They can hold multiple pages too, but be careful because the stronger the magnet the more likely it is to leave marks. On paperback books heavier magnets can damage and tear covers!

Who doesn’t love sticky notes!?! This one is great, because you can write on it. If you prefer this method look for high quality brands to ensure a good stick without leaving a residue. Of course you know when selling, loaning, or returning a book to a library you should remove bookmarks but this is even more important with sticky notes as some places will not accept the book and some libraries will fine you for returning it thusly.

I’m obsessed with using these markers in textbooks, classics, and nonfiction. A quality brand of page pointers will grip the pages like magnets or clips but will not leave marks, rips, or fall out. Bonus, these can mark words and the exact line you left off at!

Magnifying bookmarks are magnificent! Oh, so punny it hurts! Seriously, they typically have rulers so you can mark lines or notations (please limit this or use pencil unless you plan to keep your book forever!) but most importantly, they let you magnify tiny fonts/prints. These bookmarks are just the thing for long reads, mass market paperbacks, and those with weak eye sight.

If you love multi-tools then the book light clip is perfect for you! It’s a bookmark and a light all in one. I always keep one with me when I travel.

This simple beaded ribbon is what’s known in the biz as a book thong. Silly, I know, but highly effective like it’s woven silk ancestors this ‘thong’ marks the spot without marking up the book. The beads help prevent slippage.

The modern classic, a plastic, paper or cardboard bookmark with a cute saying or design, typically with a ribbon. These great all the time look out for bulky ribbons or thick bookmarks, as they may leave marks.  This is also a great style to make for yourself, you can find endless prinatbles, colorsheets, and more on pinterest. Here is a board I created full of diy bookmark ideas, directions, and even some free printables!

But let’s be honest, this is graphic is probably true for most of use avid readers:

Love bookmarks and want to know more, like how different collectors categorize their collections or better yet how to start your own amazing collection, check out these cool groups and books:

Check back soon for more bookstore insights and as always, keep reading!

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Bookish Events

Bibliophiles, aka book lovers, can be such introverts but it is important to get out of our comfort zones and go socialize, and what better way to socialize than at bookish events!  I’ve planned, hosted, and been to many a book theme event and now I’m ready to give you the ins-and-out and the who, what, when, where, why and how to create and find the perfect book events for you.

Who has bookish events?

When thinking about cool events related to books we think of book shops, libraries, schools but also remember book lover parties bookish aka book themed events are where the fun is at! Just because stores and libraries are where most books are at doesn’t mean you cannot have a themed party or salon at home.

What sort of bookish event can I have or attend?

There are so many types of book events. Some of my favorites events are book signing, lecture/talks/Q&As, story hour, dressing up as favorite characters/favorite authors, or building a theme around your favorite book or author like like ones that have multiple books like Shakespeare, Dickens, or J.K. Rowling.

when to find or schedule an event?

When seasonal holidays arrive (christmas, easter, halloween) it is great to have events featuring books and activities themed around it. Spring itself can be an event, a national holiday, or just an weather themed event can be fun. For example, is it raining, then perhaps it is a great day to have A Cloud With A Chance of Meatballs event. Of course there are the classic bookish events like authors birthdays, publishing anniversaries, hot new releases (Harry Potter nights!), death/recent passing, book tours, local writers nights… so many fun events! I’m excited to attend these just writing about them!!!

Where can you find out about them?

Unless you or a friend is having a party or salon it can be quite difficult to find out about book events. When you are at your favorite book shop or library sometimes they’ll have print outs or flyers up. If you cannot find signs in person, the internet is my go to spot. For example when planning my last trip to NYC I search on my favorite book shop’s website and found their events calendar. I was able to reserve a seat and call ahead for a book to be held. When I was in high school I really loved Deb Caletti books so I found her author site and checked out her book tour schedule, and low and behold… she was coming to my local book shop! When I was very little my mom volunteered to run the library story hour so she also had the inside scoop on cool book events. My biggest tip here is to use your resources call around to shops, check author sites, utilize social media, add your name to mailing lists, be active at your local library and let your friends and family know you want to attend these sorts of events so they can keep an eye out and send information your way.

why Have or Attend a Bookish EVENT?

Number one reason, FUN! If you love books then book activities and talking about books is a joy. As a book seller I do like the sales and store exposure, plus we can bring in new customers, but if the events are not quality then it can waste employees’ time and hurt sales.

When the event kits the book shop receives from publishers are utter rubbish we try our best to supplement with craft supplies we keep on hand and things like great posters and parachutes employees like myself loan the store for the afternoon, plus costumes always add to events…which of course is one of my favorite reasons to have a bookish event. I love to dress up! Costumes and fun activities based on something you enjoy can bring you out of your shell, some readers like to keep to themselves and hate to socialize and a book event is the perfect opportunity for that.

how to get event supplies?

At book shops publishers, writers, and sometimes corporate offices send book kits for events. These typically include a reproducible set of activity sheets, instructions, stickers (or temporary tattoos), a poster, and a large (often abridged) store or demonstration copy of the book they want promoted.  I like to supplement with games, crafts, and activity sheets I find on pinterest. I try to find things that are free or cheap, using supplies the shop or I already have, and select ones that take the least amount of time to prepare.

Aim to spend 30 minutes to 2 hours maximum preparing and setting up. One time it took four because the shop needed to restock on craft supplies and many local stores were sold out,  and sometimes the event space is very heavily shopped so setting up the table and supplies can take longer, but generally I stick to that time-frame because quality not quantity is best. Additionally I need to aim to have multiple ages 0-100 happy with the events so my events are story and craft heavy.

If you’re planning for adults only you can have a favorite author’s favorite drinks bar or famous authors smoking lounge or literary themed teas and coffee. Basically, food and the general public don’t mix  because of germs and allergies and cleanup so smaller events have so many more options in that avenue.  Be creative with this, carve a watermelon and sculpt a cheese ball. Remember you want people to socialize and have fun!

I want to have just as much fun as my event attendees so I always plan activities I know I will enjoy, and I hope you do the same.

Feel free to check out my pinterest and instagram for some ideas to get you started.

Check back soon for more bookstore insights and as always, keep reading!

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Avoiding Book Injuries

Nasty paper cuts, falling books, or worse falling bookshelves!?! These are just a few of the common injuries of readers, librarians, and booksellers. Book injuries can be badges of honor, but they can also be easily avoided. Below are common book related injuries and how to avoid/prevent them.

1. Falling shelves

I first learned about falling shelves as a babysitter. No babies died on my watch, but in my American Red Cross training course I learned how to make sure shelves are anchored. Of course I also learned how to prevent children from climbing on shelves, if only I could use these techniques for customers at the bookshop!

When shelves are first installed the bases can be screwed directly into floors depending on the sort of setup you have. Bookcases that are against walls can be attached to walls with brackets or screwed directly to the back of the shelf into the wall.

Floating shelves or individual shelves that are not in bookcases can be anchored into all with extra heavy duty mollies or attached with braces and support chains.

Finally, bookcases that are free standing on the floor like you’re walking through a library, should both be bolted to the floor and to each other with an overreaching bracket between the two shelves to anchor the top.

It’s very important to make sure this is done properly because customers at bookshops will step on the first set of shelves rather than looking for a proper stool. I understand because at home I frequently want to reach for books quickly when I can’t find a stool and don’t want to ask for help so I take dangerous actions reaching for them, but seriously folks safety first!

2. Falling books

Ugh! I hate this!!! I recently was up on a step stool shelving SAT prep books and the bottom of the spine hit me on the bridge of my nose.

Posted this on my instagram stories the night it happened, feel free to follow me

Clearly librarians and booksellers need hard hats. Until we make a run for the construction industry we’ll have to come up with safer measures like not overstuffing the top shelf with heavy books.

In addition to adjusting how we fill shelves, proper supports for shelves can prevent things from falling on us.

Some libraries have safety bars to prevent books from fall or you can have glass doors. Remember this may make shelving books more difficult but there is the added bonus: little kids won’t pull all the books off the shelves.

This can be recreated at home in  children’s room with bungee cords or nylon rope. In a grown-up space or historical libraries rare books are often stored behind wooden or metal bars or even glass doors. You can find industrial strength supplies for this by searching online for ‘earthquake proof shelving’.

3. Slipping off ladders

We all imagine we are Belle in Beauty and the Beast when we hop on a library ladder.

Unfortunately, we often do this dangerously.

Yeah, no. Books are not ladders. Bookshelves are not steps or ladders. And most importantly, we should not be performing musical numbers on library ladders, sorry Belle!

When on a step stool like at Barnes and Nobles, Books-A-Million, and the like you can balance your self on the first step before climbing higher. You can hold onto the frame of the shelf for balance, but do this like a ballerina at the barre not Jungle Grip G.I. Joe because if the shelf is not secure you may be back at common injury number one: falling shelves.

If you are lucky enough to use a sliding ladder first make sure it is properly pulled away from the wall and in the climbing position. Then grip the ladder with both hands and carefully climb in the center of each rung.  As cute as library fashion on pinterest and instagram are, please only climb in flat shoes that are firmly attached to your feet so you can avoid losing your balance.

4. When books attack

Harry Potter’s Monster Book of Monsters is the best example I can think of that explains how I feel when books come at me. I know that sounds dramatic but a veteran of the book selling world recently had a book tumble out of a box and skin the length of his forearm. That’s not the worst book attack I’ve heard of; a manager has had a book fall on their face and cause their nose to gush blood while customers continue to ask for help (btw customers please don’t do that to us, if you see blood just walk away or ask is if we need help).  Books are evil. Ok, no, reading books helps fight evil, all avid readers know this, but books can beat us up if we are not careful.

Paper cuts are par for the course and so are broken nails when are we shelving or looking up information quickly to help as many patrons as possible. Poorly stacked books often attack so shelving well is important. This means books are spined vertically (spines facing outward) or laying on their backs. Coverings facing out (aka face outs) are not ideal for paper backs, loose bindings, or antiques. Older books can have loose bits, debris, and dirt. Take more time to spine them properly. If they are rare antiques, wear gloves to prevent the dirt from getting on you and the oils from your skin from get on the book.

Poorly made paper backs and baby board books can have glue wads. Avoid cuts by using a nail file to knock off or sand down the excess glue. When you are in a hurry the hard glue can cut you or worse a baby eating a delicious book can get a cut on their tongue. Ouch!

5. Injuries related to carts, book tables, or steps

When the library steps with builtin shelves are not balanced they are no longer steps, they will just tip over.

Spin a lazy susan book table too fast and it can land on your feet.

Unload half a side of a wheeling library cart and it can rain books down on your back. This happened to me when shelving fairy tales and storybook collections. Those heavy, hard covered books left more than one bruise.

When it comes to book safe it is about balancing books, yourself, and slowing down to each to experience. These tips will help you avoid paper cuts and other injuries.

As readers we have a positive relationship with books. We read, research, shelf, and spend time among books because we love them. Be kind  to books and stay safe to avoid this relationship with books becoming one of love and hate.

Happy reading!

Check back next week for more bookstore insights.

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The Man in The High Castle

This book is 100% better than the Amazon Prime show of the same name. The Man in The High Castle has richly developed characters with layers far deeper than the pretty actors in the show. The historical and literary references alone were enough to keep me Google and downloading more eBooks to read until the rooster down the street was literally up crowing.

If your a person who ever wonders what if… than this book is for you!

This is the story of a wide cast of characters struggling to survive in a post-WWII world where the Nazis have claimed victory.

Mind-blowing concept especially since this novel was published in the 1960s. But it devels deeper in systemic issues prior to the war that linger in American like feminism, racism, and unemployment.

The reader gets a first person very of the story from each main character. We see how a Nazi Officer struggles to get ahead. How a waitress still loves her ex-husband but had to travel to find work. We get to explore the life of a Jewish Man in the Pacific States through the metal artist Frank’s eyes. But we see Asians and Europeans just trying to get by as they see little benefit in the Nazi plans.

Then the story starts to take so many twists and turns you’d be mad if I told you them! All I will say is that you’ll be turning pages as fast as possible to find out what happens next. And when you finish you will want to read more by Philip K. Dick…maybe the stories The Matrix or Total Recall are based on?

You can find the books for Kindle here.

Happy reading!

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