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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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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All About ARCs

Whether you’re a causal reader or an constant one, getting an advanced copy of a book makes you feel special. And it should make you feel special, because receiving an ARC means you were one of the few people deemed influential enough to receive one.

Ok, that’s kind of an exaggeration, but they are awesome so let’s find out why.

Firstly, what exactly is an ARC?

ARC means advance review copy. Sometimes they are referred to as advanced reader copies.

Who has access to these special, early versions of books?

TV personalities, journalist, booksellers, attendees at book expos, reporters at traditional radio and newspapers are all sent ARCs. Additionally, nouveau reviewers and fan readers that post reviews on platforms such as blogs, YouTube, instagram, weheartit, GoodReads, twitter, facebook, and similar internet based social platforms receive ARCs. Also the friends, family, coworkers, and advisers of the writer sometimes receive ARCs. Finally, booksellers and bookstores may receive ARCs to aid in their book knowledge and to help promote the books.

How can you get a copy of an ARC?

Agents, writers, and publishers may contact you directly if you blog about a subject the book they are publishing is about like fashion, toys, food, religion, or just about books in general (book bloggers, booktubers, litwitters, bookstagrammers, etc). If you contact a writer (please don’t do this if you don’t know them unless you are an influential blogger/youtuber) sometimes they will happily mail a copy directly to you or send you an ebook or a galley/netgalley copy (I’ll go over galleys in a future post). If you’re a book seller, you get them off the truck at the store, in the mail from corporate, or directly from publishers. Booksellers can ask management to borrow or keep ARCs that interest them.

When do ARCs become available?

The advanced copy printing dates depend on the popularity and timeliness of the subject and/or author. If it is nonfiction or fiction relating to current events, sometimes they skip the multiple edits, reader copies, and galleys and the ARCs will be released ASAP. An example of this is Sean Spicer’s book The Briefing. He is rumored to have charged people to get copies of his ARCs and offered so-called free tickets to book tour events in exchange. Then there was Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury which was so highly anticipated and controversial people lined up for the ARCs. After journalists received it, they published and read-aloud the most salacious excerpts on prime-time tv news shows. Both books were published less than three months after their ARCs were released. Spicer’s book was a failure and did not sell well upon publication. Wolff’s book was Publisher Weekly’s 5th best selling title of 2018. Both ARC and marketing cases were extremely unusually but show how important and influential a well edited (even if not a final edit), quality ARC and marketing campaign can be.

That brings us to: why bother to release ARCs?

ARCs can give publishers and editors huge insights into how a book may be received by the general public. These ARCs clearly can help drive or kill sales depending on the early reviews. Plus, the marketing can be readjusted to help improve the projected sales or the printer can be called to reduce the printing order.

Over the past 5 years social media book posts have increased so much so that those reviewers are starting to take priority over typical networks. Marketing campaigns surrounding ARCs and book publishing in general, are changing. Getting an ARC photo onto Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf or Reese Whiterspoon’s Hello Sunshine social media can drastically influence the sales margins of a book. Therefore, digital based reviewers are often sent ARCs first but this also means more ARCs are being printed and sent out than before.

The high volume of ARCs being printed can hurt a book, like Spicer’s The Briefing, or it can take a genre novel like The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory from sitting on a bookstore’s romance shelf for years to flying off shelves. But, this means collecting ARCs may be a thing of the past. There was a time Ian McEwan ARC was more valuable than a signed first edition. Notes and highlighting from a famous reviewer only increased the value. Sales of these rare copies once ranged from $5-150 per copy. Now that more are made, the 1980’s collecting boom may start to decline.

ARCs are made to be read and enjoyed but not to be sold, despite the collecting market that is out there. When people finish reading them, sometimes ARCs are raffled off or given away for free. Other’s collect them because they are rare but if you go to a signing be mindful that most writers will not sign ARCs. Sometimes people will craft with them, carving and paper folding the pages. What you choose to do with them is up to you, but if you are caught selling them you will probably not receive them again because it hurts relationships with publishers.

Check back next week for more bookstore insights.

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