According to John C. Dann, Director of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, ephemera is “the stuff” originally produced for some immediate, practical purpose, with no thought that it would be saved or preserved (having an ephemeral existence). He further notes that until quite recently tended to fall between the cracks of traditional collecting fields and librarianship.
Ephemera documents everyday life, “perhaps more effectively than traditional collectibles.” It is a category is as flexible as ephemera itself, and includes advertisements, baseball cards, bonds, bookmarks, bookplates, broadsides, brochures, cigar box labels and bands, die-cuts, greeting cards, indentures, labels, letters, pamphlets, paper dolls, photographs, postage stamps, postcards, posters, programs, seed company ads, stocks, tickets, timetables, trade cards, valentines. Much of it, as Dann noted, “was originally a by-product of exuberant capitalism—largely advertising material made possible by advances in printing technology.”
In “Publish & Perish: Printed Ephemera and Social History,” Richard Kolbet notes that printed ephemera is among the richest sources for information on cultural, economic and social customs and traditions,” and it “may be the only source of much needed information.” His exploration of the question, “What is ephemera?” brought these answers:
1. “. . . documents which have been produced in connection with a particular event or item of current interest and which are not taken to survive the topicality of their message (John Pemberton)
2. “. . . transient everyday items of paper . . . vital when they are needed, wastepaper immediately after. They flourish for a moment and are done . . . Above and beyond its immediate purpose, it expresses a fragment of social history, a reflection of the spirit of its time. As with other human records, as with the fashion-plate itself, its style is soon out of date. (Maurice Rickards)
The Ephemera Society celebrates this area of collecting. It originally began in Britain, but has since begat others: the Ephemera Society of America (1980), the Ephemera Society of Australia (1986) and the Ephemera Society of Canada (1988). Each meets at least annually, often holding ephemera fairs where the various forms of ephemera are bought and sold.
BiblioBuffet is proud to link to quality sites that have an interest in one of the smaller, but rapidly growing areas of interest—bookmarks. They have been included because they offer something of value to collectors of these small pieces of history. If you are interested in buying bookmarks, please see our Shopping for Booklovers page.
If you are going to buy silver bookmarks (or any kind of sterling), it is good to be sure of what you are buying. This incredible site is an extensive research resource, an online encyclopedia, for the silver marks, hallmarks and maker’s marks found on antique and vintage silver and silverplate.
A delightful blog from Alan Irwin, another passionate bookmark collector who enjoys sharing his collection plus any news about bookmarks that he comes across. What's particularly special to me about this is that Alan lives in my hometown. Neither of us knew about the other—or our bookmark collecting passion—until he started this blog. One of the best bookmark collecting blogs!
A Massachusetts used bookstore whose owner, Russ, gets a kick out of sharing what they find in the used books they buy. Sometimes it’s a bookmark—but not always. Fun and fascinating!
Coleccionista Chilena de Marcapáginas
Olga Sotomayor Sánchez is a librarian in Chile, and has a large, well organized bookmark collection that she puts on display at various fairs and events. She collects and trades internationally, and has been active in Mail Art events, focusing on bookmarks. Her blog is in Spanish, but you don’t have to read it to appreciate her collection. Delicious!
Corner of the Library
This is a blog that will be of particular interest to bookmark lovers and collectors. Not because it is about bookmarks—it’s not—but because blogger Carolyn Carpenter enjoys creating printable bookmarks. Some are of authors, others are illustrations from novels. And they are all lovely.
DLTK’s Crafts for Kids
This site—this page in particular—offers a variety of bookmarks children can make themselves or librarians, teachers or parents can make as a reward. You have your choice of standard bookmarks or ones you customize. The process is an easy step-by-step one. This is an excellent way to instill an appreciation of bookmarks in the younger generation. A wonderful site!
A wonderful blog about “ephemera found between the pages of secondhand books.” It’s amazing what people will use as bookmarks. Fascinating!
ephemera: exploring the world of old paper
Marty Weil is a freelance journalist with a delightful style and a ephemera dealer with an interest in old paper of many kinds—booklets & publication, commercial & advertising ephemera, letters and other handwritten ephemera, government & military ephemera, sports and entertainment ephemera, bookmarks, postcards and more. Wonderful reading!
Ephemera Society of America
For anyone interested in bookmarks or other ephemera, this is a great organization. It has a Q&A section where you can get your questions (hopefully) answered, articles, links to auctions and more. Excellent for ephemera collectors!
This lovely blog is the home of someone who works at a rare and used bookstore. The books she or he buys from people often come with deeply personal “bookmarks,” that is, things used as bookmark. Whether amusing, intimate, heartbreaking or odd, they are the marks forgotten and left behind by their last readers. And they say a lot not only about the individual but about us as people. Excellent!
Fuat and Melissa’s Bookmarks
A personal page showcasing some of their favorite bookstore bookmarks. Pretty and attractive!
A weekly blog by Simon Quicke, a British journalist who writes wonderfully about books and bookmarks. Every week, he posts a “Bookmark of the Week” with a brief explanation. An appealing site!
This gorgeous French language bookmark site is a collector’s dream. You don’t need to read French in order to appreciate the exquisite bookmarks on display here. Aside from the fact that French bookmarks seem to have a sense of artistry first and marketing second, making them (in my opinion) superior to modern American ones, this collector has a fine sense of beauty in art herself. A lovely site.
Les Marque-Pages de Maryse
Maryse is a bookmark lover who has been collecting since 1997. Her web site is a marvel of images of her own stunning collection as well as duplicates she has available for trading. In addition, she keeps a blog where she displays and writes about pieces from her collection. Though it is in French, it is so well designed (and the bookmarks so wonderful) that anyone will enjoy sharing her collection through her pictured bookmarks. So beautiful!
Library History Buff: Library Bookmarks
This is a special page devoted to library bookmarks. Though Larry Nix admits to not being a serious collector of them, he nevertheless has managed to accumulate a drawer full of them. It’s a wonderful page that shows off the wide range of designs libraries use.
This is a great resource for collectors with links to history, exchanges, exhibitions, quotes, web sites, auctions, museums, collections, competitions as well as information on storing and displaying bookmarks.
Punto de Papel (Paper Points)
A blog about bookmarks that is filled with wonderful images of thousands of bookmarks. It is in Spanish, but even if you cannot read that language, you will enjoy the numerous bookmarks shown here. Wonderful!
This gorgeous site is one of the Internet’s most fantastic about bookmarks, specifically Russian bookmarks. This project is the joint effort of master craftsmen, artists, designers and editors. The history of bookmarks, says Elena V. Bulkina, Project Leader, is deeply intertwined with the history of Russian culture. Read about the history of bookmarks and see some of their rare bookmarks. They also offer them for sale (not, alas, to individual collectors yet). But keep your eye on this place. I am sure with the interest they are garnering it is only a matter of time.
An interactive catalog of a bookmark collection consisting of primarily silver but also gold, brass, bronze, copper, celluloid, pewter, silk, plastic, enamel, mother of pearl, leather and ivory bookmarks . A beautiful place to browse without worrying about emptying your pocketbook, it is a fabulous collection of a serious collector!
Stevengraphs Bookmarks & Postcards, Etc.
Stevengraphs are bookmarks made by Thomas Stevens of Coventry; they first appeared around 1862 when woven silk bookmarks were favored gifts. Stevens made them for many occasions, and claimed to have 900 different designs. Today, they are popular collectibles. Exquisite!
The Ephemera Network
This is a community site for people who collect, sell as well as anyone else who is passionate about ephemera. Current interest groups cover a wide variety of ephemera interests—more than three dozen—and of course include bookmarks, bookplates and related material. There are discussion groups, lists of events of interest to ephemera collectors, and the possibility of trading. Members have their own page where they can upload images of their collections to share. It is all free. For ephemera collectors, this is one of the best forums I have seen since the discussions seem lively, friendly and informed.
This Old Paper
This glorious blog, a tribute to ephemera, is the brainstorm of a mother and son who together produce small but wonderful stories about “curious things that are flat,” including postcards, ads, savings passbooks, telegrams, cards, business invoices, trade cards, recipe booklets, letters, bookmarks (of course!), and more. Its beautiful and fascinating, and their collections (which promises to grow) is wonderful.