A Month in the Life . . .
Lauren recently described how she began her collection and some of her methods for growing her collection. Because my collection and collecting habits are eclectic, I thought it might be fun to see how my collection grew in a typical month. As of June 22, I have acquired twenty bookmarks which is about average—a mix of purchased, gifts and free. Occasionally, I will acquire a large batch at one time, either from a library or book-related conference, a used bookstore or a lot purchased on eBay.
When I travel, I always look for bookmarks as souvenirs and mementos of my trip. Airport gift shops have been good sources in the past, but recently have not yielded anything interesting. As I left for a trip to Washington DC this month, the familiar shape of a bookmark caught my eye in, of all places, a gift shop with souvenirs exclusively devoted to the Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley.One side was all red, the other blue and gold. The bookmarks featured photographs of the Campanile at Berkeley and the Hoover Tower at Stanford, typical symbols for their respective institutions, and fittingly showcased on the vertical format of the bookmark.
Unfortunately, my time in DC didn’t allow for much sightseeing this trip, but again, I lucked out in the airport gift shop. This time it was a whimsical collection of lenticular bookmarks with images that appear to move as you change the viewing angle. I chose one with two brown bunnies, one of whom appears to rub his nose with his paws; the other seems to be boxing. They made me laugh and were unique although I do have a few other bookmarks with lenticular effects.
Many of my co-workers have joined in the quest for bookmarks. During a recent library conference in Denver, one of my loyal bookmark scouts brought back markers ranging from business-like ones from the Optical Society of America and Chemical Engineering News, to an artistic design advertising a Tiffany exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was surprised by a bookmark from Google promoting “better searches, better results.” Do they really need to advertise, and doesn’t a paper bookmark seem like an unlikely medium? Perhaps they thought it was the best way to reach librarians? My colleague also snagged a handsome purple leather bookmark with silver letters for the play The Color Purple, and one with “Get a Clue, Nancy Drew” promoting the new movie featuring an updated version of a childhood heroine. In true librarian style, my scout couldn’t visit Denver without a stop at the Tattered Cover Book Store where she found two bookmarks featuring the winning designs for the 19th Annual Bookmark Contest. The store’s bookmark has a great design of doors opening on a cozy room filled with books and a quote from historian Barbara Tuchman: “Books are humanity in print.” As if that weren’t enough, she found a beautiful handmade wooden bookmark, very thin with light and dark wood on each side and contrasting diamonds down the middle. It has a wonderful feel and is impressive in its craftsmanship.
Another co-worker contributed a bookmark with the title “Sirius Dog Training Presents Dancing with Dogs” featuring a fanciful hula-hooping dog. Yet another scout brought a bookmark commemorating the retirement of a library colleague with 38 years of service who is now ready to spend her time reading as signified by the stack of books under her photograph on this very personalized bookmark.
Antique stores would seem to be a good place to find bookmarks, but often it is difficult to spot them, especially the paper type which are often hidden amidst other ephemera. I was surprised to find half a dozen bookmarks in a recent visit to a nearby antique store, but I didn’t purchase any of them for various reasons. The nicest one was celluloid with a red carnation; it cost almost twice as much as I paid for an identical one about ten years ago. There were several metal markers, but none of particular interest. The paper bookmarks were in poor condition for the price, so reluctantly, I left empty handed.
My other acquisitions focused mainly on eBay auctions, but I did add two free bookmarks included in issues of Real Simple magazine providing a calendar for the months of June and July. These large bookmarks featuring colorful illustrations by Carey Sookocheff have appeared in the magazine since September 2006.
My eBay batting average this month was not too bad in spite of increasing competition as Lauren noted. The two losses were for early 20th century advertising bookmarks from local businesses. Sometimes the type of business attracts collectors focusing on the subject rather than the object, increasing the potential competition even more. However, I was fortunate to win a die-cut Mr. Peanut, probably from the 1940s, and a lovely celluloid in the shape of an owl. Another similar celluloid with a brown owl is fairly common; the white one is more unusual and striking with its large eyes and an upright piano in its clutches, advertising the piano manufacture George P. Bent in Chicago.
Another special acquisition this month was for a bookmark in the shape of old fashioned spectacles, advertising Pears soap. Pears’ bookmarks featuring hands on elegant ribbons and fans are well known, but I have never seen one with spectacles. It has blue eyes peering from the elaborate frames with tiny holes, presumably so that it could even be worn as a mask. The reverse establishes its qualifications as a bookmark, boldly stating that “this makes a good bookmarker.”
My favorite bookmarks for this month are three in a series advertising shoes made by Edwin C. Burt in New York but distributed by Wachter Bros. in Toledo, Ohio. The illustrations feature three exotic young women who are languidly enjoying a Mediterranean paradise with fruit, birds, and fish. The reverse has an impressive circle of medallions for the various international awards from 1867-1878 won by Mr. Burt for his shoes, and we learn to look for the “full name stamped on the sole and lining of each shoe.” Alas, there is no illustration of such impressive shoes and the maidens on the front are all barefoot! The beautiful designs are by Major & Knapp Co., New York, successors to the firm begun by lithographer Napoleon Sarony.
As this summary reveals, bookmarks are readily available if you are on the lookout for them. As my collection has grown, I have become more intentional in my quest for those I purchase, but the thrill of serendipitous finds makes me less particular in acquiring free bookmarks. As individual specimens, they may not be special; often their interest derives from comparing the similarity or variety of others of their type. Regardless of how I acquire them, I enjoy what each one brings to my collection.
Bookmark specifications: Edwin C. Burt & Co., Manufacturers of Fine Shoes, New York (3 designs)
Dimensions: 2 5/8" x 6 1/4"
Manufacturer: Major & Knapp Co.
Laine Farley is a digital librarian who misses being around the look, feel and smell of real books. Her collection of over 3,000 bookmarks began with a serendipitous find while reviewing books donated to the library. Fortunately, her complementary collection of articles and books about bookmarks provides an excuse for her to get back to libraries and try her hand at writing about bookmarks. Farley’s web site is Collecting Bookmarks (Physical, not Virtual), and she can be reached at