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A book with a bound bookmark. Bookmark.jpg
A book with a bound bookmark.
Book with florentine paper bookmark. Book with florentine paper bookmark.jpg
Book with florentine paper bookmark.
Fabric bookmark with Bedouin embroidery, Lakiya, Israel Bedouin bookmark.jpg
Fabric bookmark with Bedouin embroidery, Lakiya, Israel
A metal bookmark with a fabric tassel and decorative beads Metal Bookmark.jpg
A metal bookmark with a fabric tassel and decorative beads

A bookmark is a thin marking tool, commonly made of card, leather, or fabric, used to keep track of a reader's progress in a book and allow the reader to easily return to where the previous reading session ended. Alternate materials for bookmarks are paper, metals like silver and brass, silk, wood, cord (sewing), and plastic. Some books may have one or more bookmarks made of woven ribbon sewn into the binding. Furthermore, other bookmarks incorporate a page-flap that enables them to be clipped on a page.



According to new results of the research done on the history of bookmarks, there are indications that bookmarks have accompanied codices since their first emergence in the 1st century AD. [1] The earliest existing bookmark dates from the 6th century AD and it is made of ornamented leather lined with vellum on the back and was attached with a leather strap to the cover of a Coptic codex (Codex A, MS 813 Chester Beatty Library, Dublin). [2] It was found near Sakkara, Egypt, under the ruins of the monastery Apa Jeremiah. Further earliest bookmarks and remnants of them have been found in Coptic codices dating from the 1st to the 11th century and in Carolingian codices from the 8th to the 12th century. Bookmarks were used throughout the medieval period, [3] consisting usually of a small parchment strip attached to the edge of folio (or a piece of cord attached to headband).

Modern bookmarks are available in a huge variety of materials in a multitude of designs and styles. Many are made of cardboard or heavy paper, but they are also constructed of paper, ribbon, fabric, felt, steel, wire, tin, beads, wood, plastic, vinyl, silver, gold, and other precious metals, some decorated with gemstones.

The first detached, and therefore collectible, bookmarkers began to appear in the 1850s. One of the first references to these is found in Mary Russell Mitford's Recollections of a Literary Life (1852): "I had no marker and the richly bound volume closed as if instinctively." Note the abbreviation of 'bookmarker' to 'marker'. The modern abbreviation is usually 'bookmark'. Historical bookmarks can be very valuable, and are sometimes collected along with other paper ephemera.

By the 1860s, attractive machine-woven markers were being manufactured, mainly in Coventry, England, the centre of the silk-ribbon industry. One of the earliest was produced by J.&J. Cash to mark the death of Albert, Prince Consort, in 1861. Thomas Stevens of Coventry soon became pre-eminent in the field and claimed to have nine hundred different designs.

Woven pictorial bookmarks produced by Thomas Steven, a 19th-century English silk weaver, starting around 1862, are called Stevengraphs. [4] Woven silk bookmarks were very appreciated gifts in the Victorian Era and Stevens seemed to make one for every occasion and celebration. One Stevengraph read: All of the gifts which heaven bestows, there is one above all measure, and that's a friend midst all our woes, a friend is a found treasure to thee I give that sacred name, for thou art such to me, and ever proudly will I claim to be a friend to thee.

Most 19th-century bookmarks were intended for use in Bibles and prayer books and were made of ribbon, woven silk, or leather. By the 1880s the production of woven silk markers was declining and printed markers made of stiff paper or cardboard began to appear in significant numbers. This development paralleled the wider availability of books themselves, and the range of available bookmarkers soon expanded dramatically.

Considerations for safe bookmark usage

Bookmarks that do not damage the books that they are used in should be acid-free, thin, so they will not indent the pages they rest between, and include no dyes or decorative materials that might bleed into the book's paper, with flat, thin, gentle edges. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Codex</span> Historical ancestor of the modern book

The codex was the historical ancestor of the modern book. Instead of being composed of sheets of paper, it used sheets of vellum, papyrus, or other materials. The term codex is often used for ancient manuscript books, with handwritten contents. A codex, much like the modern book, is bound by stacking the pages and securing one set of edges by a variety of methods over the centuries, yet in a form analogous to modern bookbinding. Modern books are divided into paperback and those bound with stiff boards, called hardbacks. Elaborate historical bindings are called treasure bindings. At least in the Western world, the main alternative to the paged codex format for a long document was the continuous scroll, which was the dominant form of document in the ancient world. Some codices are continuously folded like a concertina, in particular the Maya codices and Aztec codices, which are actually long sheets of paper or animal skin folded into pages. In Japan, concertina-style codices called orihon developed during the Heian period (794–1185) were made of paper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parchment</span> Writing material made from animal skins

Parchment is a writing material made from specially prepared untanned skins of animals—primarily sheep, calves, and goats. It has been used as a writing medium for over two millennia. Vellum is a finer quality parchment made from the skins of young animals such as lambs and young calves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nag Hammadi library</span> Collection of Gnostic and Christian texts

The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of early Christian and Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Cuthbert Gospel</span> Early 8th-century Anglo-Saxon pocket gospel book

The St Cuthbert Gospel, also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel or the St Cuthbert Gospel of St John, is an early 8th-century pocket gospel book, written in Latin. Its finely decorated leather binding is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive, and both the 94 vellum folios and the binding are in outstanding condition for a book of this age. With a page size of only 138 by 92 millimetres, the St Cuthbert Gospel is one of the smallest surviving Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. The essentially undecorated text is the Gospel of John in Latin, written in a script that has been regarded as a model of elegant simplicity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scroll</span> Roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing writing and golf

A scroll, also known as a roll, is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing writing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Strap</span> Strip of flexible material, especially leather, used for fastening or holding things together

A strap, sometimes also called strop, is an elongated flap or ribbon, usually of leather or other flexible materials.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medieval technology</span> Technology used in medieval Europe

Medieval technology is the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption of gunpowder, the invention of vertical windmills, spectacles, mechanical clocks, and greatly improved water mills, building techniques, and agriculture in general.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Codicology</span> Study of codices or manuscript books

Codicology is the study of codices or manuscript books. It is often referred to as "the archaeology of the book," a term coined by François Masai. It concerns itself with the materials, tools and techniques used to make codices, along with their features.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Treasure binding</span> Luxurious book cover using metalwork in gold or silver, jewels, or ivory

A treasure binding or jewelled bookbinding is a luxurious book cover using metalwork in gold or silver, jewels, or ivory, perhaps in addition to more usual bookbinding material for book-covers such as leather, velvet, or other cloth. The actual bookbinding technique is the same as for other medieval books, with the folios, normally of vellum, stitched together and bound to wooden cover boards. The metal furnishings of the treasure binding are then fixed, normally by tacks, onto these boards. Treasure bindings appear to have existed from at least Late Antiquity, though there are no surviving examples from so early, and Early Medieval examples are very rare. They were less used by the end of the Middle Ages, but a few continued to be produced in the West even up to the present day, and many more in areas where Eastern Orthodoxy predominated. The bindings were mainly used on grand illuminated manuscripts, especially gospel books designed for the altar and use in church services, rather than study in the library.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional Chinese bookbinding</span>

Traditional Chinese bookbinding, also called stitched binding, is the method of bookbinding that the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Vietnamese used before adopting the modern codex form.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coptic binding</span>

Coptic binding or Coptic sewing comprises methods of bookbinding employed by early Christians in Egypt, the Copts, and used from as early as the 2nd century AD to the 11th century. The term is also used to describe modern bindings sewn in the same style.

<i>Codex Vigilanus</i> Chronicle from 9th century

The Codex Vigilanus or Codex Albeldensis is an illuminated compilation of various historical documents accounting for a period extending from antiquity to the 10th century in Hispania. Among the many texts brought together by the compilers are the canons of the Visigothic Councils of Toledo, the Liber Iudiciorum, the decrees of some early popes and other patristic writings, historical narratives, various other pieces of civil and canon law, and a calendar. It is now in the library of El Escorial monastery, with the shelfmark D.I.2.

The Ethiopian bookbinding technique is a chain stitch sewing that looks similar to the multi section Coptic binding method. According to J. A. Szirmai, the chain stitch binding dates from about the sixteenth century in Ethiopia and Eritrea. These books typically had paired sewing stations, sewn using two needles for each pair of sewing stations. The covers were wooden and attached by sewing through holes made into edge of the board. Most of these books were left uncovered without endbands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abbey library of Saint Gall</span> Monastery library in St. Gallen, Switzerland

The abbey library of Saint Gall is a significant medieval monastic library located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. In 1983, the library, as well as the Abbey of St. Gall, were designated a World Heritage Site, as "an outstanding example of a large Carolingian monastery and was, since the 8th century until its secularisation in 1805, one of the most important cultural centres in Europe". It is one of the oldest monastic libraries in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bookbinding</span> Process of assembling a book

Bookbinding is the process of building a book, usually in codex format, from an ordered stack of paper sheets with one's hands and tools, or in modern publishing, by automated processes. Firstly, one binds the sheets of papers along an edge with a thick needle and strong thread. One can also use loose-leaf rings, binding posts, twin-loop spine coils, plastic spiral coils, and plastic spine combs, but they last for a shorter time. Next, one encloses the bound stack of paper in a cover. Finally, one places an attractive cover onto the boards, and features the publisher's information and artistic decorations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stevengraph</span> Pictures woven from silk, originally created by Thomas Stevens in the 19th century

Stevengraphs are pictures woven from silk, originally created by Thomas Stevens in the 19th century. They were popular collectable items again during the revival of interest in Victoriana in the 1960s and 1970s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Stevens (weaver)</span> British weaver and innovator

Thomas Stevens (1828–1888) was a 19th-century weaver in Coventry, famous for his innovation of the stevengraph, a woven silk picture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lindau Gospels</span>

The Lindau Gospels is an illuminated manuscript in the Morgan Library in New York, which is important for its illuminated text, but still more so for its treasure binding, or metalwork covers, which are of different periods. The oldest element of the book is what is now the back cover, which was probably produced in the later 8th century in modern Austria, but in the context of missionary settlements from Britain or Ireland, as the style is that of the Insular art of the British Isles. The upper cover is late Carolingian work of about 880, and the text of the gospel book itself was written and decorated at the Abbey of Saint Gall around the same time, or slightly later.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of scrolls</span>

A scroll is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing writing. The history of scrolls dates back to ancient Egypt. In most ancient literate cultures scrolls were the earliest format for longer documents written in ink or paint on a flexible background, preceding bound books; rigid media such as clay tablets were also used but had many disadvantages in comparison. For most purposes scrolls have long been superseded by the codex book format, but they are still produced for some ceremonial or religious purposes, notably for the Jewish Torah scroll for use in synagogues.

Chinese ornamental gold silk is a type of silk fabric which employs gold as ornamentation; Chinese ornamental gold silk originated in China and have a long history in China. Gold and silk were precious goods; the combination of both in textiles created one of the most valuable commodities. Several gold-ornamental techniques can be summarized as: gold foil, gold powder, and gold thread technique.


  1. Szirmai, J.A. (1999). The Archeology of Medieval Bookbinding. Ashgate. ISBN   978-085-967-904-6.
  2. Lamacraft, C.T. (1939). Early Book-Bindings from a Coptic Monastery. The Library, Fourth Series, Vol. 20 (1940). pp. 214–233.
  3. For a 9th-century Carolingian bookmark see: Szirmai, J. A. (1999). The archaeology of medieval bookbinding. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 123. ISBN   0-85967-904-7. For a 15th-century bookmark, see Medeltidshandskrift 34, Lund University Library.
  4. Gordon Campbell (2006). The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts. Vol. 2. Oxford University Press. p. 395. ISBN   978-0-19-518948-3.
  5. "Collecting Bookmarks | Book Collecting Guide".