I heard from a host of blog readers (well, one, but I figure that’s a good 20% of my audience) about a certain disappointment with Monday’s column. The title implied, I am told, that I was going to write the definitive article on the history of the bookmark, and instead wrote about unusual objects used by unusual people as bookmarks.
Well, this is still not the definitive history of bookmarks (I expect there’s somebody working on a dissertation on the subject up in the Wing Collection even as we sit here playing with computers) but I do have a few opinions to share on the subject of bookmarks designed as bookmarks, rather than the occasional birth certificate or ill-judged photograph.
Now, you may use any sort of bookmark you like. I, for one, prefer a large blank piece of paper, so I can jot down any wisecracks I find that might look good in my blog. But this is our little secret. As long as you intend to finish the book and use the bookmark again on the next book, you may use a $500 bill from your Monopoly set or a silver link chain with a pearl drop at the end.
If, however, you are like a lot of us, and that bookmark is going to stay at page 166 from now until the day you donate the book to the Book Fair, I have some guidelines for you.
PLEASE avoid metal objects. There are lots of nice pierced metal bookmarks, and the brass scimitar with the butterfly on the end has been very popular. Some of these are too thick and create a permanent valley in the book, and just about anything you slide over a page, with one piece of the metal on page 165 and the other on 166, is going to bend the pages and mark your place for all eternity. (And for the next owner may find nothing interesting on page 166.) And those steel ones WILL eventually rust, which marks and shortens the life of the page.
By the way, we have found some incredibly complex devices in books over the years. There’s one with a spring clip and a piece of ribbon and then a pierced metal heart that I haven’t even taken out of the book yet, because I’m not sure I could put it back together again. I can usually figure out the ones with the elastic bands. There was another ribbon that had a pierced metal flower at each end, presumably so you can mark two places at once.
Those leather strips which are sold as souvenirs by half the library gift shops in the world (the Newberry used to have ‘em too) are not terrible, though they are sometimes thick and sometimes made of a leather that will leave a mark on page 166 after ten years. After six years, by the way, most will have dried out enough so the fringe will start to break off, but maybe it’ll last longer if kept secure in a good, fat book.
Yarn bookmarks come in two types: one is a plastic frame which has been crocheted or needlepointed or sumpm, and the other is a line of yarn with decorations at the ends. The first kind is often too thick, but the second, since its bulky bits are outside the book (provided your aunt knitted it long enough for your book) will not do much damage.
The same goes for the ones made of felt or laminated leaves in craft classes by people aged 4 through 94: if there isn’t TOO much glitter, and it’s flat enough for actual use, it won’t do much damage. (Kinda depends on what kind of glue you used for the glitter, of course. The bookmark might stay on page 166 forever no matter what you intended.)
When all’s said and done, a flat paper or cardboard bookmark is best in the long run. If you’re sure you’re going to leave it in the book until it comes to the Book Fair, nothing beats a fifty dollar bill. If you don’;t want to go that far, I’d suggested a bookmark I tried to market unsuccessfully: a plain slip of paper with the word OFF in big letters.
All you had to do was open the book to find where you left OFF.