The World of Bookmarks

Essays & Interviews on Bookmarks

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by Agnes L. Sasscier
Hobbies - The Magazine for Collectors - October 1958

Very little information is to be had on the Lore of the Bookmark, but there is plenty to be
said on the Lure of the Bookmark.
Collectors of these little treasures play a continious game of 'Hide and Seek' for previous
owners have placed them lovingly in favorite books, and as the years rolled on, the books 
and their owners have parted company, the books finally going to an old book shop, the little
bookmarks consigned by fate to oblivion.
Enter the collector: bubbling over with enthusiasm he inquires of the proprietor as to
available bookmarks, only to receive a negative reply. He then decides to purchase a few
books, and turning the pages of several he comes upon a precious little bookmark that fairly
pops up as once more it sees the light of day. It is lifted carefully by its new discoverer, who
will carry it home to join the other members of 'Beauty Inc.' as he calls his collection ... but 
not until he has made forages into other books. Perseverance wins, and he leaves the shop
the richer by several types.
As he examines them he wonders how many types there are, and something of their
background. Like all intelligent collectors, the question is to act, and he begins his research 
at the Public Library and here he is rewarded.
He learns that in the very early days books were done by hand, illuminated and decorated
beautifully. Many were popularly supposed to have been done by monks, who were proficient
in the art of lettering and illuminating early manuscripts. In those days books were so precious
they were often attached to the table or stand by a heavy chain. This prevented accident by
dropping, and often saved the book from being carried away.
The Library's old print file, or a Museum's print exhibit, will often prove a fruitful source of
information. In the 1400's when movable type came into use, these prints show books with
tabs, or definite strips of leather, parchment or silk, suspended from between their pages, and
while crude, they were in reality the forerunner of the later product, for as time passed, and
books became the proud possession of more and more people, of necessity to separate the
bookmark was born. Pieces of paper torn from a package, pieces of string, even flowers and
their leaves have been found in old books, marking favorite passages, or simply proclaiming
to the reader, that "Here is where I fell asleep", a sentiment by the way found on many
Once the need for these little page reminders was recognized, various types began to
appear, and as time went on publishers took heed of this trend and many beautifully 
designed commercial bookmarks were the result.
A very early one is dated 1845, printed on silk and is a memorial for Andrew Jackson,
another of this type reads National Day of Mourning, June 1st, 1865. Abraham Lincoln died
April 15th, 1865. A campaign ribbon for Gen. F.M. Drake, for Gov. of Iowa, and the following
slogan: 'From the ranks of a private soldier he won his star'. One for Rutherford B. Hayes of
Ohio, for President
, and W.A. Wheeler of New York, for Vice President. A ribbon of Bunker Hill,
and another on the settlement of Boston. There are many of these type to be found
commemorating political favorites, Ralleis of old companies of various wars, Old Settlers
Re-unions and Chautauquas, all relodent of our colorful American History. They are found in
bone, brass, celluloid, paper, parchment, leather, white birch bark, etc. These continued in
popularity to the turn of the century.
The hand painted or embroidered bookmarks were very popular, and in today's vocabulary
are considered exquisite flower miniatures. Painted on delicate or deep glowing satin ribbon,
many bear bouquets that would do justice to professional artists, which of course, many of the
early teachers were. These were generally stamped with a design for hand painting or
embroidering, and were left to the skill of the worker to enlarge on. They continued to hold
the public fancy until the early nineties, then the vogue for beautifully hand written signatures
swept the scene, and memory tickling names come to light, as: Chenault, Thomas, Brinker.
Another very beautiful type is the woven silk bookmark called Stevengraphs. Many of these
were made by Stevens of Coventry, England, who did much of this early work, including
sporting pictures, racing, fire-engines, locomotives, portraits, etc. A collection of woven
bookmarks would be a real challenge. In our own country much of this type of work was done
in Paterson, N.J., by the firm of B.B. Tilt and Sons. One large one by this firm bears the 
portrait of George Washington, and commemorates the Centennial of American
Independence, 1776 to 1876. 'The Star Spangled Banner' is another beauty, bearing the words
and music, and our glorious American Flag unfurled in the the breeze, surmounted by the
words, 'E. Pluribus Unum', B.B. Tilt trademark. 'Home Sweet Home' is a splendid example,
showing the old cottage woven in thin black silk, much like a fine engraving, and the words 
of 'Home Sweet Home' set to music. This one is copyrighted, no signature, but serves to prove
how important these designs were to their publishers.
In the sentimental series are six by Stevens of Coventry, and beautiful they are. Happy New
Year ... Remember Me ... A Wish ... Friendship ... Unchanging Love ... and Compliments of 
the Season. Another perfect beauty, 'The Lord's Prayer' is done on purple ribbon, the lettres 
in shimmering white silk. This also unsigned. There are many with cardboard mounts on
beautiful satin ribbons, carrying printed quotes by famous people.
The Piece de Resistance (the most impressive thing, editor's note) in Bookmark Land are 
the tiny treasures in sampler type. They are worked on stiff cardboard perforated, in silk, 
wool or beads, and the work is so minute that it appears gem-like in perfection. These are
called petitpoint. The patterns are also stamped or hand drawn and portray, a cross file of 
our mid-nineteenth century, sentiments. There are floral wreaths, anchors, crosses, Bibles,
harps, names as: Anna, Flora, Mary, 'Gusta'. This last on beautiful white ribbon with a lacy
adging, carries a wreath of real hair, titian, tied with a tiny bow of baby ribbon. It used to be
quite the thing to snip locks of hair for memory's sake.
There are numerous mottoes ... God bless our school ... God bless our home ... The key to
my heart ... To my darling ... Peace and love ... Welcome ... Forget me not ... Aunty ...
Maggie's Love. This is a beautiful marker, finest perforations, scallopedcard-minute stitching
in sky blue. For Aunt Mary - mounted on gold perforated card, worked in variegated shades 
of rose and red wool, and edge of frame worked in one line green cross stitch. A beautiful
bookmark, ten inches long, two and one half inches wide. Another large and beautiful one.
The Light of Home is Love - lettering in live red, floral center green, yellow, brown and 
outline of red. Mounted on beautiful wide red ribbon. This type was often used as wall
Bible quotes or pious sentiments: InGod We Trust ... Holy Bible ... Search the Scriptures ...
Thou Art My Hope ... Thou God Seest Me ... The Lord Will Provide ... Hope On ... Hope 
Ever ... The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom. Many of these are breathtakingly
beautiful. They are mostly Berlin work.
One unusual specimen depicts a large parent house done in glowing colors, including
shade trees, and on either side a smaller home, more than likely the dwelling of married
offspring. A custom in olden days. A rare specimen is done in colored beads. A large colonial
house in yellow beads, white bead trim, trees and flowers in shades of green, red, blue, etc. 
It is like a tiny primitive.
Among the sampler type in the collection, is a box filled with small finished pieces
depicting squirrels, sailing ships, high smoke stack engines, kerosene lamp and chimney, 
and topping the group a handsome rooster, flaunting lively fetaher tints, proclaiming to all
and sundry ... 'Arise 'Tis Morn!' These may have been the stint set out for children of the
family, and must have furnished many happy moments to the little needlewomen of that day.
About the turn of the century many bookmarks appeared in the Holiday Greeting card trend.
Beautifully printed in soft colors, attached to ribbons in colored embossed satin, they
embraced Scenic ... Religious .... Sentmental and Children's series. They were the last mass
effort in the nineteenth century commercial production, and were published by Louis Prang,
of Boston, Raphael Tuck, of England, later by Rust Craft, and several other well known
The earliest of the pierced card type are those with embossing. They were made by early
publishers as Windsor and Wood, both of whose names are well known to Valentine
collectors, and these could have passed as Valentine tokens where the sentiments and 
groups were just a little different. The one marked Windsor is pierced through its entire
length, the edge a highly embossed flower border. In a circular cartouche at one end is 
a family group (Biblical feeling) in high relief, background cut out. They are waving 
farewell to some unseen person. The words 'Aus Liebe' are worked in white silk on the 
length of the marker, 1840 to 1845.
The second is of a family group, on pleasure bent. A father fishing, a daughter reading a
book, seated at the edge of the stream. A mother walking beside a mule on which a small
daughter is taking a timid lesson in riding. The mother carries a very thin sunshade. These
figures are in sentimental feeling, in high relief. The word 'Patience' worked in a beautiful
shade of pink silk thread. To date I have found only two of this type, 1840 to 1850.
Another form of the pierced cardboard marker is intricate indeed. The pattern is pressed
out between the stamped whole. Usually the design is a cross, which stands alone in the
center of the card, and the remainder is pressed out in a lacy pattern. They are extremely
beautiful but so delicate that few have survived. I have several perfect ones and several
damaged ones, and across the years I hand the palm to the patient designer and skilled 
result of her hand and brain. These seem to have been conceived as Easter gifts, for crosses
abound, and several have printed lithographed subjects set into a frame-like enclosure. 
However, Americans are omniverous readers, and today's trend toward condensed editions,
rapid reading courses, etc., has again brought to the fore an awareness of that delightful,
delectable time saver . . . The Bookmark ... So . . .
Place me between your pages,
And like a sentinel so true,

'll guard your place and save it,
And hand it back to you.




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