of bookmarks is
intimately connected with the development of the
book itself. Though the earliest bookmarks date from the medieaval ages, it is obvious
that even in ancient times - when papyrus scrolls were the reading matter of choice -
bookmarks must have been used to mark a reader's place on the scrolls that could be
40 meters or more in length. Some of the oldest bookmarks were found in medieval
monastries and among them are clip-on type bookmarks made of vellum. Therefore it
is easy to imagine that this type was also used to mark place on the papyrus scrolls in
In late medieaval ages between the 13th and the 15th century some of the earliest
bookmarks of monastic origin can be found in printed books referred to as incunabula.
They were mostly made of vellum or leather using the rest of the material which was
used to make the book cover. These early bookmarks had already a variety of shapes
like a plain strand or a clip-on triangle. One of them is a sophisticated rotating disc indi-
cating the column on the page as can be seen on the picture to the right.
manuscript - Historia
Scholastica - from the late 13th
by Peter Comester and which belongs to the inventory of the British Library bears an in-
teresting and rare bookmark. One vellum page of the manuscript is cut on its edge verti-
cally to form a longish tab which is tucked through a cut slit on the higher part of the
edge forming a practical bookmark.
The Royal Museum of Brunei showcases an ivory bookmark made in India which
is embellished with a geometrical pattern of pierced holes dating from the 16th century
which had been used in illuminated Korans.
In 1584 Queen Elizabeth was presented with a fringed silk bookmarker by Christo-
pher Barker who had acquired a patent as Queen's Printer in 1577 which gave him the
sole right to print the Bible. He was also a draper: hence the silk for the bookmarker.
The British and Foreign Bible Society owns a bookmarker with plaited silk cords, silver
knots and silk tassels which appears to have been made for use in a bible of 1632.
A common type of bookmark in the eighteenth and up to the nineteenth century
consisted of a narrow silk ribbon, seldom more than a centimetre in width, bound into
the book at the top of the spine and just long enough to project below the lower edge
of the page. These type of bookmarks are still in use especially in hardcover and refer-
A.W. Coysh's Collecting Bookmarkers is the
very first book entirely dedicated to bookmarks.
published by David & Charles | London | 1974
In Victorian ages
ladies taught their daughters embroidery and most young
By the 1860's
attractive machine-woven markers were being manufactured,
By the 1880's
production of woven silk bookmarks was declining and printed markers made
credit is made to:
The British Library - www.collectbritain.co.uk
R. Forrer: Mittelalterliche und neuere Lesezeichen, Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, 2. May 1898
Adolf Schmidt: Mittelalterliche Lesezeichen - Ein Nachtrag, Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, 1936
Frank Hamel: The History and Development of the Bookmarker, The Book-Lover's Magazine, Vol. VI. Part IV, 1906
A.W. Coysh: Collecting Bookmarkers, David & Charles Ltd., 1974
Alan Irwin, Bookmark Collector Blog, http://bookmark-collector.com
E. Guenther Rehse: Lesezeichen, Verlag Beruf + Schule, 1994
Karl Heinz Steinbeisser: Lesezeichen Sammeln, Antiquariat Steinbeisser, 2006
Beryl Kenyon de Pascual: The Bookmark: a bibliophile's accessory, The Ephemerist - No. 124, Spring 2004
Howard Schecter: The World's Largest Online Collection of Antique Bookmarks - www.silverbookmarks.com
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