The History of Bookmarks
As the first printed books were quite rare and valuable, it was determined early on that something was needed to mark one's place in a book without causing its pages any harm. Some of the earliest bookmarks were used at the end of the sixteenth century, and Queen Elizabeth I was one of the first to own one.
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'.
Most nineteenth-century bookmarks were intended for use in bibles and prayer books and were made of ribbon or woven silk. By the 1880s the production of woven silk markers was declining and printed markers made of stiff paper or card began to appear in significant numbers. This development paralleled the wider availability of books themselves, and the range of available bookmarkers soon expanded dramatically.
During the early part of the 20th century, insurance companies and publishers made great use of bookmarkers to interest the public in the services they provided.
Although some advertising continued on bookmarks after WWI, much more use was made of markers to carry publicity material for non-profit enterprises. They were used to promote the war effort, to encourage people to save money, and to urge road users to observe the Highway Codes. Furthermore, public libraries began to use them to disseminate information.
Modern bookmarks are available in a huge variety of materials including; card, plastic, silk, fabric and silver & gold.
With countless designs and styles available, bookmark collecting is becoming a popular 21st Century pastime.
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