I don’t collect bookmarks — so why am I presenting at The First Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention? Because founder-slash-host Alan Irwin asked me to, even though he knows I don’t collect bookmarks; I guess he just knows I appreciate “everything,” and therefore am quite capable of collecting anything.
Truth is, I once had an unintentional bookmark collection. As a young adult with a voracious reading habit and some money in my pocket, I searched for the perfect bookmark — the perfect bookmark being the perfect blend of form and function.
I wanted my bookmark to be a signature piece, beautiful enough to convey its importance in my life. Not only to display to others my value of books and reading, but to be substantive enough so that I would not lose it. (Unlike the problem of traveling pens, taping a big plastic spoon to a bookmark isn’t a solution — it risks damaging books, as well as undermines the bookmark’s lofty literary position.)
And this perfect bookmark had to hold my place in the book too, including when stuffed into the basket on my bicycle and transported over hill and dale to a reading spot under a tree — and then back home again.
All that’s an awful lot to ask of a bookmark; but I was confident.
I tried new bookmarks and antique bookmarks; corner bookmarks made of metal; plastic bookmarks which were like glorified paper clips in principle if not (always) appearance; bookmarks of string, with weighted bits and bobs at the ends (some with multiple strings, allowing you to mark several places in the book); elastic bookmarks, wooden bookmarks…
So many bookmarks, those years of reading were seriously affected by the preoccupation of all those bookmark trials.
In the end, I settled for the standard strips of fabric and paper (laminated, coated or not) — including, as most readers will confess — using whatever scrap of paper or thin flat thing is laying around. (Such found things in old books are a continuing delight for this book collector; however, I tend to place these saved functional bookmarks into other categories of my collection, such as photographs, ephemera, etc.)
I didn’t save many of the bookmarks I purchased in pursuit of The Perfect Bookmark; what didn’t succumb to natural losses, was given away in the disdain of failure. As recently as a year ago, I found a few of the plastic paper clip types in the junk drawer and divvied them up between the kids. But I did save this antique bookmark because its aged beauty outshines its dull performance.
I’m guessing this copper corner bookmark with a regal “cameo” of a woman is from the early 1900’s. The rounded corner limits functionality on square-tipped page corners, among other things, but she sure is pretty!
Since she’s the only one I’ve saved, I guess you could say she won, that she is The Perfect Bookmark. Or that beauty (form) beat-out the beast (function). But I think it’s more accurate to acknowledge that I outgrew childish notions of The Perfect Bookmark, and that she remains mine because she was collectible. (I do so love to collect rescue imperfect old things.)
I now wish I had saved all those bookmarks. (Even those purchased new would be retro by now!) Not because of the convention (though I admit, that would be cool as far as talking with other collectors — by the way, did you register yet?), but because all those rejected bookmarks would have been a museum, documentation of my attempts to discover The Perfect Bookmark.
I suspect that, now that I’m no longer so obsessed with finding Thee bookmark, I would not only enjoy those bookmarks for their beauty, but be quite entertained by the stories of them — how I got them, how they fared in their trials… I bet I’d even remember what book each bookmark had been placed in service of; I’m rather visual like that, seeing something and remembering everything associated with it.
As it is now, I am amused recalling the purpose-driven antics of my perfection-seeking former self. But the collector in me thinks it sure would be nice to have the tangible evidence of such an obsession.
Vintage red and green bookmarks, via Lauren Roberts and her article Bakelite In Books.
All photos of the antique copper embossed corner bookmark are copyright Deanna Dahlsad.