The art of the humble bookmark

Garrett Library

Now THIS place would have some classy bookmarks, don’t you think? Baltimore’s John Work Garrett Library image courtesy of tpsdave, Pixabay.

It’s funny what people leave behind in books. Whenever I go to the library and get something to read, there’s usually at least one or two books where the previous reader has left something behind.

Sometimes it’s just a printed receipt of all the books that person had checked out. Other times, it might be an appointment card for a doctor or dentist or a Post-It folded in half to act as a bookmark.

Mom once found something intriguing in a library book. While she leafed through the pages, out dropped an elaborately folded piece of paper. Curious about what was inside, she unfolded it several times and smoothed it out to read an impish message scrawled in a childish hand: “HA HA. Fooled you.” It made both of us chuckle.

I’ll use almost anything as a bookmark. Sometimes it’s the front or back flap of a hardback cover to mark my spot, an empty envelope or a traditional bookmark. Most of mine are simple paper but I’ve got a couple of good ones. One bookmark is a leather bookmark from the National Trust in the U.K.; it has an image of Greenway, Agatha Christie’s home. I always feel so British when I’m using this bookmark.

bookmark 1

Tea and crumpets, anyone? Custard cream? (I don’t even know what a custard cream is, but it sounds good. British bloggers, please enlighten me?)

The other bookmark is a somewhat battered but much-loved cat bookmark. It features a cat sitting on a stack of books, playfully batting at the feathered section of a quill.

bookmark 2


One of the local libraries in my area recently put up a decorative board for people who had left their bookmarks behind in their books, which inspired this post. The board had ribbons going in diagonal patterns and the library staff slipped the bookmarks behind the ribbons, so that the ribbons held the bookmarks in position.

The range of bookmarks was amazing. Some were embroidered with pretty patterns and looked like Oriental rugs; others had dolphins or other animals that appeared to move when you tilted the bookmark in another direction. Almost all of them were colorful and drool-worthy.

My blogger buddy Jacklyn has written about some bookmarks featuring various characters from Jane Austen novels as well as some of the other bookmarks in her collection. I’m going to have to step up my game! How am I supposed to resist bookmarks featuring Harry Potter, Doctor Who or the characters from The Hunger Games? (*races off to Amazon*)

Blog readers, got a favorite bookmark you’d like to describe?



Filed under Writing

49 responses to “The art of the humble bookmark

  1. Sometimes I use tickets from my overseas trip and every now and then I get reminded of great memories.

  2. I use pretty much anything that comes to hand as a bookmark too, and sometimes, horror of horrors, I fold the corner over!!! (Not on a library book or anyone else’s book though, only if I own it). That’s interesting about so many bookmarks and other things being left inside library books, I had no idea. A custard cream is a sandwich biscuit (that’s British biscuit, so sandwich cookie to you!), imagine an Oreo, but rectangle rather than round, and white biscuit rather than chocolate, and the cream centre is yellow and custard flavoured…so actually nothing like an Oreo, but it was a good starting point!

  3. I’m afraid my choice of bookmarks is rather utilitarian…..but I still love them. I use a large index card, with the book title written at the top, on which I jot down words I don’t know, phrases I love and especially well-written sentences as I read. I started this years ago reading David McCullough’s books, and now I have a stack of cards for reference.

  4. For a while, I actually bought fancy bookmarks which I promptly lost. Now, bits of paper towel, tissues, old receipts … whatever I have at hand does the job. One of the great things about Kindle is I don’t have to have a bookmark!

  5. I have some magnetic bookmarks my husband gave me and they have a quote on them from Charles W. Eliot: “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends.”

  6. Unfortunately, I use whatever is handy. The book cover flap is my last choice because once in a while it comes out losing my page. Often I use one of those subscription cards that come in magazines (because I have the magazines where I read books) but if I can find them, I have wonderful cat bookmarks. People like to give me “cat” stuff and fortunately a bookmark doesn’t take space, never needs dusting and is downright useful! So much better than goofy ceramic cats.

  7. travelrat

    I once scored a very interesting and rewarding job because I inadvertently left one of my business cards in a book I returned to the library.

    And, I’m sure the world’s largest collection of train tickets and boarding passes is squirelled away in my books.

  8. My favored bookmarks for a long time were prize ribbons from fairs. I used to enter those a lot when I was a kid, and I amassed a huge stack in all colors of the rainbow. Then, of course, I decided to mass print 1000 bookmarks to support my debut novel, so now those are my bookmark of choice due to them being all over the apartment and impossible to not use, lol.

  9. I miss bookmarks and book plates. Mostly I read Kindle books. Dianne

    PS love your kitty bookmark.

  10. People who know what a voracious reader I am often give me bookmarks as gifts (they fit so nicely into cards), but I’m one of those odd ducks that doesn’t use bookmarks when just reading through — I never have trouble finding where I left off. However, if I want to come back to a page later, to take notes or copy out a quote, I do mark it because I have a terrible time locating something once I’ve passed it. If I’m doing research, I always have those nifty little colored Post-It flags on hand. If I want to mark the place in a bit of casual reading, I grab whatever I can find — gum wrappers do nicely and my kids are always leaving them about. I once in desperation used a bit of cat fur that had got stuck to the arm of the chair; I couldn’t go looking for paper because the cat was on my lap!

  11. I prefer a basic 3×5 card. It’s stiff so it is sturdy and easy to find in the book, and I can write brief notes to myself if I need to.

  12. Jools

    I love your story about the bookmark display board at the library! My bookmark of choice is fairly utilitarian – every time I visit Waterstones (like B&N in the USA, I guess) I pick up a handful of their free bookmarks at the cash desk. They’re nice and sensible – a good size, firm card and absent of any sentimental attachment. Which leads me to wonder if one can draw any psycho-babble conclusions on character or personality from one’s choice of bookmark. Say nothing…say nothing!

    • Waterstones sounds like my kind of place. I’ll have to check them out the next time I’m in the U.K.!

      • Jools

        You’ll find Waterstones all over the UK, but my favourite is Waterstones in Piccadilly, in Central London, a few steps from Piccadilly Circus and the Eros statue. A coffee bar in the basement, a restaurant and bar at the top, and in between, 5 glorious floors packed with books and attended by people who know and love them. Warmly recommended.

      • Oh, man, I’d so love to be in London. Maybe I can virtually visit Waterstones for now, at least. (*scampers off to Waterstones website*)

      • travelrat

        Waterstones also sell the little magnetic folding ones that clip to the page … and don’t fall out if you drop the book or go to sleep or something. If you like olde-worlde, I definitely recommend Waterstones in Salisbury. I’ll see if they’ll let me take a pic next time I’m in.

  13. My wife dogears pages, which I find maddening. Even though she only defiles her own books this way, it still makes my skin crawl. I can’t explain it, but it does.

    For years my favorite bookmark was designed to look exactly like “Chance” card in Monopoly. On it, J. Penny Moneybags is leaping out of a fiery manhole; the text reads “Get Out Of Hell Free.”

    I wish to be buried with this card because, hey, you just never know…

  14. I use anything flat and handy, as I have a tendency to lose them. I buy a lot of used books and the store where I purchase uses a bookmark as a business card and always slip one in to at least one of the books I buy every time. So there are a lot of them around the bookshelves. I have had one particular favorite bookmark for years though. It has a rearing white unicorn on an indigo background, and part of the quote from Einstein that ends, “…Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

  15. Impybat

    I have one from a matching journal/bookmark set that features Graeme Base’s “Animalia” on the cover. I also still have one with Garfield on it, with a light blue yarn tassel at the top. It is a relic from the 80s! Then there was my prized dark-stained wood bookmark that had a bat shape die cut out on one end. Sadly, it split and broke in half.

  16. Custard creams are my favourite biscuit… and for best results they should be eaten in private and furtively dipped in the cup of tea – dunked is the phrase, – quite quickly, – long enough to moisten the biscuit, but not so long that the whole thing crumbles. ( you’d probably get three bites at it.) Eating custard creams is as skilled an activity as any other civilised habit and is not to be undertaken frivolously!! Some things are sacred….

  17. Once, when I needed a bookmark and couldn’t find one, I folded a sheet of lined paper into a bookmarkish size, taped it shut, and wrote “THIS IS A BOOKMARK” on it. It performed its function adequately.

  18. Years ago I had a well-worn sheet of lined paper that was home to an intimate mix of life bucket list items, personal credo, favorite quotes, doodles, deep-dark thoughts, etc. I made the mistake of using it as a bookmark, got zonked on my anti-anxiety airplane sedatives on a particularly turbulent cross-country flight, and left the whole thing (book & all) behind on the plane while disembarking in a druggy stupor. I still wonder if anyone’s found (& subsequently been bemused by) the San Francisco Public Library’s copy of “Running With Scissors” bookmarked by my Official Life Plan. 🙂


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