Monday, January 13, 2014

Essential: the appropriate bookmark

Before I could read I was fascinated watching my great uncle with a new book.  He would come home with it wrapped beautifully in stiff paper.  On the table he placed the package, carefully untied the string which was wound round his fingers then stored in the drawer, opened out the paper, folded it and stashed it in a cupboard. Then the book was lifted up to be sniffed, and stroked.  Then a paper knife was needed: sitting down with book in one hand and the paper knife in the other, he would read, slitting the joined pages as he reached them.  Later he would tear strips of the wrapping paper to use as bookmarks on which he could write his thoughts about what he had encountered on that page.
I loved watching the process, and it was only many years later when I worked in publishing that I found out about printing on large sheets which were then folded into signatures, and which are now guillotined before binding.  But as well as developing a love of the physical book, I also was drawn to the beauty of the bookmark.  We keep a drawer full of bookmarks, and I still buy them in museums and art galleries where I now do not usually buy postcards any more.  I do so enjoy trying to match the bookmark to the book.

My enjoyment of cropping has also led me to making my own bookmarks from images of my work.
I was interested to find out about UWE's Bookmark events, and have signed myself up to participate this year.


  1. I too remember some of those books that had to have the pages carefully torn.

    Your bookmarks are lovely and could be sweet gifts too to tuck in with letters.

  2. Thank you Marja-Leena. Yes, I have given some to close friends.

  3. Reading your post have brought back so many memories. We have talked about our love of French culture and literature before: when I was a teenager I would go to Kauffmann's bookshop in Athens and buy French books. The majority of the books from Editions Gallimard needed to have the pages cut, but unlike your uncle, I would 'treat' the whole book before starting to read. It seems so bizarre now and a real indication of how the world has changed.

    I love the bookmarks, by the way.

  4. Yes, Eirene, my uncle's books were French too. Believe it or not my Yiayia used to read a Greek translation of Winnie the Pooh to me, and we had to cut those pages too. It all made the introduction to the wonder of books such an enticing experience.

  5. What a wonderful glimpse of your childhood. and I don't know how I missed this post when it first appeared. Thank you so much for sharing this - and the bookmarks are wonderful. I love them all but especially the more abstract ones in the bottom row - glorious colours.