Bookmarking the bookmark story

bookmarks history

What worldly soul would not be too disillusioned with the depressed reality of the planet they call home to not actively give themselves in to the fantasies ruling large the parallel dimension of an otherworldy premise altogether summing up that magical wonder called books? Long hailed as being an escape from the trudges of life in entailing within themselves worlds of infinite possibilities, emerging from the finest of imaginations conjured by the human mind and holding in them therefore elements of dreamy delight and vibrant visions, books indeed are more than just being the best friend to anyone and everyone seeking out some soulful succour across their pages. From the enticing to the hard hitting, across the grand and the austere, in depth as well as in superficiality, books nurture a whole world of bliss within them- along its every single turn and in each evocation of the might of the words, captivating enough to have a whole breed of passionate lovers totally engrossed in every idea of them.

A realm so expansive, harbouring as it is of an infinite collection of ideas perfectly following each other in the smoothest trail of a flowing imagination, so much so that losing oneself in the entrancing grandeur of it all is a serendipity all book lovers wish for in happy haziness, books indeed are almost impossible to be left off in the middle once picked up in exquisite passion. And yet, the depressing realities of the physical world which we choose to ignore so very often and lend ourselves instead to the super worldly assertion of the books, makes it as impossible to continue with every book from start right up to its end without abruptions essentially disrupting our ultimate experience in dwelling in the hives of what makes for a heaven indeed. But bewitched as one would necessarily be with the entrancing explorations encountered exclusively along these escapades of eloquent expressions, it sure can be a matter no less importance than that of life and death itself to sustain the rhythm of the reads in utmost precision- picking up exactly where one would be forced to ditch that snug bound of the hands, in all sulking annoyance of course, to attend to matters of life more practical, even when they do not take care of the essence of our living in all importance of them whatsoever, at least not in the way books do. And it exactly is in this charting out of life’s leanings in all profuse indulgences of them that washes our soul in the euphoric indeed essence of what life entails that books have created not just intangible inclinations of which human kind is so gratified in their exploring but have also birthed decipherable physical entities out of all their residing in imagination- and in very holistic scope of them as well.

Of such exclusive emergence of them from the more than magnificent musings of books but catering still to notions of a world increasingly dismissive of their magic in favour of another realm of existence unreal as well, but not necessarily fantastic- at least not to our bookworms’ liking- is a certain term and being essentially incorporative of the bookish vibe. So much so that even in their ambitious coursing along the other world deemed as more excitingly new age even when it is something devoid of a concrete form as well and that which is so accurate a ground of them being even lesser dominions of certainty, these alternate meanderings into which books have spread out their trail of trill to evoke another space out of the figments of their imagination hold at least part of the beauty of their basis in birthing. For these bookmarks of all evident essence are what have for centuries now held the sanity of many a descript bibliophiles all across the world, aiding their willing resubmission to the unbounded fancies of imagination far far away from the ironic ‘rosy realities’ by allowing them to settle once again in their ideal idea of being, continuing from where they have been forced to withdraw in almost a devastated defeat of them so that there is no sense lost of a reality essentially made up but not any less persuasive in its lending to the vivid details. And continuing with this might of them even across the purview of the digital, in the same assertion and in the same manner albeit in a different dimension of depiction, bookmarks are no less obsolete today- not in name and certainly not in essence- and deliver therefore the exact intention in which they were desired.

Emerging as they have been from the world of books, bookmarks yield too across their length and breadth a charm equally brilliant in their derivation for serving a purpose evidently explanatory. A marking tool in essence that which affords no connection lost between the reader’s scheme of thoughts out of understanding from what had entailed their previous session in the face burying flair across the fancied formulation of books, bookmarks sound very chic for something surprisingly steeped in their own saga of stemming. Believed to have been in existence since at least the 1st century A.D., emerging as they possibly did along with codices have been bookmarks, the extant example of which is a sixth century discovery from Egypt. A strip of ornamental leather lined with vellum on the back and attached to the cover of a Coptic codex with a leather strap is how one of the earliest known assertion of the bookmark spanned as, even as even earlier specimens of them have been unearthed as well. The medieval period though has been the time when more abundant accounts of bookmarks have been referred to. Alluding though not exactly to this physicality across which bookmarks are ordinarily recognised in but making for an anecdote interesting enough in its premise is a certain amusing reference from the early Middle Ages of an Irish monk, the Coloman of Elo finding a rather unique way to help his sessions of read not lose track. The tale goes of a fly always hovering about the pages of the book Coloman used to be engrossed in, in so much regularity that the genius human commanded it to dutifully sit down upon his last premise of reading that would serve as his guiding ‘light’ of sorts. Dubious as it may sound this whole proposition of a living ‘flying’ bookmark, the belief is that the perhaps as studious fly obliged as well!

More reliable and concrete as well bookmarks from that time were discovered in monastic origins, references of which can be found in the manuscripts and incunabula of European monasteries with still vellum or leather the usual material of their make. Their shape though tended to differ with sometimes plain strips marking the pages or otherwise manifesting as some sort of a triangle clipped on to them. The most intriguing and somewhat sophisticated one though took the form of a vellum rotating disc that would be attached to a string. So ‘dedicated’ had been this particular assertion of the bookmarking in ensuring that not even a single word or sentence was missed by the reader, so as to preserve the flow of the narration in as much precision as could be, that they could be slid up and down the string to exactly the level wherefrom one would need to continue. It was upon the marker that a rotating disc was attached with numbers indicating columns and pointing therefore to the exact t the point from where the reading needed to be resumed for that perfectly coherent read of exquisite detail.

More specific a charting of interesting kind happens to be a bookmark from the late 13th century that graced the pages of the Historica Scholastica. A vellum page of the Peter Comester authored manuscript flaunted among its many vellum pages a particular vertically cut one that took the form of a long tab sitting perfectly through a slit along the higher part of the edge as a built in bookmark serving with finesse indeed the necessitation of a purpose in utmost subservience. Another unique manifestation happens to be a 16th century novelty instead, of an ivory piece showcased at the Royal Museum of Brunei but hailing from India. Finding use in its bookmarkish prominence in the holy Korans had been this striking indeed specimen that was embellished also in a geometrical pattern of pierced holes.

In the centuries that closely preceded or followed, bookmarks were commonly used and in rather variegated designs and styles as well. The material of making also underwent a shift and paper bookmarks came to be popular, as evident in such 16th century and onward discoveries that projected heart shaped or arrow shaped markers intended to be mounted atop pages. Silk bookmarks also came to be around the same time and there exist records of Queen Elizabeth having been presented with a fringed version of it in 1584 by Christopher Baker. Yielding at that time the sole right to print the Bible had been Baker who introduced the silk into the books in his corresponding capacity as also a draper. Thus began the ‘trend’ of bookmarking the holy Christian text with pretty silk bookmarks, a manifestation of which happens to be a 1632 make of plaited silk cords, silver knots and silk tassels owned today by the British and Foreign Bible Society.

The more common silk ribbon bookmarks just about a centimeter wide came to be during the 18th and 19th centuries and exist still today, bound into books at the top of their spine and just long enough to be decipherable from the lower edge. Practical, fuss free and exclusively functional, these simplistic strands gave way to detachable bookmarks sometime in the 1850s paving thus the way for these essential elements of enjoyable reading to become as coveted collector’s items as well. Of particular mention would be the woven bookmarks that began to be manufactured in the 1860s of which a specific kind- the Stevenmarks came to assert an identity of their own. Made by English weaver Thomas Stevens had been these silk markers of books, woven on the Jacquard loom that which in fact made just one element of a more encompassing art of the Stevengraph. And while Stevengraphs were among the more popular bookmarks of the Victorian era, it had been another very different, amusing indeed ‘bookmark’ that often did the rounds across books. With friends and lovers exchanging locks of their hair as a token of love, it should be not much of a surprise that strands of hair came to serve the purpose of continuing with one’s reading spree in this remarkably different period of the English existence. Equally common had been embroidered bookmarks that were very much made by the readers themselves, as a show of skill primarily but also put to efficient use as gifts and in serving the marking purpose across Bibles and prayer books.

Stiff paper was the next evolution in the history of the bookmark and the later parts of the 19th century saw particular popularity of pretty decorated paper bookmarks punched with a hole for a string to go into take centerstage, in a development that has stood the test of time to be as common today as it had been a couple of few hundred years earlier. With such aesthetic, intriguing and diverse indeed faces of the bookmark religiously relied upon by readers all over according it a status across multidimensional assertions, collecting bookmarks is very much a real hobby today. And the record for the largest collection of these bookish still entities of convenience and charm is held by one Frank Divendal of the Netherlands. Boasting of 103,009 different bookmarks from all over the world, amassed over almost three decades of time, Divendal sure would be spoilt for choice when it comes to employing this device in literary lining for his as worldly limitations in being unable to always complete a book at once. And that perhaps is what makes his feat massive enough to encompass a compilation one sure could not go through all at once without bookmarking!