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by David Nivala

The humble bookmark is an invaluable asset to the avid reader. For as long as there have been books, bookmarks have been the readers friend (along with the book-light). It is a convenient and safe way to remind the reader where to start reading next, when he or she continues to read after a break. Bookmarks also save valuable books from becoming “dog eared”.

The practice of using bookmarks began in the 16th century with the bookmarks that were made from ribbon (usually silk) attached to the spine. Detachable bookmarks came into vogue some years later with poems or sayings either printed, attached or embroided into the bookmark. A kind of bookmark to remind the reader of some noteworthy phrase or thing. Almost any flat material can become a bookmark, provided it does not damage the pages of the book in any way.

Contemporary bookmarks are made from leather, plastic, fabric materials, metals, etc. Some bookmark manufacturers are using modern technology to add value in some way to the humble bookmark. Designs are available with holographic images embedded into the base material, for example. It is easy to make a bookmark or use small slips of paper, if there is nothing else at hand. Some bookmarks are adorned with trinkets or figurines that remind the reader of something special, like angels. Bookmarks of this type are often used by readers of religious texts or classic books to mark their place. It is not uncommon to find a number of bookmarks in these books, reminding the reader of multiple places.

Bookmarks have never been seen as an expensive accessory. Some are quite cheap and many libraries give them away to readers as they borrow books. These paper bookmarks usually contain some advertising material. The advertising material may relate to other books, include library borrowing times or any other corporate sponsorship. Bookmark collectors like to collect these types of bookmarks.

Private and public bookmark collections are available for viewing in many parts of the world. There appears to be growing membership in bookmark collector's clubs both in physical locations and online. Collectors need to ascertain value from time to time and the clubs are a good place to start for information pertaining to authenticity and value. Some of the bookmarks from years ago have significantly more detail than contemporary bookmarks.

Whatever your taste in books, there is a need for a bookmark, even during the computer age, which seems not to have reduced our reliance on books for a good read. Perhaps as hand-held computer devices become more powerful, reading books will take some of the place of written books.

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