Bookmarks pre-date printed books and were used on the ancient papyrus. Papyrus paper is actually made from a papyrus plant. The papyrus is created with strips of the sticky inside of the plant’s stem. The resulting page was approximately 16″ wide, but the pages were bound together in a book or scroll form. The word “paper” is derived from “papyrus”.
There are indications that the readers of the papyrus scrolls had bookmarks. One source said some scrolls were up to 15 yards in length. That would be like having 135 pages (paperback size) laid out side by side! You really didn’t want to forget where you stopped reading. These early bookmarks were probably made from vellum and clipped on a page.
The use of vellum continued into the 14th and 15th centuries. These bookmarks graced the pages of printed books in the monasteries. Bookmarks were also made from the leftover leather used to bind a book. These bookmarks could have been clip-on or strips.
Many of us may remember books, especially Bibles, that had the bookmarks stitched into the book binding. There was at least one thin silk ribbon coming from the top of the binding. The ribbon was just a little longer than the height of the pages so you could easily locate the ribbon and your scripture. These types of bookmarks were common in the 18th century and are sometimes still used today for special books.
The unattached bookmark made its appearance in the mid 1800’s. Collecting bookmarks soon became a hobby. Especially since some of these early bookmarks contained advertising! The stitched bookmarks developed as a result of young girls learning to stitch. Bookmarks were a way to show off their stitching skills and became a great gift idea. Commercially produced bookmarks on silk soon followed. One of the predominant bookmark companies produced Stevengraphs. They made incredible bookmarks for every occasion. Check out some of these bookmarks. Bookmarks continued to change and evolve through the 1900’s. Today, bookmarks are made from a wide variety of materials with an even wider array of subject matter.
What is the future of the bookmark as more virtual books are read? Turns out there are virtual bookmarks that help you mark your spot. You can only imagine that as these electronic services grow, you will have the ability to create your own personalized electronic bookmarks. It won’t be quite the same as being able to turn down a corner of the book or insert your favorite bookmark to mark your spot. Perhaps your virtual cat will curl up to take a nap on the virtual page where you stopped reading. So, until some time in the future when there are no more paper books, we can continue to create beautiful stitched bookmarks.
One way many stitchers have helped improve reading literacy is by the donation of bookmark(s) for the Stitching for Literacy: Bookmark Challenge. Nordic Needle has been collecting bookmarks since 2007 for this wonderful cause. The bookmarks are given to schools, libraries and other organizations to help them further their reading programs. Read more about the challenge.
In 2012, Nikolina had been visiting Nancy at the Book Nook in Wheatland, Wyoming, and had just arrived back at Nordic Needle with quite a selection of bookmarks. Nikolina said one of the highlights of her visit was helping to inventory over 5000 books! However, the Book Nook is closing, but Nancy said that means more time for stitching! Here is a picture of Nikolina helping with a drawing at the Book Nook.
When asked what she learned about reading while she was there, the first thing Nikolina said was that reading increases your vocabulary. Coming from rural Norway, her English vocabulary is somewhat limited. She said that she learned a lot more words reading than she would have in general conversation. She particularly liked the children’s books with a lot of illustrations.
Reading also helped Nikolina with her journaling. Norwegian sentences have somewhat of a different sentence structure than English. Nikolina said that as she read she began to understand how to form sentences that made more sense to us.
Another thing she said was that reading saved energy: electrical energy. Nikolina said it takes less electricity to run a lamp than it does all the electronic game stuff.
Lastly Nikolina said it is a great way to dream and travel without leaving home. She had always wanted to come to the United States, but she never figured she would get that chance. So she read a lot of books about the United States, our cities, and our traditions. She said that helped her feel more comfortable when she came to Nordic Needle. She was glad she knew about our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, which made them more enjoyable during her visits.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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