Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Accidental bookmarks among the leaves

I recently found a couple of trivial things between the leaves of old books that were obviously used as bookmarks. Well, one was obvious, one debatable. At any rate, they appear to have been spur-of-the-moment markers when a conventional bookmark was not readily available. And I thought about a brief post on Bibliophemera, but they're not really ephemera.

First up, the obvious. Say you're reading Hubert Wales' riveting [yawn] The Yoke in 1908 and you just can't put the book down. But you have to. You haven't got a bookmark handy, so you have to improvise. You search your immediate surroundings for something, anything... what to use... what to use... Your eyes fixate on the dust jacket of a nearby book. Aha! Just take that useless thing off the book and tear off a piece to mark your place.

Apparently that's what happened with this book's long-ago reader. A stiff piece of paper, say in the neighborhood of 80-100# stock (look and feel of a paper jacket), torn in such a way as to leave a message for a reader (me) 100 years later to ponder: The book title on the back of the jacket. The more I look at the shape and design, I'm not sure it was a dust jacket. It could have been. It certainly appears to be a cover of some kind because of the thick stock. No matter, it's the printed message found on it that counts.

Could there be a more appropriate emergency bookmark than a piece of paper with IN AN EMERGENCY printed on it? This was either the donor book's title or an ad of some kind for another book. Either way, this emergency bookmark came with its utility printed on it.

Bookmark number two: A leaf among the leaves of Essays: English and American. This item is not so obvious as a bookmark. It could have just been put in the book to press and was forgotten. This leaf marks the beginning of the essay, Mackery End, in Hertfordshire, by Charles Lamb. I can't place any significance on the relationship between it and the essay. Again, it may not have been a marker at all. In a kind of role reversal, the book may have been preserving the leaf. One-hundred years later, it still looks as though it were picked up off the ground on a cold fall day in New England.

Now to research the bookplate in The Yoke (the reason I bought the book), which will find its way into Bibliophemera.

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