By Laine Farley
Although there are many articles that catalog the random objects people use for bookmarks, these items are not always similar to “official” bookmarks in size, shape, or appropriate material. Accidental bookmarks are those that were not meant to be used for that purpose, but do fit the criteria and may be hiding in plain sight. Of course, this begs the question, “What is a bookmark?” It must be of a reasonable size to fit in books, but that can range from small ones for paperbacks up to very large ones for bibles, oversized art books, etc. It should be longer than it is wide, but the the proportions can vary. And it ought to be suitably thin so as not to bend the pages or risk falling out. I think accidental bookmarks should also have a design that takes advantage of the dimensions, either the horizontal or vertical plane, and they should not be of a material that could damage a book, unlike some of the official ones that sacrifice utility for design impact.
Here are some examples of accidental bookmarks that I have found, usually without consciously looking for them. While I was focused on some other task, the proportions and designs of these images suddenly resolved into looking like a good bookmark.
Ads in Publications
These examples can be downloaded, clipped, or even photographed from online images and printed on photographic or stiff paper.
I use city directories frequently for genealogy and local history research. These now obsolete publications are filled with long and narrow ads, designed to fit above and alongside of the directory entries. Most of them are nondescript, with only the name of the business, an address and phone number. Occasionally, they will contain an interesting graphic, which can be clipped from the online image and printed on stiff paper for a bookmark. This example is for a small chain of pharmacies that used to be known for their owl logo.
Similarly, old newspaper ads can often have the right dimensions and feature interesting graphics. These examples from my local newspaper feature a clothing shop that I was researching because of its Art Deco building, and I came cross another ad for fall frocks and hats with nice graphics. The Halloween example is an ornament that accompanied a feature for children. The last example is from a small town newspaper where my relatives lived, and is interesting due to the period graphics as well as the family association. I keep hoping to find an interesting ad for the business that my family owned in this town, but so far, they are just ordinary ads.
Yearbooks and Catalogs
These publications may have ads or ornaments, although they are not as reliable for finding appropriate dimensions. The example for Oakland features two transportation designs that would be interesting for a double sided bookmark. The cap and gown motif is from my grandmother’s college yearbook.
Recent postage stamp sheets for artists provided an extra benefit. The perforations on the sheets made it possible to tear off the portrait of the artist or an enlarged artwork on the side panel. These bookmarks would be even more interesting if the post office had printed additional information on the reverse. This presentation may not be common, but it is a reminder to look closely for bookmark possibilities in any kind of graphic material.
Now I am always on the lookout for interesting graphics in bookmark shapes. Where have you found accidental bookmarks?