Editor's Note: Man Wong is one of the few IFOB members who has published a book about bookmarks. What stands out in her activities described below is her desire to spread the word about bookmarks and to preserve them for the future. She links her love of bookmarks to their ability to document her life and record her memories. Congratulations Man!
1. Tell us about yourself – where you are from, your occupation, etc.
2. How did you start collecting bookmarks? Do you remember your first bookmark?
The first set of bookmarks I collected came from my dad. I remember that when I was a child, my father often had to work, and once he went to the mainland for business. He saw some bookmarks decorated with dried leaves and butterflies on China Civil Aviation, and thought they looked good. He brought them home for me. On the dry leaves, the veins of the leaves were clearly textured, and the butterfly pattern on it was lifelike. I thought it was very beautiful, and I started collecting bookmarks from then on.
3. Do you have any favorite types or special emphasis in your collection?
I specially treasure those bookmarks with my favorite idols. One is the famous singer Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing and the other one is the artist Andy Lau Tak Wah. When I was still in secondary school, I couldn’t afford to buy many bookmarks and so I could only select two or three from the full set. It’s a pity that I can't collect a full set.
4. What is the most unusual bookmark in your collection?
In my collection, there is are a set of bookmarks that are presented as Dinosaur bones stacked layer by layer which I bought through a Dinosaur exhibition held in Hong Kong. And the traditional Chinese paper-cut A Dream of the Red Mansions Character bookmarks which was also first bought by my dad. These two sets show a different presentation from the traditional paper cut to modern cut with specific design. It’s not common to find out about other bookmark creations nowadays.
5. How do you acquire your bookmarks?
On campus, teachers will give away bookmarks with words of encouragement, students will send bookmarks on their birthdays, and between male and female students, they will send messages with bookmarks.
There are also friends from the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Japan and other places who have exchanged duplicate bookmarks for mutual benefit.
In Hong Kong, where space is limited, it may be a luxury to collect things. Hong Kong fans tend to hand over bookmarks. Instead of sending them to landfills to bury their memories, they always hope that someone who has a heart will keep them on their behalf.
Sometimes I had to pursue the bookmarks I wanted. The Asian TV series "Blue Moon" once published a game with prizes in the newspaper. The gift was a bookmark. Of course, I immediately sent a letter to participate, and I applied for a full set.
However, sometimes unexpected gifts will fall from the sky. One day I noticed on the recycling box that there was a stack of bookmark-shaped objects above! I found that the bookmarks were still fresh and clean, and immediately took them home like a treasure. So sometimes I feel like something is meant to be, so I can take it home so it doesn't end up in a landfill.
I found out that government departments and some institutions will launch relevant publicity bookmarks to remind everyone to respond to crises, such as teaching everyone how to deal with natural disasters. Changes in Hong Kong can also be discovered through bookmarks. For example, I have some bookmarks published by the Lands Department in my collection, and I will see some small changes in the landscape. Or there are the earlier logos of the Urban Council in the bookmarks, which the younger generation may not have seen already.
Sometimes I go to the second-hand market to find relics, but the price of bookmarks is very erratic. As for the selection criteria, if it can give me the feeling of 'electric shock', I will buy it even if it is expensive.
6. How many bookmarks do you have (an estimate)?
One day in 2009, I suddenly became obsessed with counting the bookmark stock, and I thought I had stored more than 1,000 bookmarks and was proud of it. Suddenly, I wanted to apply to Guinness World Records to be the person with the most bookmarks, so I checked it out. It was discovered that in another country in the world, someone had already achieved this record, and it was more than 100,000 copies!
I decided to look for someone by the name of Frank Divendal. After a lot of searching on the Internet, I finally found a website with regularly updated collections and a bookmark exchange platform, which is where I got his email. In the end, I managed to get in touch with Frank Divendal, the Guinness world record holder in the Netherlands, who was more than willing to exchange duplicate bookmarks with me and became my strongest bookmarking friend. [Note: see this interview for more information on correspondence with Frank Divendal]
I checked the records, and in 2017 he had 160,000 copies in stock. As for me, there are about 3,000 or 4,000 copies. Although I have doubled it, I am still far behind him. But for me, collecting bookmarks is not only about quantity, but also about quality. It is a record of every stage of my life.
7. How do you organize, display and store your collection?
To classify, it is necessary to have an outline. There are few collection books in Hong Kong that can be used for reference. It is neither a stationery series, nor a paper art series, nor a Hong Kong feeling series... I tried to search in different ways, but still It was difficult to start, until I saw Appreciation of Chinese Bookmark, which helped me make a systematic classification, and this book became one of my collections.
My bookmark classification may not be completely in line with the system, but it must be divided according to my preferences, because I think the most important meaning of collection is to store memories and thoughts, such as my Facebook page: Bookmarks and Memory, to commemorate the reason why bookmarks exist. It is because of their functionality, which is convenient for people to read, and also has the meaning of communication between the two. That I also named my Instagram account after this.
Having saved bookmarks for decades, I am not the only "Bookmark Collector" in Hong Kong, but I believe that I will keep my passion and remain eager to keep collecting to save bookmarks.
In March 2021, I first published my book related to my bookmark collections and stories.
Then from 24 Apr - 24 May 2021, I held the first “Hong Kong Bookmark Exhibition” in Silver Café in Mong Kok to share my collection with the public and memories about the bookmark in Hong Kong
I held a Bookmark exhibition at the 31st Hong Kong Book Fair, 15 July 2021, and hosted a seminar to share my bookmark collection history and insight:. Hong Kong Book Fair 2021: Bookmark Collection Notes - A Page of Life, Hong Kong and the World
After collecting bookmarks for so many years, I really hope that there is a place to show everyone, so that everyone can know that bookmarks can actually be very colorful.
8. What has been your experience in using the IFOB Swap List?
The swap list is really useful and brought me to know other fellow collectors from other countries. IFOB Members are nice to invite for swapping bookmarks. I really appreciate this and enjoy this journey.
9. What do you enjoy about IFOB? Anything you would like to see IFOB do in the future?
From IFOB, I gain a lot of valuable information related to bookmark collecting, such as bookmark history, culture and activities in each country. I am impressed by members’ passion and effort towards bookmark collecting. These also inspired me to improve my collection by taking reference from them, such as how IFOB members store their bookmarks, how they classify into different levels or categories.
10. What did you do to celebrate World Bookmark Day this year?
I designed a bookmark and brief video to introduce for the 6th World Bookmark Day, through Extraordinary Publications via Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. This designated bookmark will be treated as a gift with each purchase by an online bookstore with a limited quota.
I also contributed to IFOB for World Bookmark Day a free printable bookmark designed by the illustrator Bella Chan, Instagram: @_bea.aaaa. This is a digital painting based on a Sunset photo taken at Cheung Chau, Hong Kong.
Finally, I arranged a live chat to further celebrate the event and chat with anyone who is interested in the bookmarks collection, and promote this interest in Hong Kong. And I hope to raise more awareness to support this activity in the future.
11. Do you collect anything else?
I used to collect the McDonald’s Toys in the past, however, I didn’t collect them for long. Puzzles is another good leisure game. It makes me relax and focus on solving puzzles. But I didn’t collect much as there was limited space, so I only kept those with special designs and with high difficulties.
12. Do you have any advice for those who are just beginning to collect bookmarks?
I would say that when you start to collect bookmarks, record if there is any story about the bookmark, no matter if it's a gift from friends, a souvenir from a tour, or picked up from any exhibition or bookstore. When there is a story embedded into the bookmark, it seems to grant them life.
See "Bookmark Collection Notes": Today, why do we still need bookmarks?" from Orange News for more about Man's collection and a video where she shows more of her collection (text can be translated but not video).
Editor's Note: For World Bookmark Day 2022, we created a new Collection Award to recognize an outstanding collection based on the subject of the collection or the format of materials, whether the collection has been recognized by other organizations, or whether the owner has written about it or promoted it in some other way. The criteria to be considered include:
While I collect any bookmarks in general on a casual basis, I have a very specialized collection of Book Depository bookmarks. I am very passionate about this collection, and in fact I manage a dedicated Facebook page as well as a dedicated Instagram account.
As to why I started specializing in these bookmarks, at first it was just random collecting, but once I started getting close to completing sets, my collector's instinct kicked in and I just wanted to collect as many as possible. Apart from that, I truly liked the designs, especially of the earlier releases. It might sound a bit silly but I also really like double-sided bookmarks, rather than ones with a blank white back. And perhaps more pertinently I enjoy the fact that it is a documented series, with finite sets to collect. As opposed to collecting bookmarks in general, where one can just simply buy readily available sets online - you can virtually never stop collecting those.
With regard to my collection, I now have 199 unique Book Depository bookmarks at the time of writing, going back to 2009 so spanning over a decade. I have fully completed 22 our of 25 known individual sets across these years. The incomplete sets include some of the older ones, namely the My Bookmark Competition set of 2010 (13/20), the Useful Bookmarks set of 2011 (8/14), and the Factmarks set of 2012 (12/14). Needless to say I'd love to complete these sets one day!
Apart from these sets, Book Depository sometimes issues single releases, i.e. standalone bookmarks not part of a set. I have tracked down 13 of these (in my Singles album) - the issue here is that sometimes there are special bookmarks distributed at book fairs around the world, and these are not announced on the Book Depository website/social media like the sets are. Therefore, there is no way of knowing how many have been released of these. Personally I have ones from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Argentina, but I have seen other countries too.
By way of an anecdote of sorts, there was also a 'Golden Bookmark' campaign once - including limited edition bronze, silver and golden bookmarks - but for the life of me I never managed to find any further info or actual photos of these elusive bookmarks.
I have also been in touch with the designers of some of the bookmarks, and managed to obtain signed or even coloured-in copies. Below I am attaching a photo of bookmarks signed by novelist Jasper Fforde (who designed four bookmarks of the 2009 set), and a colouring bookmark signed and coloured-in by its designer Elina Gor (from the second Colouring Bookmark set of 2016).
Recently, I have also had the pleasure of liaising with another designer of one of the bookmarks, Mr Richard Nicholls, who very kindly sent me some signed bookmarks of his:
I have also been in touch with the actual founders of the Book Depository who started the publication of these bookmarks, and who have expressed their delight at seeing the joy these bookmarks were still bringing people (screenshot attached below).
Ms Kate Felton, the wife of one of the Book Depository's co-founders, sent me the below at Christmas time - one of the very first (if not the first) Book Depository bookmarks!
Sharing the Collection
On my Facebook page, which now has around 1000 followers, I display all my collection in distinct photo albums according to sets. I also feature photos of mail calls I receive from fellow bookmark collectors whenever I swap bookmarks. I also provide information whenever Book Depository host any contests, competitions, sales or bookmark releases. The page serves as a community hub for fellow bookmark lovers to arrange swaps among themselves as well. It has been a pleasure watching the page grow and I look forward to nurture it further!
On my Instagram account, which now has over 2000 followers, I opted for a more minimalist look - I upload photos of all my bookmarks against a black backdrop, with information on each and every bookmark once expanded. This way viewers can easily see all the bookmarks at a glance, with further details available should they wish to know which set it belongs to, year of publication, etc. This account has also served to set up bookmark swaps with other collectors from all over the world.
More recently, starting in 2021, I have also been sharing the books I read with my followers, accompanied by a bookmark 'throwback' of sorts. This has allowed me to keep both social media more active, rather than waiting for new sets to be released by Book Depository. I share these posts on both Facebook and Instagram accounts, and include information both on the book and on the bookmark (plus a subjective rating for the book out of 5 stars). As I average one book per week, it helps both communities to remain active.
Managing the Collection
I store my collection in a binder, using custom transparent sleeves to hold 4 bookmarks per page. I have a video showcasing the collection available below - this was back in 2019 so the collection grew significantly since then; I hope to upload an updated video some time soon. I have reason to believe that I have the largest collection of Book Depository bookmarks in the world - perhaps not a monumental feat but one of which I am immensely proud!