Editor's note: Gaby was chosen by IFOB editors as the first winner of the Asim Maner Award for promoting bookmarks based on her enthusiasm for bookmarks as evident in her profile, and also her contributions to IFOB including help with updating and editing the library, workshop and events pages and additions to the galleries on owls, bookmarks on bookmarks and care of books. She also made a generous donation to IFOB. Thanks and congratulations, Gaby!
Another early bookmark is the one I got from a Japanese penfriend in my early teens. It was a paper bookmark with a ribbon and lots of Japanese writing on it so I had no idea what it was about. The picture showed a highway or something. It was not particularly attractive but a souvenir of a long over friendship that I kept with the letters and everything else my friend sent.
Later on I received more bookmarks from foreign friends, some were bought, some hand-made. I also travelled quite a bit, and when I happened to come across a nice one, I bought it for myself. Then also traveling friends brought some from abroad to add to my “collection”, which I didn’t see as a collection myself, though I thought about the best way to display them, finding it a shame to just keep them closed away. For that purpose I even got myself a book (Karl Heinz Steinbeisser: Lesezeichen sammeln). Later on I had the idea to display them under the glass of my coffee table (as you can read and see in the blog.
Specialties that I like
From all the bookmarks I have, the ones that I treasure most are the ones that have a story to tell: of people who made them or brought them for me, of places where I have been, of things that I have seen or that I love. Here are some examples: I have a bookmark-doll folded of Origami paper which a friend with Japanese origins sent to me.
I also treasure a bookmark made of fine black lace that I got on a holiday in Malta where I saw old women do such intricate lace works. Then there’s a very special bookmark from Lapland made of thick purple felt with a plant stitched on it, it has a leather ribbon with a bead made of reindeer bone or horn.
In my collection are also a few bookmarks from Africa made of different kinds of African wood with cut-out African animals. From Nepal I have a bookmark made of hand-made Nepalese plant paper. It has a drawing of a flower on it and a folded human figure.
In Portugal I found a bookmark made of cork in the shape of a sardine. Georg Hartong, IFOB co-editor, sent me some bookmarks from the Spanish Pyrenees with dried flowers on them. I could go on like this. So in spite of keeping all bookmarks to be able to swap, I have made up my mind to actively collect the following:
In this context I would also like to thank Jeffrey Edel for the lovely wooden bookmarks that Laine sent to me as part of the Asim Maner award. I love the idea that he recycles tiddles and bits and includes them in his works.
There’s another story to tell about a French lady whom I got to know after leaving one of my baskets with bookmarks, as well as a note saying that I am a bookmark collector and would happily welcome every bookmark that someone wants to leave for me. A little later I found a postcard in the free library asking me to get in touch concerning bookmarks. I never managed to reach the person by telephone so I wrote a letter instead which I left in the library. A few weeks later it was gone but I never heard from this person. Then several months later I found another postcard, same handwriting, same request. This time the telephone number worked. It turned out that the lady never found my letter, but thanks to her perseverance we finally met and she gifted me well over 100 new bookmarks and many postcards as well (which I gave away to collector friends). Though she loves to read, she doesn’t collect bookmarks herself, but is just the type of person who picks up things and when she meets the right person she gives them away. What an idea! We have since stayed in touch, even exchanged presents, I gave her a handmade bookmark, and she gave me a handmade bookend in the shape of a cat!
I got to know Asim after I had been reading an article about bookmarks called "Fascinating Bookmarks" in the German magazine “Flow” (special edition about books). The author had interviewed Asim and there was a reference to the IFOB website which I looked up out of interest. I liked the page and though I did not call myself a collector then, I thought I could let the webmaster know that. I got an instant very friendly reply from Asim and since then we stayed in touch. I became a member of IFOB, Asim wrote a blog about my coffee-table, I helped with some requests, participated in the raffle. He really had a way of sweeping people along, without ever pushing. Anyway since then I decided to call myself a collector and (re)started to collect more actively. Even when he was on holiday he answered IFOB-related messages, and when a few days later I got to know from his daughter that he had died. I was so shocked that I stopped looking at my bookmarks and didn’t return to the IFOB website for ages. I really admired Laine when she decided to take up the job as editor, with all the incredible work it involves. Regina from Lithuania with whom I was in contact at that time, helped me to make up my mind to continue collecting and I am pleased now that I finally returned to my passion. Not only for winning the award 😉 that Laine and Georg so kindly offered to me. Thank you once again for this honour!
This post begins a new feature to profile IFOB members. We learn more about Debrah who was last year's runner up for the Woboda raffle. Thank you, Debrah for sharing your bookmark stories. If you would like to be "interviewed" for a profile, please contact the IFOB editor. We are interested in all of our members!
Tell us about yourself – where you are from, your occupation, etc.
I was born in 1955 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and from the age of 7 lived and revelled in Sydney's Northern Beaches, living mainly in beachside Warriewood, until age 19 when I departed for my first adventure overseas to the UK, Europe and the Middle East, including living and working for 6 months on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. My subsequent overseas travel has been overland through many countries of Asia, two subsequent trips to India, and most recently, two trips to the west coast of the USA, both inspired by SoulCollage® of which I am a Trained Facilitator. I have also travelled extensively in my homeland of Australia and I have lived in four Australian states (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia) and the Australian Capital Territory, for varying periods of time. I currently live in the beautiful Camden Haven area on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales.
I have an undergraduate honours degree in Information Science (B. App. Sci. Info.) from the University of Technology, Sydney (1990) followed by a 17-year management career in information services and libraries, in both the private and public sectors.
Sixteen years ago, after intensive training and practice I became an accredited Yoga Teacher and taught yoga for many years, sometimes solely and sometimes while also working another job.
I am now retired from full-time mainstream work and yoga teaching, but I continue to facilitate SoulCollage from time-to-time through SoulLight Collage and spend, my now more available time, on my various hobbies and projects, including family history.
How did you start collecting bookmarks? Do you remember your first bookmark?
I have been a keen collector of bookmarks from about the 1970s - at first serendipitously or by accident, and then more intentionally! One day I simply realised I had amassed numerous bookmarks, especially ones from bookstores, art galleries and museums and that I wanted to treat them with the respect they deserved! So, I started to focus more on them and to better manage and preserve them. I then started to intentionally look out for and collect bookmarks to add to my collection. I also started to research bookmark collecting and the history of bookmarks. This led me to some wonderful websites, especially the Mirage Bookmark website and its links and ultimately to connections with bookmark collectors all over the world.
Do you have any favorite types or special emphasis in your collection?
I enjoy collecting all bookmark genres, but my favourite genre is bookshop (bookstore) bookmarks, that is, bookmarks promoting bookshops, the ones they give you for free with your purchase(s) or even for just being a browser in their shop. I also enjoy collecting Book Depository (the online bookseller) bookmarks and have managed to complete a couple of sets and almost complete others. I also love bookmarks from libraries, art galleries and museums. In regard to format, I prefer collecting paper/cardboard bookmarks, but I do have some plastic, metal, wooden, leather and cloth bookmarks in my collection.
Here are a few of my most favourite bookshop bookmarks from my collection:
How do you acquire your bookmarks?
The bookmarks in my collection are (1) ones I have freely and personally gathered from bookshops, libraries, museums and other places and events in Australia and overseas; (2) ones I have discovered left in some of the used books I have purchased; (3) ones I have found left abandoned in libraries and library books I have borrowed; (4) ones I have chanced upon in a variety of weird, wacky and wonderful places; (5) commercial ones that I have purchased from bookshops and elsewhere; and (6) ones I have received through swaps with other bookmark collectors around the world. More recently, some of my bookmarks have been gifted to me from family and friends here in Australia and overseas. Certainly, I find that many of my bookmarks, especially those I have personally collected, are enduring and treasured mementos of favourite bookshops, books, places, people and events in my life. My other bookmarks, the ones that have been donated to me or swapped with me, have been sources of learning as they have initiated my research into where they are from or what they are about. (Yes, I am a bit of an information / research junkie)!
What has been your experience in using the IFOB Swap List?
Totally positive! It is a wonderful service! I have thoroughly enjoyed swapping bookmarks with fellow collectors from all over the world. I also get contacted by people for swaps via my Mark My Place website, but it is also great to be listed on the IFOB Swap List.
What do you enjoy about IFOB? Anything you would like to see IFOB do in the future?
I enjoy everything about it! The community of collectors, the information on the website and its links to more information, the articles, the Swap List, the aim to increase public awareness of bookmarks, and World Bookmark Day! IFOB is already doing a lot of great things and I hope it continues to exist into the future.
Do you have any plans to celebrate World Bookmark Day next time?
Most definitely! I will be participating in the events offered by IFOB, including the bookmark raffle. I also plan on mounting a Bookmark Collecting / World Bookmark Day display at my local public library and giving a free public talk on bookmark collecting at the same venue. It is a large and busy public library and I am sure it will generate some interest. I will be talking with the library manager and am hopeful of gaining her support and permission for this to go ahead.
Do you collect anything else?
I have been an avid reader since childhood and an enthusiastic book collector since my early teens. Collecting books and bookmarks goes hand-in-hand really! Now I have thousands of both! In addition, I collect other book ephemera such as bookshop business cards and postcards. I am also interested in bookplates and bookends, but I only collect those virtually on Pinterest!
Outside of book, bookmarks and other book related items, I collect postage stamps on women that fit with my project theme of “ I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! Women’s Suffrage, Women’s Rights, Equality and Liberation: A Postal Herstory to 2015”. This is a huge project which I have been doing since the mid 1980s and am hoping to bring to culmination in the next couple of years. My plan is to eventually donate the several large stamp albums to a relevant women’s organisation and to share the whole project with the world via a website which I will create.
Anything else you would like to share?
To me, bookmarks, in addition to their function of marking the place one is up to in a book, are small works of art and beauty or whimsy and many of them share inspirational, important and educational messages in a compact, effective and meaningful way. Part of me loves, enjoys and relishes this hobby of bookmark collecting and part of me thinks it is dorky, nerdy and a bit of a waste of time! The first part wins out though, by far! Like all people who have the collection bug, whatever it is they may collect, there is no point trying to rationalise, explain or justify it. I have decided to just enjoy it and to share some (but not all) of my bookmarks with interested people via my Mark My Place website and blog.
I also collect (pin) bookmarks of all kinds on Pinterest. As of August 2018, I have almost 16,000 bookmarks, of all kinds, pinned on my board and nearly 3,000 followers, many of whom have re-pinned my pins. There are clearly lots of bookmark fans out there!
Finally, I can’t end this profile without sharing the front and back images of two favourite Aussie (Australian) publisher bookmarks from my collection.
With the kind permission of The Bookmark Society's Joint Editor, Sylvia Bunting, here is the lovely tribute that appeared in the printed July 2017 Issue 28 of TBS News:
Those who have had contact with Asim Maner in one of his many roles, will be sorry to hear that he died unexpectedly a few weeks ago The bookmark world will miss him greatly.
Asim's primary business, under the name of Mirage, was the manufacturer of bookmarks--striking designs in etched metal and in card. Members will recall the 25th anniversary bookmark which he created for T B S last year. But bookmarks were far more than a business to him. He researched and produced both a book on early French bookmarks and a scholarly article tracing the earliest known bookmarks, from the binding of early codices in the first few centuries CE, to mediaeval bookmarks pre-1500.
The article was published via IFOB, yet another brainchild of Asim's. Realising the lack of a truly international gathering point for those interested in collecting or handling bookmarks, he created the website-based International Friends of Bookmarks. Here there are facilities to showcase, discuss and swap bookmarks, and this was the springboard from which he instituted the first International Bookmark Day in February. The Bookmark Society also benefited from the publicity and contact links on the IFOB website.
Asim was enthusiastic, creative and scrupulous in acknowledging those who helped him. He spread not only information but enthusiasm. We do not know as yet how much of his work can be carried on, but what he has already put in place constitutes a unique contribution to our awareness of bookmarks.
We send our sympathy to Asim's wife Effi and to his family.
Collection of well over 1000 bookmarks including both simple modern publishers’ advertising bookmarks and more valuable vintage items, some silk and woven (mainly from 1895 – 1940), from many countries, (United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria) in very good condition. A few can be viewed on the Mirage Bookmark site but note those that have already been sold (those not sold are included). Asim’s family is also happy for anyone interested and able to come and view the collection personally. They would like to sell the collection as a whole, rather than individual items or batches. The family is willing to receive offers for the collection, and have set the end of September as a preliminary deadline. Shipping costs and payment method will depend on the buyer's location and type of packaging needed. Contact email address: maner [at] gmx.ch with questions or to make an offer.
by Laine Farley
There are many reasons why someone may consider retiring a bookmark collection, even one that has been lovingly developed over a long period of time. As people change their circumstances, it may no longer be possible to sustain and store a collection, or perhaps the urge to collect simply wanes over time. Another common reason is that the collection is inherited from a relative and the person who becomes responsible for it does not wish to continue the collection. Here are some initial considerations for what to do with a collection. We would like to hear your thoughts and experiences as well, and eventually we will turn this into an article.
First, the decision to sell or donate it must be addressed. This course is not an all or nothing one, however. It may be reasonable to keep some parts of the collection, sell especially valuable or noteworthy items, and donate the rest. Each collection is unique as are owners’ motivations.
If you want to sell it:
- Whole collection: depending on the size, you might want to offer it to an auction site if it is large and significant enough to warrant their attention. Auction houses that deal in paper ephemera might be good candidates. Ephemera dealers are another possible source.
- Batches: Sometimes collections are broken up and sold in batches on sites like eBay or Etsy. These batches can be grouped thematically (e.g., similar material, subject matter, age). There are agents or “valets” who will handle sales for you and they take a percentage of the sales price. Again, looking for someone who knows or deals in ephemera would be a starting point.
- Individual bookmarks: If you have pieces that are especially rare or valuable, it could be worth it to offer them separately. Similarly, an agent could handle it but you might have a better sense of relative value or what you would consider the minimum acceptable price which should be made clear to an agent.
- Whatever method you choose, it is probably a good idea to have some kind of intermediary rather than trying to sell it directly. This arrangement protects both you and the buyer. The International Friends of Bookmarks (IFOB) members are an audience that would probably like to know about the collection, but IFOB is not really set up to be a site for selling.
If you want to donate it:
Some libraries specialize in collecting ephemera, and there are even a few that have bookmark collections such as the University of Iowa. If your collection has many items from a particular area (businesses, bookstores, museums, etc.), it may be possible that a local library or historical museum would be interested. People often assume that the largest libraries like New York Public or even Library of Congress (or national libraries in other countries) are the best choices, but they get so many donations that they may not be. It could be better to find a library with an interest in the type of collection, a local interest, or some other tie. If it is important to you that your collection be exhibited, a smaller library or museum is more likely to do so.
In preparing to contact institutions who might take the collection, consider the following steps:
1. How much: Count the collection or at least have an estimated number of items. The next best approach is to have a description of the extent, e.g., the number of boxes, binders or whatever they are stored in.
2. Context: Make a list of any publications or descriptions or even your own notes about the collection. Have you ever exhibited it, have articles been written about it by you or others, have you ever made a presentation about it? Anything that showcases the collection, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will be of interest to the institution.
3. About the collector: Compile a biography of the collector. Libraries and museums want to provide context for the collection and provenance or history of its development. Anything you can say about how you started the collection, how you went about adding to it, any special interests, would be good additions. If you write this up, also consider sending it to IFOB since we like to publish short articles about collectors and their collections.
4. Photos: provide a set of any images you have on a storage device (e.g., USB drive, CD, etc.) that you can give to the institution. You might also take a few photos of groups or types as another way to give a sense of the size and scope. If you have posted photos to any sort of social media site, provide access to that if possible.
5. References: Other collectors could probably look at photos or other materials and be able to say more about the quality of the collection in a letter of reference. If you have ever talked about or exhibited the collection, whoever sponsored it would be a good reference.
6. Agreement: Libraries and museums will have their own agreements for accepting donations, but you can think about the terms you want as well. Is there anything related to the collections for which you want to claim copyright (e.g., articles, images)? Do you want to impose any conditions on use of the collection in publications by others? Do you want to require that it be exhibited in a certain way or frequency? What kind of credit or recognition do you wish to receive? To what extent are you willing to negotiate any of these requests if they are not part of the standard agreement?
Libraries and museums will be more willing to consider collections that complement those they already have, but also if the collections are organized, stored in reasonably good condition, and documented. The cost to them is in the processing. Usually they will create a "finding aid" which is a high level description of the collection and the collector. Here is an example for the collection of Don Baldwin at the University of Iowa. For important collections, they will go into more detail and describe the contents of each container. Here is an example of the collection of Frank X. Roberts whose collection includes his poetry and other writings, plus some materials from his wife. They must also put the collection into acid free boxes, sleeves, or binders, another expense. It's not required but they very much appreciate donations to cover at least some of these costs.
Finally, there is the issue of transporting the collection, whether you choose to sell or donate it. Of course, the best option is to transport it in person to ensure that it reaches its destination without damage. If this method is not practical, at a minimum the transport should be tracked through postal or delivery services, and possibly insured. The packaging will depend on the nature of the collection, and it may be advisable to break it up into several packages. There are many other considerations for transporting it that will be specific to the situation.
Whatever you choose to do with your collection, the most important thing is meeting your own goals for how you would like to retire the collection or its components. Whether you wish to preserve it as a collection to be studied and exhibited, make it available to other collectors, benefit from the sale, or simply get rid of it in the most expeditious way possible, there is no single or “right” way to bring your collection to a close.
Please do share your experiences and thoughts about this stage of collecting.
Our new member Gaby Dondlinger from Luxembourg is not only an avid bookmark collector, but she is also the inventor of a new type of bookmark exhibition, the so called "coffee table exhibition". She has sent us some pictures to let us see her idea of displaying her most precious bookmarks which were given her as gifts by friends and family or she brought home from foreign countries. "I keep them under the glass of my coffee table, so I can look at them every day," as she puts it.
I must say I was totally surprised by her pictures because I had never seen such a storage and display method yet though some of the collector colleagues has written various articles about how to store and display bookmarks. It will be interesting to know about the history of this table later.
"Since I was young I have been attracted by bookmarks, not as an expert collector, but rather as a random buyer and keeper of bookmarks," says Gaby about her collecting passion. "I like bookmarks from different countries which show the speciality or the character of a country, be it by the material, the symbols, or the way it is made."
Bookmarks from different countries on display in the coffee table exhibition of Gaby: Folded paper bookmarks from Japan, and an Edelweiss bookmark from Austria.
Black lace bookmark from Malta, bookmark handwoven and stitched in blue and white from Wisconsin, USA, purple felt bookmark from Lapland.
Other bookmarks from foreign countries, top and below.
by Asim Maner, January 2017
by Matt Gilbert (reposted from richlyevocative.net)
During a recent spot of tidying at home, I came across a box containing my childhood collection of bookmarks.
When I was growing up my parents were second-hand booksellers in Bristol. One exciting perk, or by-product of this for me as a kid, was finding all kinds of bookmarks that previous readers had left behind in many of the books Mum and Dad bought, which I was allowed to keep. Very occasionally you’d also find paper money hidden within the pages of books too, but this I wasn’t allowed to keep.
Sifting through some of the bookmarks, it was interesting to note a few themes or threads.
Judging by the numbers produced (many more than shown here) Insurance companies appear to have been big on bookmarks.
The likes of Scottish Widows, Royal Exchange and Northern Assurance once appeared to commission a lot of commercial artists to illustrate their own branded bookmarks. I suppose it makes sense for an industry that spends much of its time reminding people to renew or change policies to print these reminders on objects devoted to the very purpose of remembering.
I particularly like the Northern Assurance series of city and townscape panoramas – including London and Aldeburgh in Suffolk.
Animals and scenes and subjects from nature also feature on many of the bookmarks – I seem to have had a thing for birds – the box contained quite a few bookmarks with illustrations of real birds along with various others – including Puffin of course – used to promote books and reading.
Some of the most interesting and funny bookmarks I’d collected are old public service messages and adverts, with their now almost comically stilted sounding phrasing and matter of fact declarations of quality, or finger wagging warnings and informative notices.
Amongst the ads, pens, cigars and cigarettes figure prominently – I’d guess that this is because their shape is perfect for reproduction on a bookmark.
My favourite is a bookmark extolling the virtues of bus travel: TAKE IT EASY. TAKE A BUS. Clearly produced in an age before Mrs. Thatcher made her infamous (albeit possibly apocryphal) declaration that: “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.” – although the illustration on the bus bookmark shows a rather self-satisfied looking woman, (looking not unlike Margaret Thatcher funnily enough), who’s delighted to have nabbed herself one of the cool seats upstairs at the back.
There are also a few here with an esoteric theme – this was my Dad’s specialist area so there are some bookmarks featuring the likes of Madame Blavatsky, promoting Occult bookshops or histories of The Rosicrucians.
Naturally many bookmarks feature writers and poets, alongside the bookshops that sold their work. I was sad to note that all of the Bristol based ones I found now no longer exist. I can remember what an incredible, eye-widening treasure house George’s Children’s department used to be. This is described on their bookmark as having “the largest stock of books in the West for children of all ages”. Take that Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and South Wales.
I hope you enjoy taking a look at some of these as much as I once enjoyed collecting them.
by Regina Mačiulytė
We are glad to hear Regina Mačiulytė’s story about her bookmark collection. Regina wrote to me not long ago and asked to exchange bookmarks. She sent some from her country but also some made from her photographs which were very beautiful and interesting. Making photographs into bookmarks is a good way to exchange with others and show interesting sites from your location that would not be available otherwise. Regina has a good eye for photography! Let’s hear more about how she got started.
- Laine Farley, August 2016
THE STORY OF MY BOOKMARK COLLECTION
I want to share the story of my bookmark collection with my collector colleagues from the IFOB and elsewhere. I started collecting bookmarks 3-4 years ago. I thought that I could collect them and it could be like my hobby and passion. Though I am collecting bookmarks for a few years only, there are some older bookmarks in my bookmarks box. My oldest bookmarks date from 2004 and they are handmade by a colleague of my mother who produced them as a paper collage. At that time, this lady was sick and wanted to do something that made her feel good. She thought that those bookmarks would make nice gifts for herself and for other people she knew.
At that time, as I received those bookmarks from the colleague of my mother I was very happy and I had the first time the idea of collecting bookmarks. However, it took several years before I really started to collect bookmarks. My father helped me very much with my hobby as he was traveling a lot. He would always come back home from another country with some bookmarks for me.
I also collect postcards from other places by sending and receiving postcards to other collectors. Some of these postcard collectors who I even don't know personally don't use or collect bookmarks, and as they heard that I collect also bookmarks they helped me by giving or sending me bookmarks as a gift. Also family members, friends and other people who knew that I collect bookmarks kept giving me bookmarks which they collected for me from different places.
At the beginning I thought that I am the only person who collects bookmarks. Later, I found out that I was not alone as a bookmark collector, moreover that there were many other people who also like to collect bookmarks as I do. That gave me the opportunity to swap bookmarks with collectors from other countries and to enlarge my collection.
I also like to make bookmarks by myself. I love photography and my father suggested that I could make possibly nice bookmarks with my photos. So I started producing bookmarks in cooperation with a publisher in 2015. Now, if I am about to take a picture I always think if this would make a nice bookmark.
Getting more and more a serious bookmark collector and producer, I started to visit book fairs. In Vilnius, the capital of my country Lithuania, every February there is a very good book fair where I can collect bookmarks for free, and some publishers even allow to take not one or two bookmarks only, but many. Thus I come back home from the book fair often with 60-80 new bookmarks for my collection. Many of them are doubles to be used for swapping with my bookmark friends in many different countries. This year, I visited also the book fair in Riga, Latvia our neighbour country, in February and could collect bookmarks there as well.
In my collection, the biggest number of bookmarks are from Lithuania. Second country is Poland, where my father goes visiting every year. I have about 2800 bookmarks from 51 countries at the moment. It's amazing how fast my collection grows. Almost every day, I can add new bookmarks to my collection with a little help of my collector and swap colleagues. It's a very pleasant and fulfilling experience to make friends over the country borders with people who I even do not know in person.
In November 2015 I made a very first exhibition of my bookmark collection in Panevezys, Lithuania. This year I had two exhibitions in my city Siauliai, Lithuania. Maybe next week there will be a third exhibition in the botanical gardens of the Siauliai University. A fourth exhibition is planned in the school I have attended earlier. My exhibitions awoke the interest of some local newspapers and they wrote about me and my passion – collecting bookmarks.
Gangadharan from India has joined us recently and he has a lot to tell already about his bookmarks he is collecting since 2008. He has been registered by the India Book of Records with his collection of 2000 bookmarks in June 2012. Well, from a European point of view it doesn't seem to be an exciting news to have over 2000 bookmarks in one's collection today. Quite a few collectors do have several thousand bookmarks as we know. However, this may reflect a different situation in India, maybe due to a lower presence of bookmarks in this country.
The newspaper Deccan Herald has written an interesting article about Gangadharan and his 'unusual' hobby of collecting bookmarks back in 2012. We are displaying a photo of the article for our readers so that they can enjoy it.
Reading the article, once again some differences to Europe and the western world can be detected. For instance, the statement: "Traditional methods of reading are passe." and "This is an electronic world and reading is limited to old-timers." Possibly, this is showing us that electronic reading devices such as ebooks. tablets, or smart phones do enjoy a high popularity in India which are associated with being up-to-date. However, here in Europe and in North America there is no evidence that reading is losing any attractivity. On the contrary, every year more books are published and thinking of the huge and increasing number of young bloggers who write about their reading experience and book reviews, there can be no worry at all about the future of traditional reading.
“A gentleman and a scholar”—this phrase always comes to mind when I think of fellow collector Don Baldwin although he would surely disavow both terms in his eminently modest way. I first “met” Don in 2009 when he sent a comment about an article on bookmarks I had written for the “On Marking Books” column at the web site BiblioBuffet. He offered to send an example from his collection of a bookmark that was similar to those I had written about, and he also complimented me and editor Lauren Roberts for our contributions to bookmark lore. That little exchange was so typical of Don: always generous with his knowledge, his collection, and his compliments.
Christmas Elf bookmark from the collection of Don Baldwin
As readers of this website know, there are not many of us bookmark collectors, and even in the United States, I know of a dozen at most, so it was thrilling to find a fellow enthusiast. Little did I know that he was probably the most experienced collector among us, as well as one of the most ardent. His daughter, Tama Baldwin, later described him as an inveterate collector who “spent over a half a century collecting, and he collected broadly as well across many types and many centuries.” At the time, Lauren and I, and another collector in Santa Barbara, CA, Alan Irwin, began planning a virtual convention for bookmark collectors, so we asked Don if he would like to participate. His presentation was marvelous and that’s when I realized what a treasure he was for all bookmark collectors.
During the next couple of years after the virtual convention, Don found other ways to showcase his collection and share his knowledge. He was thrilled to have a display at the Iowa City Public Library in 2011. Alas, the newspaper article with photographs is no longer available although there is still a brief mention of the exhibit from the library’s site.
Don also worked on photographing and putting his collection online on Flickr as well as writing a blog. He would write to me every so often about something he noticed in one of my articles and he would always rather sheepishly say that he was still learning how to make better photographs or write more interesting articles. He was well into his 80s by then, so the fact that he was learning all of this technology was impressive, and he really did a great job in spite of his self criticism. His Flickr pages are still visible although it appears that his blog has been removed.
Bookmarks from the collection of Don Baldwin
Don’s generosity was so natural and impressive, especially in this day and age. He would often send me images of bookmarks related to my columns, and once he asked if I would like to have some articles he had collected. That offer resulted in a large envelope of hard-to-find articles from antiques and crafts publications along with some back issues to fill in the few bookmark periodicals that exist. For one column, I interviewed a young woman who was just starting to collect who mentioned she liked bookstore bookmarks, especially those from chain bookstores. Don volunteered to send her a large sample from his collection. Don took great pleasure in paying it forward to other collectors.
I didn’t hear from Don for a while and then in December, 2013, I got a message from his daughter Tama telling me that he had passed away in October of that year. She wanted to know if Lauren and I could help her find a home for his wonderful collection. Indeed, he continued collecting up until his very last days with her helping him review eBay listings while he was in the hospital. She said that Don wanted to keep the collection together and donate it to a library or museum that would be interested in displaying it. As she put it:
“The point I am making is that I am motivated in large part because he cared very dearly about the collection and wished very much for it to have a home where others might come to enjoy it. The show he had at the public library really pleased a lot of people - many of whom have no idea about the history of the bookmark as a physical object. My husband and I also attended a talk he gave on the history of the bookmark and it was nothing less than a marvel to listen to him talk - he helped people fall in love with what he loved.”
Stitched Victorian bookmarks from the collection of Don Baldwin
I had done a little research and thinking about what to do with my own collection, so we exchanged information, and I checked with several colleagues to see where there might be interest—the Smithsonian, New York Public Library, University of Virginia, San Francisco Public Library. Sometimes the largest libraries are the least likely to want this type of collection, although they are often the first ones approached on the assumption that bigger libraries will be preferable. Previously, I had tried to find any library that seemed to have a special interest in bookmarks or even other printed ephemera but had not found too many likely candidates. Then by coincidence, I met a young woman at a library conference who was an archivist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City where Don lived. I mentioned this situation to her and she immediately lit up with interest. I put her in touch with Tama, but then didn’t hear anything further. To help Tama with her pursuit, I gave her a few suggestions that might be useful to others who are thinking of donating their collections.
A group of vintage metal bookmarks with short, open page clips, collection of Don Baldwin
Libraries will be more willing to consider collections that complement those they already have, but also if the collections are organized, stored in reasonably good conditions, and documented. The cost to them is in the processing. Usually they will create a "finding aid" which is a high level description of the collection and the collector. For important collections, they will go into more detail and describe the contents of each container. They must also put the collection into acid free boxes, sleeves, or binders, another expense. It's not required but they very much appreciate donations to cover at least some of these costs.
Much to my delight, I got a message from Tama on February 20, 2016 saying that she had donated the collection to the University of Iowa’s Special Collections. She said, “They are in the process of building a state of the art museum for displays and they say they will eventually exhibit Don's collection. They really wanted everything he collected and they wanted it in exactly the state it was in when he died, right down to his notes and correspondence.” I just checked and found they have already created a rudimentary finding aid or description of the collection : Don Baldwin Bookmark Collection guide. If they process it further, they will add more detail to this description.
Fortunately, Don’s passion, hard work, and generosity, as well as his superb collection, will live on, protected by a library and maybe one day joined by other bookmark collections. To learn more about Don’s characteristics as a gentleman a scholar, see this loving tribute to his life.