According to The World of Bookmarks, the web's largest bookmark information database, the bookmark may date back as far as when we were writing everything on scrolls, but the earliest known bookmarks came into use during medieval times. These ancient markers, used as a method of keeping illuminated manuscripts from being dog-eared or damaged by their readers, were usually made of cord or parchment strips. They were also physically attached to the book itself so they could be used by anyone who read the book.
It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that bookmarks won their independence and became separate objects from the book, and promptly became collectibles. These early bookmarks were made of thick paper (often used as advertising space by various businesses) and also woven in silk, or handmade by the ladies to show off small watercolors and even needlepoint.
Today the humble bookmark continues to evolve from its practical beginnings into new and interesting forms, often with multiple functions. Here are just a few examples of the new generation of megamarks:
German publisher teNeues offers Booknotes, bookmarks with lined space on the back to make notes ($6.95 online.) They also have packs of twelve designed bookmarks like these, each with the month's calendar at the top (I found the latter at BAM for $3.99 for a pack of twelve, and these are definitely nice.)
A few years ago Pixar came out with a collectible bookmark incorporating a strip of film from their animated movie Cars (still available art B&N.com; $4.95.)
The LightWedge reading light marks and illuminates the page you're reading ($34.95 Amazon.com.)
Mark-My-Time digital bookmarks allow you to time how long your child (or you) spend reading ($8.95 at Target and most chain booksellers.)
The Original Book Buddy by Amanda Crawford Designs is a reading pillow (page holder and book marker) that comes with an acrylic desktop that turns it into a lap desk. Several pretty designs available ($29.95 online)
Oxford Pagemark Dictionary by Franklin Electronics not only holds your place, but features an ultra-thin dictionary with more than 145,000 words, phrases and definitions with American and British spelling; a calculator, games, vocab builder and a clock to check local and world times. All it doesn't do is read the book for you ($59.95 at Franklin, $39.95 at B&N.com)
Look, it's a book holder, it's a book stand, it's a bookmark . . . no, it's all three: Paperbax ($9.95 online.)
Even the Supreme Court Historical Society sells a pretty nifty bookmark/booklight combo: Robot Book Light ($8.95 online)
The UltraOptix Handi-Lens Magnifier Bookmark marks your page and magnifies the text for you ($1.95 Amazon.com.)
This Weighted Bookmark holds your book open and flat for easy, hands-free reading ($9.50 Amazon.com.)
I have a full basket of bookmarks in my office because I tend to misplace them once I've finished reading. Among them are signed bookmarks other authors have given me, along with a few that I've found in used books. I also have a small but lovely collection of bookmarks my daughter has made for me over the years.
I'm curious: what are you guys using right now to mark your place in the book you're reading? Do you have a favorite bookmark or megamark, or will any strip of paper or other material do?