People who say things like, “Whoa, they must have been so high when they made that,” whenever they see something even slightly strange are the same people who think that water doesn’t taste like anything.
These images show unusual bookmarks from medieval and early-modern times. They are made of stuff that was simply laying around: a leaf from a tree (now hardened), a pin used for fixing clothes, and a piece of straw picked up from the ground. I love these bookmarks for two reasons. One is that they are showing how practical readers half a millennium ago were. Need a little something to mark where you stopped reading? Just stretch out your arm and grab something - as we would today. The other reason why I love it when I encounter things like this in premodern books is the sheer contrast the make-shift bookmarks create: precious old books are not supposed to be filled with pieces of plant and metal! And yet they are. Even more so, while they are perhaps alien objects to our modern eyes, they have become historical: a dried leaf has turned into an object that needs to be catalogued simply because it is found stuck in between 500-year-old pages. Lucky bookmark.
Pics: the leaf I encountered in an incunable in Zutphen’s chained library called De Librije (pic my own); the pin I saw in a document kept in Maastricht, Regional Archives, Collection 18.A Box 834 (pic my own); the straw is from Auckland Libraries, MS G. 185 (pic from this blog).