Reading is an activity that has been practiced throughout history, yet how we engage with texts has evolved significantly over time. From the days of handwritten scrolls to the modern digital age, reading practices have been shaped by the available technology, cultural norms, and individual preferences. One interesting aspect of reading practices is the use of bookmarks, which have undergone numerous transformations and adaptations throughout history. In this essay, we will examine the evolution of reading practices through the lens of bookmarks, with a particular focus on the significance of red bookmarks.
In ancient times, reading was a luxury reserved for the elite few who had access to expensive manuscripts or scrolls. These early readers had to be extremely careful with the texts they read, as they were often one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable. As a result, readers often use various techniques to mark their place in the text without damaging it. Some used small pieces of parchment or silk to indicate their spot, while others relied on physical markers like stones or twigs. As the availability of printed books grew, readers began to use dog-eared pages as a simple and effective way to mark their spots. However, this practice was frowned upon by bookbinders, who saw it as a sign of disrespect for the printed word.
Over time, bookmarks began to evolve into more elaborate and decorative forms. In the 16th and 17th centuries, bookmarks were often made of silk or ribbon and adorned with intricate embroidery or lace. These bookmarks were functional and served as fashion accessories, with readers often coordinating their bookmarks with their outfits or hairstyle. In the 18th century, bookmarks became even more elaborate, with some made of metal or ivory and engraved with intricate designs or personalized inscriptions.
The advent of mass-produced bookmarks in the 19th century marked a turning point in reading practices. Bookmarks became widely available and affordable for the general public for the first time. While early mass-produced bookmarks were plain and simple, they soon began to take on more elaborate designs, often featuring popular images or motifs. In the early 20th century, bookmarks began to be produced in large quantities for promotional purposes. Businesses and organizations printed their logos or messages on bookmarks as a form of advertising.