Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012...12:58 pm
Mark(er)s in Books
A recent acquisition from Leo Cadogan Rare Books of London continues a Houghton Library tradition that was articulated by Roger Stoddard’s Marks in Books Illustrated and Explained and published by the Library in 1985. Stoddard’s exhibition catalogue demonstrates the value of evidentiary traces of use that can survive in books and tell us about their readers and their interactions with the text. Such traces are not always physical marks in books, however. The Library’s recent acquisition of Jean Croiset’s La dévotion au Sacre Coeur de Notre-Seigneur Jesus-Christ (Paris, 1741) was, in fact, never actually marked by a reader but it still contains a handmade bookmark fashioned by a devotee for the book. A tiny embroidered heart-shaped cushion of green silk with five ribbons of different colors, as well as one ribbon bound to the textblock, indicates how a reader could mark her place through the various sections of the book or might allow different readers to use the book at the same time.
Devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity and has a long tradition, fostered by the Jesuits, beginning with Croiset. It gained considerable strength following the visions of the nun Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (1647-1690); this volume includes a brief life of her. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
When the item was received by Houghton Library, two of the five ribbons had already detached from the heart-shaped cushion. Given its fragility, it was decided to store the bookmark separately from the book. Doing so will allow researchers to access both items safely.
The bookmark is stored in a simple enclosure amended with Volara foam and polyethylene straps. The foam provides the depth needed to ensure that the heart-shaped cushion will not be crushed while in storage. Polyethylene straps keep the five ribbons stationary, preventing movement and abrasion which would accelerate deterioration and breaking of the fragile silk.
A larger box will accommodate both the book as well as the bookmark in its enclosure. This will ensure that these two items remain associated in the future.
[Thanks to Carie McGinnis (Preservation Librarian and Registrar), Laura Larkin (Lake Conservator), and William Stoneman (Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library) for contributing this post.]