Every Book(mark) Has a Story: Mementos and Personal Ephemera

Many of the items James Flowers discovered were probably not meant to communicate but instead to serve as reminders, solely for the individuals who left them behind. These mementos and personal ephemera include bookmarks, cards, clippings, recipes, tickets, receipts, and more. The level of significance these items held to their original owners is unknown, but it is plausible that many of the materials found in this section held some personal meaning as they represent a variety of people, places, events, and customs.


Perhaps the least surprising type of ephemera found in returned library books are bookmarks. The bookmarks found in this collection include educational and informational bookmarks, religious bookmarks, handmade bookmarks, bookmarks from bookstores, libraries, and other businesses, and even metal bookmarks. An argument could be made that any object found within the pages of a book is functionally a bookmark, but from their format it is clear these objects were made for the purpose of marking a reader’s place.


Likely often used as impromptu bookmarks, many types of cards were also found between the pages. These include various playing cards, note cards, forms, exhibit cards, informational cards, blank postcards and greeting cards, and prayer cards.

Receipts and Tickets

Reminders in the form of receipts and ticket stubs were commonly left among the book pages. Tickets and ticket stubs have long been a popular type of ephemera to collect due to their small size and great personal significance. Tickets from movies, concerts, and sporting events, as well as other records like boarding passes, invoices, and receipts represent not just proof of purchase, but also unique experiences.

Clippings and Loose Pages

Clippings are physically cut or torn pages from printed materials, often newspapers, magazines, or other publications. Types of clippings found in the James Flowers Collection include editorials, columns, articles, obituaries, and photographs from newspapers, loose or torn pages from books, schedules, and cropped portions of informational text.


Handwritten recipes were also discovered within returned books. Whether these recipes were original concoctions or copied from another source is unknown, but we can appreciate their qualities without more context. While the recipes for blackberry punch and grape wine found in the James Flowers Collection seem quite palatable, the recipe for hatching brine shrimp is quite the opposite. Commonly bred as filter feeders or food for other aquatic life, this is one recipe not intended for human consumption.

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