Book-ends are about things in pairs…and I do love ‘two’ of things. I love to find frames that match, or andirons for fireplaces, or two vases to flank a fireplace mantel. Two-volume sets are wonderful, and there are many at the inn. Maybe it’s when I’ve found two of something old it’s just that much cooler that both survived time, and both are together. And so it is with bookends. They’re gorgeous and so much fun to add to collections of old books.
A bit of book-end background courtesy of Google….
Given the age of these books from the Tennyson Suite, they may have originally been stored horizontally like this….
Bookends have very practical beginnings, and originally kept people from getting hit on the head. During medieval times, books were really only found in monasteries and a few other scholarly locations, and were often chained in lecterns and read on slanted surfaces – no bookends there. Around the end of the Renaissance, books began to be readily available to the masses. Before books became more regular in size, a small pile of books might be stacked flat, or horizontally; but as the quantity of books increased, forming mountains of books didn’t seem to make much sense. Shelves and book chests came into use; eventually books began to be stored vertically by the end of the 16th century. As libraries and collectors formed categorical systems for arranging books, and shelves grew taller and more accommodating, bookends became a means for keeping books neatly vertical on an otherwise unfilled shelf. Bookends of sufficient weight would keep the shelved books safely in place and reduce book avalanches, making vertical book storage and the use of bookends a definite improvement over horizontally stacked book mountains.
I walked through the inn and found these fantastic examples from various bookshelves, mantels and desks:
This bookend above is from the bookshelves in the Browning Suite. Love this.
This recently acquired pair is Longfellow himself – difficult to see here but his name is engraved at the base.
“My library was dukedom large enough.” Shakespeare. Oh my….
And this lovely gem is one of a pair on the mantel in the Jane Austen Suite.
These are truly beautiful details. They’re generally found in lot boxes at auctions, or at local antiques shops in Stillwater. They’re beautiful anywhere: bookshelves, mantels, side tables or desks. They can hold up your cookbooks on your counter, or the CD’s in your family room. We have old book-ends and new ones, very functional basic black ones for the extra-large volumes, and the richly ornate examples you see here. I hope you’ll notice other beautiful examples of these when you’re perusing the bookshelves, table tops or mantels next time you’re at the Rivertown Inn. And I’m pretty sure there will be no books falling on your head – we have that covered. Beautifully.