A found bookmark Arte

Louis Porter
6 May 2022

A found bookmark is a facsimile edition of a bookmark and the pages it was discovered between at The London Library.

Since 2014 I have used the London Library – one of the world’s largest subscription libraries – as a site for artistic research, contemplation and production. Almost one million books are housed on open access shelves organised alphabetically by subject, allowing for a form of literary Dérive.

During my wanderings I occasionally encounter a bookmark, most are simple scraps of paper with little or nothing on them. Occasionally, one will reveal something about a previous reader: a receipt for a meal a ticket stub, a list of items to be purchased or tasks to perform. Rarer still are those which form little bridges between myself, the book and this unknown reader and for a moment, on discovering the bookmark, I feel in a way I know this person.

These ones I keep.

This edition produced for and with Chiquita Room is an attempt to share that moment of connection. This particular bookmark was found in a copy of The New Theories of Matter and the Atom by Alfred Berthoud under Chemistry, inside the densely packed shelves of the Science and Miscellaneous section. On a sheet of paper carefully removed from a lined notebook, a reader has neatly written – beginning with Avogadro’s number – a series of aide memoire on the fundamentals of matter. This marker represents then a point of departure, but its presence between the pages of the book suggest the reader’s journey – though begun in earnest – may have been short lived and in that it also indicates a journey’s end. The tenacious desire to turn to books, to leave them unfinished, unread or misunderstood, is an act that has no digital correlate. No amount of unread PDFs or hastily bookmarked websites for self-enlightenment can simulate the intimacy of a fleeting encounter with a book. These digital surrogates are hollow performances, unrequited loves or furtive glances.

A bookmark not only indicates a place in a book, it represents a pause, the moment when the connection between a book and its reader was broken. The conditions of this suspension are unknown, but its intimacy lingers.