Sad Souvenirs: Defunct Bookshops’ Bookmarks

I’m a dedicated bookmark user and probably have at least 120–150 that I rotate through, matching marker to book subject matter or reading location whenever possible. A sorry subset of my collection commemorates bookshops (secondhand and/or new stock) that no longer exist. I was a customer at a couple of these, but only know of the others through bookmarks that I found at random, e.g. in secondhand purchases from other stores. Through Google Earth, I tracked down what you’ll find where these shops used to be.


Shops I visited:


Déjà Vu Books (Bowie, Maryland)

This was my local secondhand bookshop when I was a teenager. I would wheedle occasional visits out of my mother until my friends and I got our driving licenses and could go by ourselves. My friend Rachael and I would stop there after karate on a Saturday morning.

What I remember purchasing there: A near-complete set of Dickens’s works, blue/green cloth hardbacks, early 20th century, for $30; an Agatha Christie omnibus I gave to my mother.

What it is now: Chi Bella Natural Hair Boutique


Water Lane Book Shop (Salisbury, England)

My husband is a Hampshire lad. Salisbury was a relatively nearby town we would explore when I went to visit him while we were dating or engaged. An average daytrip would include touring the cathedral, having tea at the Polly Tearooms, and – in a waterside location just along from the cathedral square – having a nose through the well-stocked shelves of this compact shop.

What I remember purchasing there: Lots of my secondhand David Lodge paperbacks.

What it is now: A private residence (it had just sold as of Streetview in June 2018)


Others I only learned about through their orphan bookmarks:


Barnwood Books (Hagerstown, Maryland)

The bookmark looks old enough that I had to ask myself whether the shop might have been supplanted by Wonder Book & Video, a small chain I first discovered as a young teen. It has branches in Frederick (where I went to college; I worked there part-time in my senior year) and Hagerstown, and most recently opened in Gaithersburg. At the least, Wonder Book probably absorbed their stock when they closed.

What it is now: An empty storefront between a gastropub and a home fashions store (as of October 2019)


The Book Mark (Toronto, Canada)

I found this bookmark inside a secondhand book I bought from the Frederick Wonder Book & Video. I assumed the shop was still extant, but I checked in with Marcie (Buried in Print) and she sent me an article explaining that it was priced out of the neighbourhood and closed in 2012. It had been the oldest independent bookstore in Toronto. (This article gives more information.)

What it is now: Nails on Bloor, a nails and waxing parlour


Paperback Exchange (Hereford, England)

I can’t recall where I found this bookmark, but I wish a shop with this policy still existed! From the reverse: “The Paperback Exchange system: up to HALF the purchase price of books bought from us, against further purchases; up to a QUARTER on good quality paperbacks bought elsewhere.”

What it is now: On the June 2018 Streetview, it’s either the closed-down charity shop or the school uniform shop.


A nice postscript:


Royal Oak Bookshop (Front Royal, Virginia)

The bookmark I found in a used book looked so old I wasn’t sure if the shop would still exist. I was going to include it in the post as one of the defunct ones. But just to be sure, I decided to try hunting it down through the website…






Do you commemorate any deceased bookshops through their memorabilia?

43 responses

  1. I too have a fine collection of bookmarks, but it doesn’t grow any larger really, because of my ability to lose them regularly- presumably by leaving them in library books. And I certainly am not organised enough to match book to bookmark. That sound quite fun though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our library has a sad little basket of items people have left in library books (mostly bookmarks). I would be distraught to lose a few of my favourites, e.g. the leather ones from Hay-on-Wye or the one my aunt wove on her loom.

      I once wrote a whole article on bookmarks for a defunct web magazine. I’ll see if I can resurrect it with fresh photos.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh do. That sounds fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A nice post. I just went through my bookmarks tin and have few from bookshops but loads from art galleries, they are a typical souvenir for me when exiting via the gift shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of a dedicated tin. I keep mine in a pile in my bedside drawer. About 70 are in books at the moment, and the drawer stack still seems pretty full, so the collection probably numbers more like 150 — I’ll have to count them sometime.

      I agree a bookmark makes the perfect cheap souvenir. The most recent one I remember getting is from the Van Gogh museum.


      1. It sits on the bottom shelf of my bedside table. I also use some old opera tickets of my late mum’s as treasured bookmarks.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post. I have a raft of bookmarks from American bookshop indulgences, from a very posh one in Telluride to San Franciso’s City Lights. My favourite for a long time was one from Mono Lake in California. They remind me of holidays when I use them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of my bookshop bookmarks are from Wonder Book in the States or the Hay-on-Wye shops. I like pairing an American bookmark with a New York City setting, or a local book with my West Berkshire Museum leather bookmark. My proudest recent pairing was a San Francisco bookmark (with a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge) that a friend brought back for me as a souvenir with Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Couldn’t be more perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love bookmarks and the memories they come with! I don’t have many from bookshops, but for some reason I really love buying them in museum gift shops (and pens too!), usually because the artwork tends to be quite pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I particularly love the two I have from the Van Gogh museum. They tend to be about the cheapest souvenirs in a gift shop!

      I also get a lot of bookmarks for free from the library through their annual displays for various literary prizes and commemorative months.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How weird, I was also considering a post along these lines as I know I have a handful of bookmarks from shops sadly no longer with us (including the much missed Borders which I used to haunt when I lived in Bristol, and many more in the city which were put out of business by the big chains like Waterstone’s and Blackwell’s).

    In fact the subject of bookmarks seems to be a popular topic for my posts, I notice:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you tried to come up with a term for the collecting of bookmarks 🙂 I’d be keen to hear about the other bookshops people remember and mourn.


      1. In Bristol’s Whiteladies Road the Clifton Bookshop went out of business sometime around 2000.

        A mile away near the University in Park Street there used be
        1. the long established George’s Bookshop, which was taken over by Blackwell’s, who then gave up their premises for a Jamie Oliver eaterie, which is now defunct;
        2. the independent outlet Chapter & Verse which was put out of business by Waterstone’s undercutting them;
        3. Pied Piper bookshop (same reason as Chapter & Verse);
        4. Waterstone’s, which had at the time three outlets in Bristol, then during the rise of e-books reduced to just one outlet way off in Bristol’s main shopping area, their Park Street premises becoming a music shop (now itself defunct).

        Now there at least is left an Oxfam bookshop selling secondhand items and The Last Bookshop, selling books as new at £3 or less. All this rapid change in the last quarter century to so…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t know Bristol itself well; we have friends there but they live in the Stapleton area and sometimes when we visit them we don’t even make it into the town centre. Oxfam is always worth a look, and I like the sound of the cheap remainders shop too. I love poking around charity shops. We had a couple in Newbury that were especially good for 3/£1 bargains on books, but they have closed since I moved here in 2016. When lockdown ends I will look forward to browsing again.


  6. What a lovely post Rebecca! And how nice to have that bookshop email you. My daughter is obsessed with making bookmarks so that’s where most of mine come from these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, that’s sweet. One of my favourites is one my mother embroidered for me with a puffin on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is lovely! I have a box that originally contained Turkish Delight with mine in – mainly Persphone bookmarks or postcards people have sent to me in books or outside books. They used to be in a pile but the cats are chewers …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a nice way to store them. Do they even smell a bit sweet? 🙂 I have one Persephone bookmark that I found in another secondhand book.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hon, I can’t quite place where Deja Vu Books was. And I apologize for not remembering the Christie omnibus you gave me. Please help me out.

    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Before the road pattern changed up there, it was roughly across the street from the vet’s office and the pizza place where Trish worked.

      It was a hardback with a yellow dustjacket that had about four of her novels in it, including Death on the Nile. I’m not sure if we kept it when you moved — you’d probably read them all. ________________________________


  9. This struck many chords with me, as I have so many ancient bookshop bookmarks scattered round the house. And mention of Salisbury took me right back to when I worked there many moons ago and the place was bulging with wonderful bookmarks…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always been fond of Salisbury, preferring daytrips there even though Winchester was technically closer for us. We last went in 2017 to see the Terry Pratchett exhibit at the town museum and the Christmas decorations at Mompesson House.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I didn’t realize Déjà Vu Books had gone out of business! That was such a wonderful little shop. I miss stopping there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How perfect that you saw this post in which I mention you! I don’t think it stayed in business for very long past our high school years. It’s such a shame as it was the only secondhand bookshop in Bowie that I know of (the antique shops in Old Bowie sold some books, but most were overpriced, and I’m not sure if there are any thrift stores left).


  11. Love this post! I have a stack of rotating bookmarks on my bedside shelf, some from bookshops or places I’ve visited (Grand Canyon), but I also have some I’ve found and kept from donated books at the library – one of the Aztec site Chichen Itza, someplace I’ve not been yet! I didn’t really start collecting bookmarks until a few years ago but already my stack is pretty large. If we ever get to travel again (please!) I intend to grow my bookshop bookmark collection by leaps and bounds! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found a lot of bookmarks in library books and secondhand purchases over the years, including to places I’ll probably never go in India and South America! I like to think of the journeys books and bookmarks have made.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. If it makes you feel better Tasmania still has a lot of bookshops open and thriving. My local indie in Hobart just turned 101 years old this week. A wonderful place. Fullers Bookstore Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear! I’m reading a novel with a Tasmania setting at the moment: The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan.


  13. I hope we can still be friends when you discover that I don’t use bookmarks but instead fold the corners of the page.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yipes! If I repeat my mantra, maybe I can remain calm: your books, your rules; your books, your rules. 😉 (What about library books, though?)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Relax, I use my borrowing slip as my bookmark for library books. 😊


  14. Oh, this is so bittersweet! Nails on Bloor 😦 but how amazing that Royal Oak is still trading!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That two of them are now beauty salons made me roll my eyes. People have their priorities all wrong!

      Of course, U.S. states being huge, Front Royal is still over 1.5 hours from your folks’, and not super convenient for anywhere I’d be visiting, either. But I’d still like to go now 🙂


  15. I love this post. (And I’m so glad that I was able to help, in a small way.) You’ve made me wonder whether I do have any of that sort of bookmark in my (ridiculously abundant) collection. Mostly I’ve found that kind of marker in a second-hand purchase and, so, if I’ve let go of that book, I’ve felt like it should travel with the book. It sounds like you’ve taken out the ones that you’ve found, for the most part, other than the Dickens set and the omnibus, and no longer necessarily know where they “belonged”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true, I tend to detach the bookmarks from their vehicle and reuse them, with the exception of a thrift store copy of Michael Cunningham’s book on Provincetown, in which I found a bookmark from a Provincetown bookshop and the receipt — it felt like those should stay! I’ve also left in some random objects I’ve found being used as bookmarks, such as a hatpin in a 1920s copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love this! I love finding things in my second-hand books. I probably do have a few in my bookmark collection. What a good idea to find out what they are now. Although, also sad.

    The library has a huge collection of bookmarks left in returned books by accident, kept in case the readers came in to retrieve them. But that so rarely happens that we now just have a huge collection.

    It was so sad to hear about The Book Mark in TO closing down. We have a Bookmark in Halifax and Charlottetown that are still going! (Not connected to the one in TO)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My library has a little basket of abandoned bookmarks, too. I wonder how many of them ever get retrieved. I have actually added to it ones I don’t want anymore!

      Have you been able to visit a bookstore in the past year? I have ordered from a few but not gone in person.


      1. We are able to here because our case numbers remain low, but we don’t have any indie book shops right in my town. We did have a used one, but it burnt down in the Fall. 😦
        I have ordered a few times since Covid directly from the publishers!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. A bookshop fire? That is a true tragedy!

      I’ve ordered direct from publishers a few times in the past year as well. It feels good to support them in that way (and you get great books out of it, too).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was devastating. They also carried a lot of local art. It hurts me to think about what was lost. But they are starting over, and have already received so many book donations from the community that they have run out of storage space!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s so sweet. Book lovers can achieve a lot when they band together!


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