Before Bookends

Arts & Crafts Oak Bookstand with Painted Decoration (LEO Design)

Before the Twentieth Century, bookends were not commonplace—in fact, rarely were they needed.  For before World War I, most “ordinary” families owned very few books—perhaps a Bible, a dictionary, some poetry, and the occasional cookery book.  Large collections of books were to be found only in institutional libraries or the homes of very wealthy individuals—people who could afford rooms fitted with shelving to properly house many volumes.  A modest collection of a few reference books might be kept on a bookrack like the one above, usually placed on a desk for easy access to the needed tome.

After World War I and the steady growth of the American middle class, more families could afford (for the first time) to purchase and keep books.  Small libraries could now be found in private, middle class homes.  And, with this increase in book ownership, came the need for bookends and the explosion of a new decorative arts industry.  Thus began the “golden age of bookends”—the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The Arts & Crafts oak bookrack, pictured above, pre-dates this golden age; it is the precursor of the two-piece bookend design as we know it today.  And while decorative, individual bookends are still commonly used today, a bookrack such as this, from an earlier era, is still useful for holding a small collection of books on a desk or credenza.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.