From the moment I walk through automatic doors of the antique mall, my senses stir causing my insides to rumble and I’m relieved to see restrooms nearby.  This usually happens when I enter a Hallmark store, seeing too many cards of different varieties in one setting. But today, I’m looking at 55,000 square feet of antique heaven. It’s enough stimulation to keep me regular for days.  

As I begin strolling through long narrow aisles, I’m greeted by the vintage woman I’d seen propped on the front end of a red ’57 Chevy when I entered the store. She introduces herself as “Mae” and offers directions for maneuvering through the traffic of patrons searching for the ultimate antique shopping adventure. “You’ll see street signs at each of the intersections,” she says. “Pay attention to those, or you may never find your way out.”

She wasn’t joking. Yet somewhere within this vast treasure trove, I’m bound to find the one thing that brought me here. A perfect set of vintage bookends. 

An hour passes as I’m distracted by thousands of items salvaged and repurposed. Like me, they want to reinvent themselves, to be valued for their age and wisdom, and not passed over for something shiny and new. Buried somewhere among antique roll top desks, Victorian mahogany clocks, and pin-up retro posters, is a set of bookends screaming out over this crowd of crazies to be rescued. Most bookends I find are too tall with a cheap appearance. I’m looking for simple yet elegant. Classic and timeless. 

Rounding the corner at the intersection of Main Street and Thomas, I finally see it. One perfect bookend, high on a shelf next to a few weathered books resting on their spines like fallen dominoes. Heavy cast metal vintage. Simple and elegant. 

I reach for the bookend and on the inside is a label: “Scholar.” A quick Google search shows this bookend was created in 1925, the year my dad was born. He might have been a scholar had he been given the chance. One of the most honest and intelligent men I’ve known, he fought for his country and worked hard until his death. Yet “Scholar” would not be engraved on his headstone. 

Etsy says the bookends feature an embossed “Scribe” versus “Scholar.” Taking a closer look, I see a man kneeling on one knee with a document resting on the other. Google’s historical definition for “scribe” is a person employed to copy documents before printing was invented. But what caught my eye was the general definition for scribe: “one who writes.” 

That’s me. One who writes. 

I must have these bookends. 

Engraved on the back of the bookend is SNEAD & CO Jersey City, N.J. Patent Pending. With some more internet digging, I learn a little history behind the inventor. Snead & Co. Iron Works began in Louisville KY in 1851 and Jersey City NJ in 1898. The company developed and manufactured the library stack system leading to the American System of Libraries used in the Library of Congress and Harvard University. Who would’ve known?

So, what is Patent Pending? Investopedia says it’s a term used by inventors to let the public know they’ve filed a patent application with the relevant patent and trademark authority. In other words, a patent was applied for but hasn’t been granted. What are they waiting for? It’s been 97 years since this invention. 

The bookend is about 4¼ inches tall, 4 inches wide, nearly two inches deep, and weighs a pound and a half. Perfect size. Not too pretentious. Aesthetically pleasing to the eyes even though there is some wear to the bronze. I’m told the bookends have not been cleaned so as not to disturb the patina, a brown film on the surface of bronze or similar metals, produced by oxidation over a long period. I later learn a magnet will stick to the metal, although I’m not sure I’ll be decorating my bookend with magnets. 

On tiptoes, I look for the other bookend so I can make my purchase. It isn’t there. I scan nearby shelves and search behind dusty old books. Nothing. I ask the vendor. He knows nothing of its whereabouts. 

Was it destroyed by fire? Or separated from its mate as the result of a broken relationship? Did someone buy only one bookend, leaving this one behind? I can only speculate. 

Soon I realize this single, vintage bookend is just right for me. A single, vintage woman who doesn’t depend on another. One pillar of strength, supporting the books she loves. 

Author: Leslie J. Cox

Leslie Cox is a writer of creative non-fiction, focusing on personal essay and memoir. Her essay “My Favorite Chair” was a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest, and she published two essays in “Her Vase” in 2020. Her essay "Distracted" appeared in the Pure Slush anthology: "Love, Lifespan," and she has enjoyed contributing to guest blogs and book reviews. Prior to semi-retiring from health care administration in 2019, Leslie wrote and published trade articles and a guidebook for health care professionals for HCPro. When she’s not writing, Leslie tutors students K-12 in the craft of writing, and that fills her up!

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