A good book can enrich a mind, spur a life-changing epiphany, or transport a reader to a minutely detailed universe hatched from an author’s imagination. A good pair of bookends can’t promise all that, but they can sure add a lot of character to a room. Bookends are like punctuation marks on a shelf, proclaiming the importance their owners place on the tomes in between.

Many antique and vintage bookends share a key trait—they're heavy, often made of weighty materials such as wrought iron, ceramic, carved stone, or cast metal. Solid bronze bookends are especially popular and collectible, sometimes resembling small, paired pieces of sculpture rather than utilitarian devices to keep books from sliding off a shelf.

Bronze was a favorite material of Art Deco-era artists and designers, who used everything from female nudes to reproductions of Rodin’s “Thinker” for bookends. From the 1920s through the 1950s, a New Jersey company called Marion Bronze, as well as its predecessor, Pompeian Bronze, was famous for its painted bronze bookends.

Of the ceramic bookends, collectible examples include pieces by Roseville and Rookwood in the United States, and Clarice Cliff and PenDelfin in the U.K. The Roseville bookends from the 1930s shaped like open books, with a pine bough and cone propping open the “book,” are particularly prized.

Metal bookends ranged from hammered copper pieces made by Roycroft craftsmen during the Arts and Crafts period to cast brass animal figures. Then there were the stone bookends, which were sometimes paired with metals (bronze and marble was a typical combination in the 1920 and ’30s) or used solo—onyx and alabaster are just two examples of stones favored by artisans from Mexico to Asia.

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