I recently acquired a volume from the famous Bibliothèque de la Pléiade from an antiquarian bookseller. These volumes always have two fabric bookmarks and as you can see from the image below, the bookmarks in this volume are creased.

spine of a volume of Camus's works lying flat with with a creased yellow bookmark in front of it

I would like to iron the bookmarks but I have no idea what type of fabric Gallimard uses for them. Hence, I don't know at which temperature I can safely iron them. Can anybody give advice?

Update: Since the age of the book may be relevant to the materials used for the bookmark (i.e. synthetic or not), I want to add that the volume in question is Albert Camus: Théâtre - récits - nouvelles, edited by Roger Quilliot. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Gallimard, 1967. (This volume is not to be confused with Théâtre - Récits et nouvelles - Essais in two volumes, published in 1980.)

  • 1
    Wait... what? I don't know if I need to flag or upvote and laugh Sep 3, 2020 at 14:42
  • 1
    @NorthLæraðr The tag physical-books has been around for some time. It just isn't used a lot :-)
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 3, 2020 at 14:44
  • 3
    Well then... upvote and laugh it is Sep 3, 2020 at 15:00

2 Answers 2


I don’t know what fabric the ribbons are made from, but there are a number of precautions you can take to minimise risk of damaging the ribbons:

  • Don’t iron directly onto the fabric, always use an intervening layer of a cotton or linen fabric. This much reduces the risk of melting or scorching the ribbons.

  • Use moist heat. I probably wouldn’t use an iron at all, but a steamer that doesn’t actually need to make contact. I have a couple of different types: this kind intended for cleaning and this kind intended for dewrinkling clothes. (Neither of these is the actual models I have, but you get the idea). The steam will help to relax the creases out of the ribbon better than heat alone, but I would recommend then pressing the ribbon between flat heavy object until fully cooled and not putting between you’d book pages until utterly dry.

  • In the absence of a steamer you can iron the ribbon between dampened cloths.

Needless to say, steam and damp air are no friends to previous editions and you should take steps to adequately protect the book during these operations.

  • I should have added that those bookmarks are just 4 millimetres wide and it seems difficult to get the wrinkles or creases out without pushing with your finger at or near that specific spot. Put the bookmark between two pieces of cloth and you have no idea if you are ironing the wrinkle out or making it worse.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 3, 2020 at 16:24
  • @Tsundoku Lay one cloth down, lay the ribbon down and smooth it with your finger, following closely with the second layer of cloth. By using your other hand or a suitable weight you should be able to keep the ribbon flat. In extremis you can use tacking stitched to secure the ribbon to the base cloth while you labour at flattening it.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 3, 2020 at 16:29
  • Ironing between sheets of paper might also deliver a smoother result and give clearer feedback as to whether you had a twist in the ribbon. Though it may not work as well for moist heat.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 3, 2020 at 16:32

What I have done so far is the following:

  • To be on the safe side, I used the iron at its lowest temperature, which is suitable for synthetic fabrics for synthetic fabrics (even though I doubt that the material is synthetic). This does not lead to a perfectly flat bookmark, but at least it remains flat; the book's gravity (2200 pages of bible paper) can do the rest.
  • I flattened centimetre by centimetre with my fingers, held the fabric in place using the forefinger and middle finger and put the tip of the iron on the piece of fabric between my fingers. The reason for this is that this narrow strip (just 4 millimetres wide) is not simply creased but folded and I want to verify that it remains flat until the iron is actually on it.
  • I did not use steam for two reasons: (1) I'm rather reluctant to use steam near Bible paper, which is extremely thin, and (2) the steam function on my iron no longer works very well.
  • For the part near the spine, I needed to put the book on its spine (between two other objects to hold it in that position) in order to iron the last 1.5 - 2 cms of the bookmark. (This is where steam would be even riskier.)

You can see the result below. It's not perfect, but as I said above, the book's gravity can do the rest.

bookmark with visible creases but without folds, held between the book's spine and an object hidden from view

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