Bookends differ in style and functionality, but their most important role is to keep books in the vertical position as firmly as possible. They are in everyday use in libraries, bookstores, and many homes.
Bookends must be tall, sturdy, and heavy enough to support or buttress them when placed at either end of a row of upright books. Heavy bookends are made from wood, bronze, marble, reconstituted stone and even large geodes orspherical to sub-spherical rock structures with an internal cavity lined with mineral materials have all been used for centuries.
The simple sheet metal bookend, originally patented in 1877 by William Stebbins Barnard,uses the weight of the books standing on its foot to clamp the bookend's tall brace against the last book's back; in libraries, simple metal brackets are often used to support the end of a row of books.
Elaborate and decorative bookends are common elements in home décor. People, horses, and pets are commonly featured in bookends, possibly as a symbol of strength to support the books.