Sunday, 26 April 2015

Adventures in Stationery, by James Ward. Book Review.



Adventures in Stationery

A Journey Through Your Pencil Case

By James Ward

Profile Books, Ltd. 2014

£12.99 Hardback, £8.99 Paperback (2015)

ISBN 978 1846686153

Star rating: ****




“It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the history of stationery is the history of human civilisation.”

- James Ward, Adventures in Stationery


It is National Stationery Week (27 April – 3 May), an appropriate moment to review James Ward’s fun and fascinating appreciation, Adventures in Stationery. And, with perfect timing, this title is now out in paperback. 


The book is an enthusiastic, quirky, and very personal history of stationery staples (in both the figurative and literal senses). Cleverly  designed with illustrations and pics interspersed throughout, this title is a treat. It traces the evolution of stationery basics – paper, pens, pencils, erasers, paperclips    consumables and gadgets. It shares the eureka moments and serendipitous discoveries that led to the development of now-familiar stationery items, such as the Post-It Note, Blu-Tack, and the stapler. Spoiler alert: the distinctive, flat and stubby design of the Stabilo Boss highlighter came about by accident. (I would have thought that the design team would automatically hit upon the idea of a flat marker that wouldn’t roll away...).


This book provides plenty of pub quiz factoids (Mike Nesmith of the Monkees’ mother inventing typewriter correction fluid – a full recount of the story) – but that is not the point. The author is sharing his obsession with both like-minded aficionados and the curious casual reader. Packed with anecdotes, personal stationery-based recollections, and cultural references, the book is a well-written and entertaining read. From a design standpoint, the observations are sharp and insightful. 


There are chapters on desk tidies, postcards, school stationery items, filing cabinets, and more. There’s a chapter on tapes and adhesives. (I was surprised by the omission of frosted Magic Tape, a very useful product you can write on it, it can be removed from paper without tearing).


The final chapter deals with the role of stationery in the digital age. (Do you use digital sticky notes on your comp?).


Adventures in Stationery is an erudite but accessible nerdfest. The title speaks the truth. Boring it is not.


James Ward’s blog is, I Like Boring Things

Oh yes, this year marks the launch of World Stationery Day

#WorldStationeryDay

This book review has been posted on the very lovely Make it in Design blog.