Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession by James Ward
I came across a book about stationery products and really enjoyed it. While currently out of print, this 2014 book is still easy to find - I picked up my used hardcover copy for only a few dollars on Amazon. I wanted to share this recommendation. If you haven’t read this book yet, it is well worth a read!
James Ward, an Englishman, wrote the book. The book lists Mr. Ward in the author’s profile as co-founder of the Stationery Club, and his love of stationery products is evident and extremely relatable to those of us that are also passionate about stationery (and if you are reading this review on the internet, you are probably included in this group). From his first recollection of a trip into a small stationery shop and finding old treasures within it (a sort of holy grail store that no longer exists in my area of Canada), he discusses the history and development of some of the less discussed but still essential accoutrements to any stationery-filled desk.
Mr. Ward has a dry sense of humour that found me laughing out loud while reading the book many times - and several disapproving looks from my wife. He delivers the information factually, but his subtle commentary on many stationery stories makes this book a quick and enjoyable read.
As an English author, some of the terminology and branding (Sellotape and Blu-Tack, for example) may not be the same as common North American vernacular. I grew up in England until I was a teenager and found these old reminiscences enjoyable. But I do believe that even if you are not familiar with the English brands and terms referred to in the book, Mr. Ward touches on world-wide brands and explains these areas in sufficient detail that all readers will understand and enjoy them.
The book begins with a discussion of a desk organizer (the *Revolving Desk Tidy*) and the stationery products that fill it, starting with the Gem paperclip. I never knew that the regular, ordinary office paperclip had a name. Mr. Ward touches on the history and evolution of the paperclip to the commercial and often overlooked item that it is today.
From there, the author discusses the history and development of thumbtacks, staples, erasers, postcards, business cards and back-to-school organizers. I had pleasant recollections of my Trapper Keeper from high-school!
The author also covers the more traditional stationery products including pens, paper and pencils, but manages to put an interesting twist on the stories that have been covered in great detail by other, specific product focused books. One such interesting point of view was a chapter with an excellent discussion of chained desk pens (think banks) versus marketing opportunities.
This book is an excellent read for any stationery enthusiast interested in learning more about some of the everyday products on their desks. It is also is a humorous and enjoyable read.
The author writes on his blog I like Boring Things. It is also worth a read.