I’ll start this post with a confession, I am guilty. 100% guilty. Guilty of being an absolute stationery addict – I geek out over a new color highlighter, a unused pristine notebook, when I discovered washi tape I thought my life was complete. . . but just don’t get me started on fountain pens, because I’ll never stop.
I’m not sure where my fascination with stationery started, school lists perhaps? But now I guess I’m one of those who like to think that a new notebook might just be the start of that great unwritten novel. Perhaps an unhealthy interest in stationery no longer need be embarrassing . . . .
When a friend loaned me James Ward’s Adventures in Stationery I was enthralled. I have dived in and out of this book over the longest time – I really should have returned it months ago, its one I’m not sure if I could read cover to cover but being able to dip in and out, devouring a chapter at a time was utterly refreshing.
I have subscribed to Ward’s blog ( https://iamjamesward.com/ ) and must admit would love to attend his annual Boring conference ( https://boringconference.com/ ) He promotes his collection of boring ( book / blog / podcast / events / conference ) as a”a celebration of the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked” – sounds so banal, but its got me well and truly hooked.
Ward’s writing is elegant, he writes in an understated way with just a dash of very dry humor thrown in for good measure – the books tone is just light enough to be entertaining. Its funny, charming and far more interesting that I was expecting and I was expecting a lot.
Each chapter tells the history of one type of stationery; the pencil, the pen, erasers, filing products, journals. . . and tells it in great detail. Who knew the minutiae of the development of iconic brands ( too name just a fraction; Parker, Moleskine, UHU, Tipp Ex, Stabilo, Sellotape ) could be so utterly fascinating. Throughout Ward provides a collection of interesting facts that will cause you to stop and think, to perhaps reassess your perceptions, well maybe not that deeply – but they will provide a good hearty chuckle.
The only thing I would suggest might trouble some readers is the overtly British sections, there are few but they could be totally un-relatable which might put a reader off, for me it was the icing on the cake – having spent a portion of my childhood at school in the UK I found the mention of the Berol handwriting pen brought back so many fond memories I spent a good hour trawling through the WHSmith website.
Wards conclusion is an interesting piece about the need for stationery in a technological age and the crossover that exists between pen & paper and the digital world – he argues that we still need the personal touch of a handwritten letter, a jotted post-it note and even a paper clipped file. So, If you’re a stationery addict, or if you live with a stationery addict then this book is for you – get amongst it.
As an aside, in his introduction Ward mentions Present and Correct; https://www.presentandcorrect.com/ “the most wonderful stationery shop in London” I am absolutely obsessed with their aesthetic, their product and their customer service. If you have ever wanted to purchase the quirkiest most unusual, most perfect stationery gift then look no further.