Another 20 Books of Summer book (intro post here) and my sixth of the project; although this is the last one I’ll review this month, I’m reading my seventh at the moment, so on track for 20 in 3 months (though July is going to be a little challenging!)

This was my other Christmas present from Gill from 2020 (along with “Black, Listed”) and also finishes off my 2020 acquisitions in the main sequence that aren’t books I’m going to read along with Emma (all clear?!).

James Ward – “Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case”

(25 December 2020 – from Gill)

I’d never heard of the brand until I found an old box in a shop in Worcester Park. Why should I care about their history? But the more I thought about Velos [who made the first item he discusses], the more I thought about other companies. I thought about companies I’d never even heard of. If there was Velos, who else was out there? This, in its own small way, is part of our cultural heritage and names that were once well known have disappeared, barely leaving any sign that they existed in the first place. Which names, familiar to us today, will fade into obscurity tomorrow? But more than that, I thought about people. The people behind these objects that we take for granted. The names behind the brand names. Their lives, their histories. Who were they? What were their stories? I wanted to find out. (p. 21)

James Ward is co-founder of something called The Stationery Club in London and in this fun and very detailed book, he takes his knowledge of stationery, does even more research, and presents us with all he knows about a range of stationery topics. He starts off with a desk tidy he finds in his boyhood stationery shop, deciding to research it and other desktop items. We look at pens, pencils, erasers, staplers … and other more esoteric items such as those little tiny pens and pencils you get from Argos, betting shops and IKEA (to be fair, this is quite a short chapter). Filing cabinets are included, which don’t exactly fit into your pencil case, but we’ll forgive him that for his enthusiasm on the subject.

I learned lots from this book – for example, I hadn’t realised that the US and UK had different pencil-hardness describing systems, although once I saw a few quotations, I realised I had seen US authors talking about number 3 pencils rather than 2B, etc. It was good to see my city of Birmingham mentioned in the section on pen nibs, and there’s still a lovely Pen Museum you can visit here where you get to make your own nib! And did you know Thoreau’s role in the development of the pencil? What about the fact that there’s an ISO standard for the holes punched by a hole punch?

This is not a book for the casual reader – it goes into depth and down rabbit holes. It’s nicely done and there’s enough detail for anyone, I think. Good stuff!

This was book number 6 in my 20 Books of Summer 2022!

This was also TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 3 Book 13/41 – 28 to go and a photo of a much smaller batch of books to be taken soon!