What links ‘weis’, ‘regal’, ‘herculean reversible’ and ‘owl’ or, for that matter, ‘caoutchouc’, ‘hevea’, ‘olli’ and ‘kik’? If you’ve already cried out ‘paperclips’ and ‘substances used to make erasers’ you’ll probably enjoy Adventures in Stationery, James Ward’s debut, for the satisfaction of having your impressive knowledge of the history and development of stationery confirmed. Ward delves into his pencil case to consider items we rarely stop to appreciate. Nestling next to fountain pens, Tipp-Ex and humble pencils (we prefer a Rexel HB in the office, while I made notes for this review using a BIC MatiC 0.7mm – needs must) are some of the grand curiosities of the stationery world: the Pilot FriXion, UHU Endfest 2-K Epoxidharzkleber, Parva Products’ Combination Letter Weigher & Ruler. Ward surveys them all with dry wit. His is a particular passion. He’s the man behind the Boring Conference, which describes itself as a ‘celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked’. Stationery may be an ostensibly unexciting subject; Ward’s talent is to infuse these topics with crafty humour and brio, without sacrificing detail.
He begins with his Velos 1377 Revolving Desk Tidy, which he found in a local stationery shop. ‘It was covered in dust. It didn’t look like anyone had picked it up for years … I had to own it.’ The paperclips with which he filled it prompt a discussion of