Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Near Miss Collectible

Sometimes, it's only when a set of books are seen together that they become more interesting. You could argue that the best and most obvious example of what I mean by that are Penguins, not particularly exciting as individual titles but seen en masse they become suddenly a design icon, a piece of social history, a 'set' of books to be collected...

I had a couple of these books (above) as a child, inherited from my parents' childhood bookshelves, and ever since I've been seeing them in almost every secondhand bookshop in the land. They were published by Associated Newspapers Ltd (i.e. The Daily Mail etc.) and a more or less worthless. However, when six of them came out of a box together the other day I was struck by how very nearly they manage to miss being more interesting than they are! In theory they should have a lot going for them, they have attractive decorated boards, good full-page, full colour illustrations by good illustrators and, most of all, they have the uniformity of design which can inspire collectors. But they still miss the mark, and mainly it's down to their poor production quality. The cloth covering the boards if prone to fade to beige at the spines and the soft paper is like a petri dish for foxing. All in all, they are sadly, destined to languish forever in that hinterland of secondhand books worth a couple of quid each (if you're lucky).

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