Thursday, April 18, 2013

Frugality, quality, artistry - in books and everything else



Good morning everyone,

I hope you are well.  We've had a lot of rain! Things are greening up. I hope your garden is doing well too.

I've just finished reading an Agatha Christie mystery titled The Seven Dials Mystery.

I'm a great fan of Agatha Christie. She understood people, there's a lot of humour and social insight in her characters, and as for plots, well, there are a lot of story lines that she wrote first. The Seven Dials Mystery  is a whacking good story!

It is the actual, physical copy of the book that I want to comment on here, however.

The edition I have is Penguin's 1948 edition of her 1929 work.  The paper looks like newsprint.  The pages are thin; when I turn them and two stick together I can see the print from the next page ghosting through. The page cuts are imperfect: the text is printed so close to the outside margins of the page that sometimes a cut has sliced through the outermost letters. The print on the page is not exactly square to the cut pages; I'll attribute that to the cutting, not the typesetter. 

The paper is low quality, probably because in 1949 England was still under "restrictions" as to how materials were used, and how much was used.  This was a carry over from World War II; restrictions on goods continued into 1953 or 1954.

My 1949 Seven Dials Mystery may have continued intact because the book hasn't had hard use.  Beyond that, its pages are intact because the pages were sewn in, not glued.  There was a quality production method used.  I'll choose to think that it was because the publisher knew its readers wanted a product that would last. 

Further - and to my complete delight - this book must be part of a special edition series.  The cover is a marbled green and black paper, with coordinating green binding tape.  The title and author's name are in embossed gold print - all capitals - on the spine.  I don't know if the series was just Agatha Christie's stories, or if it was a series of Penguin favorites. 

I do know why I'm writing about this pocket book.

It's because it's an example of using resources available as frugally as possible, and including artistry in the work.  It's making something to last, putting in quality.  Penguin books have a long history of bringing a wide range of topics to readers at a price they could afford.  

I think that, now and even more in future, we are going to have to combine frugality, quality, and artistry in products ... because we won't be having as many of them, as easily and ubiquitously available and we will need to craft our opportunities for delight.

There's my little speech for the day.  And if you haven't read any Agatha Christie mysteries, put her on your reading list. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was her first, of 85!

Best regards!

Why's Woman

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