Book Review: In Flagrante Collecto (Caught in the Act of Collecting)

Never throw anything away!

Ah yes, my kind of book and oddly I completely missed it when it came out in 2006. Marilynn Karp has hit on a rich vein of collecting with her book: the stuff we normally just throw away or at least junk when we get tired of it. A couple of really off-the-wall collectable items caught my eye: other folks shopping lists (page 151) and soap shards in a frame (pages 66/67).

Of course, much of the book features plenty of established collectables, like postcards, fruit crate labels, playing cards, political campaign buttons, matchbox labels and the old favorite: stamps. I thought the strength of the book was in picturing throwaway everyday printed ephemera and cheap production items like wire shirt-hangers, skate keys or shoe taps that normally no one would bother to collect. Karp sees keepers of such stuff as true collectors.

As a designer for print I'm into any scrap of paper that has type on it so most of the book is quite fascinating for me, as it shows so mucg printed material. Recently I started to collect the menus from chocolate boxes and after a while, like any collector, I came up with the problem of finding out about the subject. Collect something too obscure and you're the only one doing it so there's no chance to trade or connect with others. You'll know when your collection has `arrived' because Schiffer Books will publish one of their dreadful looking titles on it with the predictable cover line: Includes Price Guide.

An interesting point all the lovely illustrations throw up is that individually so many things do look dull and boring but collect several of them and suddenly they start to look visually quite exciting. Page 204 has some sugar packets, which surely no one would look twice at by themselves but see just ten with their different colored type and graphics and something about them comes alive. Pages 198/199 has several crayon boxes from different companies and they look a treat.

The book's 368 well designed pages are stuffed with a thousand images of throwaway items, all in color and beautifully printed, as one would expect from Abrams. This is one of those books that you can open at any page and be grabbed by what you see. I thought it was a delight!

In Flagrante Collecto (Caught in the Act of Collecting) is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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I fit right in with the book: my meagre collection of chocolate box menus.

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Waxed paper packaging.

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From the collection of Robert G: soap shards mounted and framed.

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An obvious collectable: fruit crate labels.

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Now is your chance to build up the world's biggest collection of shopping lists!

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