Duck Duck Book

42 – humble masterpieces
02.7.2007, 12:01 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

Humble masterpieces : everyday marvels of design / Paola Antonelli ; photographs by Francesco Mosto.
New York : ReganBooks, c2005.
[MCL call number: 745.209 A634h 2005; six copies, no holds]

If you would be interested to know who invented the metal cap that graces bottles of beer the world over, if you have wondered why marbles are called that even though they’re made of glass, or if you would like to learn more about the various inventors responsible for the incandescent light bulb, Humble Masterpieces may be just the book you need. Each of the one hundred entries displays an artistic photograph of the design marvel on the left-hand page, with information about its inventor, the date of its invention, and a brief, chatty essay on the right-hand page.  It’s nice to leaf through — you’ll certianly pick up a few facts you can bring out at your next cocktail party — but each essay is so neccesarily short that readers seeking a complex understanding may be left feeling unfilfilled. 

The marvelous objects seem to be arranged in no particular order, and short of flipping through the pages, the only way to find a particular one is to consult the chronological index at the back of the book.  This lack of access points (as we call them in the library trade) is frustrating, but since the book is so breezy, it’s not a serious complaint.  After all, if you absolutely needed a complete and thorough examination of all the gritty details about the design and invention of the post-it note, dominoes, the spark plug, or stainless steel soap, you would be reading some other book.  This one is really just for fun.

[thanks, Karen]


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