Schott’s Miscellanies

My apologies if you’ve heard this story before.

Schott’s Original Miscellany began life as a Christmas card. While working as a freelance photographer (you can see my portfolio here) I sent my clients an annual festive card … to remind them that I was alive. Because they were cheaper to print, these cards tended to be graphic rather than photographic – like the one shown on the left.

In 2003, I decided to create a little booklet of information of use to photographers, designers, and picture editors. Included were essential data on film stocks, lighting temperatures, cropping specs, chemical formulae, and the like.

To make this somewhat dry content a little more palatable, I added a host of curiosities: the kind of information at the back of our minds and on the tips of our tongue —  like wine bottle sizes and unusual phobias.

On my way to pitch this Christmas card idea to a large advertising agency (WPP), I was waylaid by an old friend (Martin) who persuaded me to turn the card into a book.

After some months in the British Library (Humanities 2, mainly), I had researched, written, and typeset (using Quark XPress) 160 pages. I managed to persuade The Pear Tree Press (the one in Stevenage, not the one in Jamaica) to print 50 hard-back copies.

On the advice of another friend (Elinor), I sent one of these books to Nigel Newton, the head of Bloomsbury Publishing (the Harry Potter people). Nigel loved it, a contract was signed, and the book was in the shops just in time for Christmas 2002.

Things began to get a little crazy when, without warning, The Guardian devoted the cover of G2 to the Miscellany and, amazingly, declared the book “the publishing sensation of the year.”

For more information on the books, click on one of the right-hand side links.

The scraperboard art for all four Miscellanies (as well as a number of American and German variations) was created by Alison Lang.


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Praise for the Miscellanies

Bless you for Schott’s Original Miscellany!
– Stephen Fry
Originality is like charisma. It’s hard to define, but we know it when we find it … Schott’s Original Miscellany is without doubt the oddest, and possibly the merriest, title you will come across in a long day’s march through the shimmering desert of contemporary publishing.
– Robert McCrum, The Observer
This bizarre little book manages to be both totally useless and nearly indispensable.
The Daily Telegraph
Stands out for its intelligent comic absurdity.
– The Financial Times
Pointedly pointless, intentionally aimless and endlessly entertaining.
– New York Times · USA
Somehow Mr Schott turns a collection of trivia into a window on the world that is hilarious, puzzling, and inspiring
– The Wall Street Journal
If we live in an information age, then Ben Schott has become something of a maestro, or perhaps a master chef, ranging over the whole of knowledge and seasoning his … books with a pinch of this, a drop of that.
– The Chicago Sun-Times
Everybody needs this book. It’s like a book-shaped Swiss army knife.
– Die Welt · Germany
There’s no doubt that this is a very strange book written by a very special mind.
– Die Zeit · Germany
Schott, the veritable god of small things.
– Vogue · Germany
Intelligent entertainment at a high level, timed perfectly for out post-modern, deconstructed, and overall scatterbrained time of age.
– Politiken · Denmark
This ‘pocket brain’ is a book that can never be read in one sitting, and can never be put away.
– Metro · Czechoslovakia
Entertaining, funny, and delicate.
– El Pais · Spain
A crazy and brilliant rabble, with encyclopaedic and maniacal precision … vital and insignificant.
– Corriere della Serra · Italy