Het boek van PTT

The book that I chose for this assignment is “Het boek van PTT”, by Piet Zwart. After walking around the special collections room at Hill library, I noticed this colorful book in the corner. I am not a design major, but I could immediately appreciate the work done on this book. The book is dated in 1938 and it appears like it was recently published by the quality of the book and colors. I wanted to skim through the pages before I paid attention to the minor details and my first thought was that this could be a children’s book. The reason I thought that this book was for children is because of the cover of the book, it has two robotic looking characters drawn attempting to shake hands. Throughout the book, you can see these characters that play an important role in the communication aspect. I was not able to read the book because it was in Dutch but thanks to the drawings, I was able to understand the main message that the book is trying to inform us about. The book was one of the smallest books in the room and had some damage on the sides which would be normal for a book that old. I am surprised this book is still holding its condition the way it is because old books usually turn a mustard type of yellow. The paper is the glossy type and it makes it easy to flip through the pages, unlike most modern books. The books that I have are very fragile and you can rip a page very easily and if it gets wet it’s most likely ruined. This is not the case with this book. If you drop a couple of water drops on the page, you could probably wipe it down without damaging the book itself. The texture of the book reminded me of photo prints that you get at Walmart kiosks. The book did not have an old book smell, it is difficult to describe but the first thing that comes to my mind is a glossy or ink scent. What I found the most interesting about the design of the book was that it had enough content to understand it even if you didn’t know Dutch or knew how to read at all. I understood that it was about the mail system and telephones. It is amazing that the colors and 3D pictures are still bright and have not faded. There is so much detail in something that appears to be drawn by someone very young. I could give this book to a child and he/she would be interested in the artwork (probably not a good idea because of its value today). On the downside, there was something that really bothered me about the paragraphs, and it was that in some pages they went across the middle of the page and did not break properly into sections. There are words across the page and hard to keep track of where to read or what follows. I’m sure that if I understood the language, I would be able to identify where a paragraph starts and ends.


This book is special because Piet Zwart was a very well-known designer, photographer, and typographer and he was able to combine all these skill sets in this book. Most of his publications were in the 1920s and 1930s. This book was published in 1938 and there are only a limited number of copies. Professor Flinchum was at the library and informed me about the limited edition of this book and I looked it up online to see if I could purchase it. The book goes for about forty-eight hundred dollars, making it a very collectible piece. There are very few books that will go for that much money and having a limited number of copies makes the value go up. The condition of the book will also raise the value of the book and this copy is in very good condition. This book is valued so much because Piet Zewart was an individual who was innovative and created solutions to functional problems. He was held prisoner of war by the German forces and forced his career to take a pause. After the war ended, he was released, and he received the award of “Designer of the Century” in the year 2000. He passed away in 1977 but was still recognized as one of the greatest designers which would add value to all of his published work and ideas. This book fits in perfectly with general history and especially World War II. The book was published a year before the beginning of the Second World War, and this would inform people on how to use the mail system. The primary method to communicate with the troops was through mail and knowing how to use the system was critical for family and friends. This was useful before the creation of victory mail but knowing how to send mail was something we still use today. In the book, you are able to point out that it states what someone can send and what is prohibited such as flammables and livestock. It is safe to say that this book may have rules and regulations that we still follow in the present mail system many years later after its publication. The other important piece included in this book and part of our history is the telephone system, it would teach you how to use the telephone and dial step by step. It had steps for local and international calls that we still use today. Today we are unable to make direct phone calls without country codes and the book has similar steps. An important piece for those at war as well and not just for personal communication but also for unit commands and orders.  Overall, this is an important historical piece for many different areas whether it is art, printing, or general history. From the quality of the book to the different types of fonts and detailed images make this book a collectible piece of history.