Altered Books

I have come across this unusual idea in a very unusual manner. Like many bookworms, I was against the idea of defiling books in any form… and then I discovered its much easier to find quotes in a book if such quotes are highlighted*. And so started my rebellion against pristine books.

From highlighting I went onto writing* my own personal notes in the margins, and I find that those notes usually still hold true, even four and five years later. But it still never occured to me to actually do more to the books. Then I was offered the option of “decorating” a book for extra credit in a class. She showed me an example.

I was both intrigued and apalled that anyone would do such a thing! But oh, how I wanted to try it… I proceeded to spend hours online researching “Altered Books” and everything that implies.

Wikipedia defines an Altered Book as “a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into something else.

An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled or multiple) and cuts, tears, glues, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, creates pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be-ribbons it. The artist may add pockets and niches to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects. Some change the shape of the book, or use multiple books in the creation of the finished piece of art.

I found wondeful Galleries that told me more about how to do it and what to put in than any How-To did. I find that Altered Books are a combination of rebellion and scrap booking. You can make it something simple or terrfyingly complicated.

I myself have two Altered Books in the works, and I think its a wonderful idea. They become very personal. Ive used everything possible in them. photos, ribbon, scraps, charcoal, watercolor, and Ive discovered that it closes best when you remove at least 1/8 of the total pages with an exacto blade. But of you intend to add something bulkier, remove more. Oh, and pages are much more stable when painting/cutting and glueing things in if you glue anywhere between 2 to 7 pages together beforehand. Want to know more?

*I highly recommend you only do so in books you treasure and don’t plan to get rid of anytime soon. Library books do not apply.

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Published in: on October 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It makes my heart sad to know that a beautiful book (binding, color, paper, materials, etc.) will end up in a landfill because the story no longer finds an audience or the book is no longer shiny and new. I guess that I get a little metaphysical about the book — the spirit of the story, the timeless words of the author, and the presence of the material object. What a great way to give the book a new existence and turn it into another form of creative storytelling. There are many books, destined for shredders or landfills, calling for a new life. Check the used bookstores for the books in those dusty boxes in the back — you just may find your treasure — your blank canvas.

  2. Yay for Altered books. I personally have never heard of these until now, but I like the idea. There are many books out there that people just don’t give a crap for any more, and it sucks because so many of those books are just great to read. If I had the creativity, (not to mention resources) this would be a great thing to do. Continue your great work.

  3. I have seen some fascinating altered books! I would love to see yours when they are completed. Thanks, also, for mentioning that people should not do this to books not their own! Kind of a book collector’s / librarian’s worst nightmare, huh? Actually I can see myself creating a collection of Altered Books when I retire or when my assorted children and pets are out of the house.


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