Altered Books

Section off the book's pages
to form a new set of fewer pages. Wait until you are done embellishing the pages before you glue these sections together. That way you can hide the backs of eyelets, brads, etc., between glued pages.

The pages may be fastened together in many unique ways: glue, photosafe two-sided tape, spary-on adhesive, brads, eyelets, rivets, staples, sewn with fibers or thread, and so on.

What in the world is an altered book? Well it is an old or new book that has been altered... painted, stamped, torn, cut, glued or otherwise transformed into a work of art. The altered book takes on a new personality which you make all your own.

Search the flea markets and yard sales, or even your own attic for a used book with personality, one that speaks to you in some fashion. Maybe you like the color or the texture of the cover or the way the edges of the pages are gilded, whatever cries out to you that this is your book.

You might want to plan a theme for your book. Then search through all your scraps for bits of paper, ribbon, and other embellishments to fit your theme. Or perhaps just experiment and make each page a new theme. There are no rules. Be as creative as you like. Let your imagination soar and make it up as you go along. You may leave as much or as little of the original book's text and images showing. It's fun to find ways to preserve bits of the old book within the new one. The possibilities are endless and your book is not done till you say it's done.  

My first project......
Since this was a new art form for me, I felt I was growing "new wings", so I decided to name my book "Wings". On the introduction page I wrote:

This is my first Altered Book. It is an exercise in letting go of the time-honored notion that books are never to be damaged or scribbled in; and daring to imagine the preservation of a book by making of it a new treasure. It is discovering a new found freedom to sail away to places of the mind and then record them in dabs of paint, bits of paper, string, metal, and such. It is like taking flight and souring with new wings!

Take a look at my first altered book project

Altered Techniques practice......
It's fun to use the little pre-made blank books, or put together your own blankbooks from cut and folded card stock. You are not so much "altering" but just embellishing the pages. The same techniques are used however. This is a nice way to make little memory gifts for friends and family.

Take a look
Take a look
Take a look




A bit of history about altered books......
The very first altered books were Palimpsests (from the Greek word palimpsestos meaning "scraped again"). In medieval times it was a common practice to wash or scrape a manuscript, rubbing out the earlier writing, so that the vellum or parchment could be reused for newer text. Often the original text would still show through. Purposes seem to have ranged from recycling of materials for economic reasons, to the Church's desire to cover over pagan works with the "word of God".

A palimpsest was found in Constantinople in 1906 in which a collection of prayers had been written over the complete Greek text of several of Archimedes’ most famous mathematical writings. PBS's NOVA web site has an excellent display of photos showing how this manuscript underwent its transformation to a palimpsest.

In the Victorian era there developed a practice called extra-illustration, also known as Grangerism, where illustrations were torn from one book to decorate another. The term to Grangerize was coined from Rev. J Granger's four volume Biographical History of England in which he encouraged readers to find and insert into the book a portrait of every person mentioned.

Artists have continued to alter books in many facinating forms. Take a look at these unique pieces of "book art":

The International Society of Altered Book Artists

British artist Tom Phillips purchased an obscure Victorian novel entitled A Human Document from a secondhand bookshop. He then proceeded to "alter" it: he colored and blacked out many of the lines and even pages so that certain key words and phrases formed new images and sequences; he cut up and rearranged other pages to form new narrative passages. Miraculously, the rather staid original novel was turned into an entirely new work The altered novel became known through literary and art magazines and quickly acquired a cult following

The Book Art of Richard Minsky: rebound books making use of contemporary metaphors and political content (I don't agree with his political views, but his art is brillient!)

  Book anthologies: Artist, Judy Ham, composed these facinating "books" from bits of paper ephemera, old photographs
and other bits of material.

A house made out of books: Livio De Marchi's house in which even the table, the chairs and the bed seem to have been made of pages to turn and bound covers.

Second Editions: Jim Rosenau's shelves and furniture made from reinforced books.

Ukulele Books: the artist combines uke parts with books for one-of-a-kind pieces

MECA and the Portland Public Library teamed up to present "Long Overdue: Book Renewal." Starting with books that had been withdrawn from the Portland Public Library as no longer suitable for circulation, more than 200 artists overseen by the Maine College of Art have – through deconstruction of text, assemblage, collage and other means –created “new” works of art.

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