How to Make an Altered Book

Instructor: Elisa Goldman

Elisa has taught K-6 grades and has two master's degree in Instructional Technology and Education.

Books have been altered as a form of creative expression for centuries. In this lesson you will learn about the general forms of altered books, the materials required, and techniques used to make an altered book.

Introduction and History

There are 101 ways to alter a book to fit an artistic vision. Book altering began as a way to recycle valuable paper, vellum, and parchment. In the 11th century, monks dissolved the ink off old manuscripts and added their own text and illustrations. Another example of book altering came during the Victorian era; it was called 'Grangerism', a form of scrap-booking that used illustrations torn from old books and pasted into new books to emphasize the text. Since the late 19th century, people have glued things such as recipes, photos, magazine, and newspaper clippings into old books. The most recent movement in altered books is said to have been inspired by artist Tom Phillips, who manipulates the text in old books by masking out words to create new expressions.

Type of Altered Books

To make an altered book is to take an old book and give it new life as a personalized piece of art. The process of altering can involve cutting, painting, pasting, folding, stitching, sewing, beading, stamping, decoupaging, and much more. Below are some of the broadest categories of altered books:

Collage - A collage is made by attaching various elements onto a book page in a manner pleasing to the makers artistic and creative sense. There are many forms of book collage, as some have messages or themes while others are a simple or complex arrangement of elements intended to please the viewer.

Example of Collaged and Transformed Altered Book
Example of Altered Book

Folding-Paper - By folding the pages of a book, you can create anything from a sculpture to entire words. Just like in other creative arts like knitting or sewing, you need to read patterns and follow step-by-step instructions in order to translate it into book art. By folding the pages in a specific order, you will end up with a simple or complex 3-D shape when finished.

Transformations and Cut-Outs - A book can be transformed for another purpose by cutting out sections of pages or changing the original purpose of the book. Examples of projects using these techniques include making a altered book picture frame, carving out a secret compartment/safe in a hollowed out book, making a book shadow box, a book clock, or even a book purse. You can also take pages out of a book to make something new, like rolling them to make a wreath.

Example of Folded Altered Book
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/63/Book_origami_cat.jpg

Materials Needed

You can use almost any and all flat or semi-flat materials to alter a book. Regardless of what type you are intending to make, you will need to start with an old book. Although you can use any kind of book, hard-cover books or children's board books work best as a base because they are sturdier and can withstand more manipulation with scissors, glue, and other materials. Other tools that may be needed are a craft knife, paint brushes, and different types of glue or adhesive.

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