Why Cutting up Old Books is Allowed

People will question the fact that you want to “destroy” a book on purpose. They think of books as sacred things. Not as everyday items but something to keep “for ever”. This is a beautiful thought, I agree, but not all books are meant for an eternity on your shelf. I read way more than I can store or keep. Some books age badly, others are badly written to start with. It’s what you feel about the content, and the personal meaning you give a book, that is sacred – not the item itself.

It's okay to cut up old books if you ask me /iHanna

Every day, thousands of books are thrown away in dumpsters, discarded or recycled to paper pulp. In comparison to throwing them away I think it’s a good thing to use an old thrifted book in your art, or as your canvas for art. It is like giving it new life. Prolonging its existent as a book with, probably, several years. I think many books are grateful to be loved again after months stored away in dusty boxes. Because to cut up and reuse book pages and words is all about loving books, make no mistake about that. I love books and always will.

Dictonary book

For example, I’m now using this school glossary or wordbook of English-Swedish words. I bought it at a cost of only a few Swedish crowns at a flea market several years ago. It has been in my attic storage waiting to be loved again. The simple beauty of the worn and stained cover is breathtaking but I have no need for another wordbook, there are plenty of dictionaries online these days.

Hunting for words

My painted postcards (view them here and here and here) for the DIY swap however, needed words. So I started cutting out appropriate words from this vintage wordbook – gluing a definition to each postcard.

I love using words in art making. I loved the result on the postcards – and hope the recipients noted the words, specially picked for this project.

Cut up old books

I say: find any unloved book and make it live again! Save new white notebooks for another day, try using an old text book as your next art journal instead. Paint it, tear it or cut up its pages, and alter it as much as you want to!

And if somebody protests or scolds you just tell them iHanna said it’s okay, You are allowed to do whatever you want to with your books. Yes you are.

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14 Responses to Why Cutting up Old Books is Allowed

  1. Nancy says:

    I am a Librarian and I approve this message.

    • Julie says:

      Pages from and old book have something special: patina, texture, soul? it’s a great way to start or to add to a project! I try to look for the ones that have a fringe, as if each page was delicately torn by hand. :-)

  2. Andria says:

    I totally agree! If a book is destined for the landfill, then it is kinder to the book AND to the earth AND to the viewing public to create art with it.

  3. jenni says:

    This is a great post. I always wonder what people will think when I tell them I cut something out of a book, but I think it’s great to get as much use out of a book as you can, so I totally agree with you!

  4. Jenny says:

    Do you really get that remark? Indeed, it’s not stranger to reconstruct an old book than to do it with an old coat or sweater. You make a wonderful use of old books.

  5. I totally agree! I buy old, falling apart books at the library book sales and cut them up for art all the time. Our local bookstore has a “free” box with books no one wants to buy and I use some of those for art projects too. Re-purpose, re-cycle!

  6. Dawn says:

    Here here my lovely. So eloquently put, I salute you sweetie. I am a total book freak to be honest but I have no problem whatsoever in using old book pages in my art and I love to repurpose old books too – I would even go as far as saying I prefer to journal in a repurposed book for the same reasons you have already mentioned.
    Thank-you for such an inspired post Hannah.
    Huge hugs x

  7. Zoe says:

    You’ve convinced me (and somewhere in my distant past I studied to become a librarian)! Off the op-shop this week :)

  8. Thanks for talking about this important art topic. I love this sentence you wrote: “Because to cut up and reuse book pages and words is all about loving books, make no mistake about that.” So true!

  9. urshula says:

    I’m a librarian and I agree with you (but I’m still a little bit shocked when you start cutting books).

  10. Anne Murphy says:

    lol it IS kind of funny the way people react to cutting up or recycling books..
    i tend to use books that are either
    -really bad (awful weight loss books or “political commentary”) because it’s fun to make something positive out of them!
    or
    -books I LOVE.. I literally loved my favourite book to pieces! It completely fell apart but I kept it & recycle the pages because I love it so :)

  11. Claudia says:

    I use old books in lots of ways — I make Kindle cases out of old kids’ hardbacks (like Nancy Drew) — and my husband makes book safes out of textbooks. Being a great reader and book lover, I understand the hesitation. But I’d like to think I’m honoring the books by giving them a second or third life.

    Here’s what I do with the insides!

  12. mildamalin! says:

    jag använder gamla böcker till ny konst hela tiden, jag har en hel hög ämnade åt just det. gamla böcker (dom äldsta är från 1800-talet), nya böcker, böcker på olika språk, böcker med bilder och böcker utan bilder… jag har fått höra nån gång att det är hädelse att klippa sönder dom, särsk dom äldre, men som du säger – hellre att dom blir till nånting (nånting nytt! nånting fint! nånting som nån tycker om!), än att dom hamnar på soptippen. för det är ju det dom annars gör.
    förresten. har också den där ordboken. men den klipper jag inte i, jag tycker att det kan vara praktiskt att ha ett engelskt-svenskt lexikon till hands, gamla böcker är ofta finare än nya, och roligare att bläddra i än internet. ibland iaf. :)

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