A New Life for an Old Book

Framed prints from an old, crumbling book

I just love an old book. The smell of the pages, the crackling of the spine, the sense of history it holds. I think of the possible generations of people who spent many happy hours drinking in the story, of librarians reading the book aloud to children, or of a young woman like me who tossed it into her shoulder bag years ago and read it on a sunny park bench. A favorite event of mine is the $5 bag sale at my public library, where I get to cram as many books as I can into a paper grocery sack to add to my collection at home. I have found some wonderful titles for myself, but many more for my daughter. Some of the books came from the personal collections of children who have now grown up. They often have inscriptions inside the cover, telling stories of Christmas gifts and birthday parties. Other books come from old school libraries and have the school name stamped on the title page and children’s names written on a card inside.

A book sale treasure, "A is for Annabelle"

A particular favorite is a book called “A is for Annabelle: a Doll’s Alphabet.” If you know me even a little, you understand why! It’s a very old printing of the book, which was first published in 1954. The pages are delicate, but they still display the beautiful illustrations of little girls playing with a china doll.

1964 interpretation of Zachaeus, a favorite Bible story

Another fun book is a 1960s version of the story of Zacchaeus from the Bible. It came from a church library and has the date it was donated written in the cover, 1964. You can tell the illustrations were so hip for the time, and the story took some liberties to appeal to the modern churchgoing child. I like to call this the “groovy Jesus” book and read it aloud accordingly.

Groovy Jesus. I couldn't resist!

Jesus in the retro Zacchaeus story

One of my favorite finds, however, has been an illustrated story of Dr. Dolittle from 1967. The story is a bit advanced for my little one, so I thought it would be a good book to hold onto for later. She couldn’t sit still for much of the story, but she loved the brightly colored illustrations of all the funny animals. Alas, the spine peeled off and the pages started to crumble. It was not going to last very long, even on a shelf. So I decided to salvage what I could of the book and recycle the rest. (If you’re wondering, this is my “green” project this week.)

A scene from Dr. Doolittle

Three of the pages in the book were perfectly intact and contained no text, so I carefully removed them and placed them in a folder. I realized the imaginative illustrations would make the perfect, unique wall art for my little girl’s room. I took the folder to a craft store to match them to a frame. Finding frames were difficult, as the pages were not a standard picture size. I showed the pages to my favorite framer at the store, who mentioned he had some scraps of matting that he could cut to fit the pages and help me find a frame. We settled on cheap metallic frames and yellow mats, which he sold to me for around $2 each. Since the book was practically free, my cost per framed picture was about $8.

Do your worn out book a favor-transform the pages into wall art!

I couldn’t be happier with the results! The yellow mats enhanced the whimsical pictures, making the whole ensemble look beautiful on my daughter’s wall. She loves to point to the silly creatures in the pictures, and I’m sure one day she will enjoy making up her own stories about them. This was a great way to recycle, and honor, a wonderful old book.

Whimsical illustrations are enhanced with just the right mat and frame.

I just love finding a new life for old things. What are some of your ideas for repurposing old books, or other time-worn items?

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