The Fun of Ripping Apart Old Books

One of the terms people use for the times we live in is The Information Age. But I wonder. Yes, in the present there is far more information available more quickly to more people than ever before. But that information is digital, and as technology now stands, in the future all digital information will eventually decompose, and there is as yet no plan for a backup. As for the past, given the rate at which libraries all over the world are dumping their older unused books and magazines, the cupboard for future researchers will sadly be bare. But for those of us who rip apart, collage and erase old books, this wanton destruction of our collective past is a golden opportunity to find low-cost and even free piles of dross awaiting their collective transformation into artistic gold. I feel that I am saving these books from recycling limbo even if I myself wind up recycling all but three or four pages of text or illustration for my erasure purposes. The material lives on in some form, some sense of its beauty is preserved. Old books made into new while remaining old.

I mentioned ripping books apart. The primary purpose, of course, is to free the pages from their original binding. But there is also the matter of—and here my self-invented terminology disgusts me, though its accuracy is surely admirable—peeling the cloth skins from the front and back covers and spine of the book, leaving it in its original cardboard nudity. The cloth skins having been peeled, I cut and preserve what I need for future gluing onto the recovered covers of my erasure book. Remarkable titles. Intricate embossed décor. The particular color of the cloth. The feel of antiquity.

All ready to be transplanted into a new composite of the old and the altered. Fun!

Here are some examples of cloth skins and details that will find their way into my future erasure work.

UncategorizedLawrence Sutin