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Repurpose Old Encyclopedias into Aged Display Books

Old books still have lots of life! So, how do you repurpose old encyclopedias or books that you know some one paid  a few hundred dollars for about 30 years ago and can’t bear to throw out? Especially when you come across a huge stack at the thrift store and can’t bear to leave them behind!It’s hard to believe a few short years ago, if you needed to know the population of Samoa, you had to look up everything you wanted to know in an actual book. Do you remember hunting through these doing your history homework? And depending on when they were bought, the information might be  out of date and no one thought twice about it. There was no up to the minute news bites or  telling the kids “we’ll Google it.” In fact even in college, when the internet had just begun taking off, we were only allowed to use it as a resource as a last ditch effort….And we were told not to really trust the answer….
So when my mom hauled up a set of A-Z from the basement, I know she hated to just dumped them, but they really weren’t worth anything.They weren’t old enough to have any great pictures or text or just “be cool” as old books. I always see tons of these at the thrift store just sitting on the shelves, so I told her I would play around with them a bit and see if I could give them some new life. It’s an easy fix to repurpose old encyclopedias into aged display books.
Repurpose old encyclopedias into aged books for display

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They first received a coat of white acrylic craft paint. You could also use flat paint, or if you are a chalky paint fan, you could use chalky paint too.
Painting an repurposing old encyclopedias
I liked these because the spines were embossed and I knew they would pick up distressing really well.
Books painted to look old repurposed encyclopedias
I didn’t make the paint too perfect, I wanted the unevenness to add to the aged look, it really adds to the look when you repurpose old encyclopedias. You could also remove the covers and create this cute stamped book stack.
Use brown paint as a glaze to age books
Once all of the books were painted, I glazed both sides. You could also play with wax on them. It might have  a really cool effect.
Distress ink for aging books
I pulled out some of my distress ink stamp pads and went to work.
Use distress ink to age the edges
 I ran the brown ink over the edges and on the raised spots and even rubbed it in a bit with my fingers.
Old books painted for display
 I stamped numbers with a vintage number stamp set I found at a yard sale ages ago. It’s the same one I used on my Spooky Book covers.But you can also use new letter stamps and number stamps on Amazon. I used mine to make this upcycled stamped book stamp. and stamped glass bottles. You could also use this technique at do something really cute on the  covers. I also gave them a quick spray with a matte sealer to make sure the ink wouldn’t smudge.
Turn encyclopedias into aged display books
 They are all ready for a new life as display books( A few might just have to sneak their way back into her house. ):)and maybe a bit of a history lesson if I ever want to page through them again. 🙂 If I want to know the population of Samoa 60 years ago.
Love creating with paper and paper mache? Check out this on-line workshop! Or watch this video to learn how to press flowers with books, or read the post here.

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  1. Very, very cool. I love this idea! Now hunting for unused books with raised lettering…I bet my kids wouldn’t even miss their books (ha!).

  2. This is quite a good use of the old books. What I do with my old books, frames, photos, etc is to use them to recreate another useful things. For example. Few days ago, I built a tray using my Old Photo Frames and an old book. There are many other things we can do with our old stuff like using a book like a case, etc.

  3. I love this idea! My hubby had been storing his set of 1930’s encyclopedias from his Grandma for years. One day as he was cleaning out his shop, he asked if I’d like them-he’s been holding out on me! They are actually bound in black leather, with a wonderful pattern embossed on them. I use them all over the house stacked here and there as display, and I get so many comments on them.

  4. Hi Jen, Awesome idea!!!! I will have to try this, I have so many that I didn’t know what to do with, thanks for a one of a kind idea!! Be back tomorrow, Jen

  5. Oh good grief…so simple yet so perfect. I’ve always wanted a big stack of large books but never seem to find any with the right look. I always forget the power of paint. Thanks!!!

  6. I LOVE THIS.. but my mom’s old set is RED… Think I could still pull that off or would I just have to use too much paint and it would look odd?

  7. What a great idea, the old set of encylopedias look terrific. I am so sorry that I did not make it on Saturday, darn those nasty ole allergies! I bet everyone had a wonderful time. Take care sweetie.

  8. While I can tell you how many boxes of Samoa girl scout cookies my girls sold a couple of years ago, I am at a loss about the population of Samoa – I’ll have to google it!

  9. I’m always using books as height props and lamenting that I have to try and color coordinate their covers to my displays. Painting them is the perfect solution and I love your idea! A batch of home- made chalk paint will be in the works for my version. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  10. Jennifer – OMGosh…what a great idea!! So mad I just got rid of all my old encyclopedias! Ugh!! Might have to raid my mom’s house for the ones we used as kids. Thanks so much for sharing this great idea!! 🙂

    Blessings – Sara

  11. Nothing I love more than creative repurposing. And books have so much to offer. Beautiful work. Excellent idea.

  12. These would look nice stacked as a Christmas tree! You could even use an exacto knife to hollow out the books and glue them shut so they are not as heavy or add a latch to make a treasure box! Very exciting idea. thank you

  13. I love this idea. I have an old set of Encyclopedias that I could NOT donate or sell. Grrrr. Now I know what to do with them. So excited. Thanks.

  14. Very cool.

    I have two Encyclopedia Americana books left from the set that my parents owned. They were published in 1959, and yes, were several years outdated by the time I was doing my own school reports. But theirs had much more information than any encyclopedia printed afterwards, and amazing graphics.

    I’m not sure why I held on to the two books exactly, but they sit in my studio on the shelf, a reminder of my childhood.

  15. Genius!! I LOVE these books. Now I need a set of encyclopedias! I remember doing my history reports from these books My parents bought a set for us and had to make monthly payments to afford them!

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