I love antique books, but not all antique books are equal.
Generally, I look for books that have unique covers and illustrations or pretty text. I also look for books with pages that show their age – especially those whose edges have started to slightly “brown”. Some books have totally browned pages, and those are pretty, but generally are extremely brittle and fragile. Unfortunately, some really old books have none of those redeeming qualities and the content isn’t really something desirable today either.
Such was the case of a bunch of antique encyclopedias I brought home a few years ago. I didn’t purchase them on purpose – they were included in a box lot with other antique books that I did want. While the raised image on the cover is somewhat interesting, it isn’t enough that you’d want to display it. The color of the books weren’t quite black and weren’t quite blue – they were something dingy-looking in between.
I love marbled book pages, but the colors and dull look on these books just weren’t doing anything for me. Even if I don’t like an old book, I won’t throw it away unless it’s totally trashed. I’ll use the pages for other projects, but when you have thousands of book pages, there is a limit of how many you can realistically repurposed into something else.
Instead, I decided to attempt to pretty them up, so I slapped some white chalk-style paint on them – edges of the pages and all. I did two coats on the covers, but just dry-brushed the edges of the pages. Once they dried, I took my palm sander over the whole covers, going a little harder where the raised areas were so they would stand out. That dingy blue-black color looks much better peeking through the white, and the tattered spine edges look beautiful now – not just beat up.
I still have lots more ugly books, so I plan to paint a bunch more of them. I love the difference some white paint and sandpaper can make. I’ll happily display these books in my home now.