“We all know the standard interior decorating practice of adding a mirror to make a room appear larger. Books are mirrors of a different kind; they reflect our values, our thoughts, and what we hold dear, adding another type of breadth to a room.”
In Novel Living, artist Lisa Occhipinti offers a diverse volume that covers collecting, displaying, and caring for your books. A fourth section follows on her previous book, The Repurposed Library, with nine arts and crafts that can be made from books that have reached the end of their useful lifespan in their original form.
Occhipiniti’s advice for collecting books and creating a library is relatively basic, and will be more useful to someone just starting out than to anyone who works in libraries or already has a book collection. Her advice includes setting parameters for the collection, and a practical guide to understanding the condition terms used for books in order to facilitate buying online.
Creating a Library
Novel Living presents a variety of creative and attractive display options, though many of them will not be space-conscious enough for those who have a lot of books and need to be more pragmatic about how they are stored. However, the basic gallery table is an example of a display that is both attractive and functional; coffee table books can be exhibited beneath the glass, leaving the top free to be used for practical purposes when needed. In general, the book is beautifully designed, laid out, and photographed, and this is particularly evident in this section, which shows off Occhipinti’s beautifully crafted book dioramas, and artfully arranged shelves. However, the attention to art occasionally overshadows the book’s more practical aspects. For example, the book lacks an index.
Preserving and Conserving
For those who love old books, or have a habit of rereading their favourites until they fall apart, the third section offers a do-it-yourself guide for rehabilitating books that have been loved too well. With clearly illustrated instructions, Occhipinti demonstrates how to replace endpapers and covers, which can be an ideal solution for preserving beloved books with sound book blocks, but failing exteriors. Other projects in this section include creating a slip case, and tipping in a loose page.
Although Occhipinti’s basic conservation tips are generally sound, she very briefly mentions brushing mold off a book with a stiff brush. However, dealing with moldy books is more complicated than a single sentence can encompass. It fails to cover the difference between active and inactive mold, and makes no mentions of health and safety precautions. Mold removal is not really a conservation project suited for beginners, since improper mold removal can be hazardous to your health, or spread through your home or book collection if not completed properly. Unless the book has a lot of value, be it historical or sentimental, a moldy book has generally reached the end of its life.
Crafting with Books
Having proved her bona fides as a book lover in the preceding sections, Occhipinti turns her attention to the potentially controversial: books as crafting material. For books that can’t be rehabilitated, or have otherwise outlived their usefulness, Occhipinti’s book crafts offer a second lease on life. Novel Living includes a guide to websites for checking the value of a book before repurposing it. However, crafting makes up a relatively small portion of this book relative to Occhipinti’s previous work, The Repurposed Library. Even for those who cannot possibly imagine cutting up a book, however decrepit, many of the projects in this volume involve scanning portions of the book or cover and using prints, rather than crafting with the book itself.
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On Paper by Nicholas Basbanes