Repurpose old encyclopedia’s into aged display books…..

So, how do you re-purpose a bunch of 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?
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 And depending on when they were bought, the information might be  out of date.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….
                                                                                               Source: via Jen on Pinterest

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.
 They first got a coat of white acrylic craft paint. You could also use flat paint, or if you are a chalk paint fan, you could use chalk paint too.
I liked these because the spines were embossed and I knew they would pick up distressing really well.
I didn’t make the paint too perfect, I wanted the unevenness to add to the aged look.
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.
I pulled out some of my stamp pads and went to work.

 I ran the brown ink over the edges and on the raised spots and even rubbed it in a bit with my fingers.
 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.
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.

 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 30 years ago.
P.S. See you tomorrow for the fall decor linky party!!!!
If you are reading this post at any other sites or blogs besides, your rss feed,e-mail or in your reader this is stolen content.

*This was posted Via Jennifer Rizzo. com


  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. Wow Jen I love this idea. Those books look great. Very clever. Love it.

  4. GREAT IDEA!!! I love this! I am doing it right now! 8^)

  5. They look great! I am going to have to try this!

  6. 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.

  7. Great way to display them!!

  8. What a great idea!

  9. 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

  10. What a great idea, they look amazing, Where do you find that ink?

  11. Great idea!

  12. Wow, they look amazing….what a great idea!

  13. 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!!!

  14. Such a clever idea Jennifer! I hadn’t thought about the fate of all those old very expensive Encyclopedia sets!

    It was so fabulous to meet you this weekend! I had a great time!



  15. Wow Jennifer! What a beautiful idea! I love it! Best wishes!

  16. What an amazing idea! Dang, and I gave mom’s old encycls to GW years ago. Ugh.

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

  19. I’m lovin’ these! I have some, and you’ve given me a great idea! :)

  20. 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!

  21. Love these! Thanks for the tutorial!
    You did a wonderful job!

  22. 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. :-)

  23. They are great! I just saw a set at Salv’n Army yesterday but they wanted $4 each! Way too much! However, if I ever find a nice cheap set, thats exactly what I’m going to do!

  24. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  25. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  26. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  27. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  28. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  29. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  30. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  31. What a lovely way to bring new life to these books!

  32. 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

  33. What kind of glaze did you use?

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

  35. FABULOUS idea! Pinning!
    Kim @ Sand & Sisal

  36. 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

  37. 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.

  38. SAWEET!!

  39. 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.

  40. love these!! I have a set in the garage.

    did you do just one coat of paint?

    thanks for great idea.
    pinning this..


  41. Jack, you are a spammer

  42. Great idea….
    We couldn’t even give ours away @ our Garage sale!
    Now I’m glad we still have them!

  43. 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!

  44. Henrietta Gharst says:

    What about using the books as weight, for lamps.

  45. These are fantastic! I love the way you distressed them. Very Restoration Hardware :) Now I’m on the hunt for a set for myself.

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