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Palimpsests to Grangerism: Altered Books at the Pratt

Posted In: Events and Programs, Your Library, Guest Contributors
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By Melanie Jacobs, Light Street Branch

Have you ever considered altering a book and transforming it into a work of art? Accidentally dropping a book in a puddle of water doesn't count!

Altered books are a multimedia art form that go back thousands of years. They are created by drawing on, cutting, tearing, gluing, sewing, and otherwise disassembling and then reassembling books to create new works of art with changed or enhanced meaning.

The very first altered books were Palimpsests (from the Greek word palimpsestos meaning "scrape again"). During medieval times, it was a common practice for monks to wash or scrape a manuscript, rubbing out the earlier writing, so that the vellum or parchment could be reused for new text. In the Victorian era there developed a practice called extra-illustration, also known as Grangerizing, where illustrations were torn from one book to decorate another. British artist Tom Phillips is perhaps the most famous Altered Book artist. He purchased an obscure book from a secondhand bookshop and transformed it by cutting out and rearranging pages to form new narrative passages. Today, altering books is a popular artistic medium.

In conjunction with Adult Summer Reading, the Light Street Branch is holding a "Between the Covers Altered Books" competition. Click here to download the registration form. The winner(s) will be announced on Monday, August 6 @ 7pm. For further details please call the Light Street Information Desk, 410-396-1096.

Follow Me on PinterestFollow our Pinterest board, Altered Books, to see beautiful and wild images to inspire your book altering adventures.

Want to become an official Altered Books pinner? Send us an email using the contact from on our Community Guidelines page. (You will need a personal Pinterest account to participate).

Follow Me on FlickrSee other altered books created by Pratt customers on our Flickr stream.

Here are some additional resources where you can learn more about altered books and start your creative journey.


This is a wonderful activity. I looked at the altered books created by the Light Street Branch and they are truly a work of art.
Posted by: Marilyn Jones at 7/7/2012 9:48 a.m.


I definitely plan on seeing the end results of this creative, constructive and wonderful activity. It's amazing how the library stretches one's imagination thru books and in so many many ways. Kudos to Ms Jacobs.
Posted by: Ron Johnson at 7/9/2012 1:03 p.m.


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