So my town library has a free bookshelf cart in the atrium of its historic building—for books that are too outdated, or for which the library has too many copies, or for damaged books. And people EAT. THEM. UP.
I love that… that people in my town are so hungry for literature that they scour the free book cart for treasures that they can cerebrally ingest, or bring home as a valuable addition to a home library, or so that they can just give a second life to some old tome that would have otherwise been pulped at the recycling plant. I, in fact, am one of those people who goes to scour the free book cart every now and again for “gems” among the detritus.
I have found books on ethics (Robert Van Wyk’s Introduction to Ethics), and on art theory/philosophy (E.H. Gombrich’s Art & Illusion), among scores of classics as well as long-forgotten minor titles. Several have ended-up serving as tengential resources for my research on Renaissance Humanist Virtue studies. I won’t tell you how many books I’ve sequestered overall from that discard rack, because that would be embarrassing. Suffice to say I’m a bibliophile who has a hard time seeing books go to waste. I could claim that it’s a kind of eco-friendly recycling service that I perform, but in truth I kind of imaginatively mythologize the act as a more heroic deed akin to “saving” the world’s literature from oblivion. Go ahead, call me a fantasizing bibliomaniac. I deserve no less.
But I’ve also found several books on this free discard rack that have been the inspiration for some of my MAIL ART. This is another way that books can have a second life—by turning them into art. For instance, a few weeks ago I found this motley-looking book:
This children’s book of Old Testament stories c. 1935 was in pretty bad shape. You can see that the cloth cover has got some significant water damage, and there were several interior pages ripped, torn, or completely missing. BUT… the vintage illustrations that remained were ideal for cutting out and collaging or re-purposing as Mail Art. With pages missing and a mess of torn and partial pages remaining, the book’s not good for much of anything otherwise, so by “destroying” it further we can actually give it a new life.
Below are some of the envelopes I created with illustrations from this children’s book, and I will be mailing them out to mail art friends this week:
In addition to these re-purposed Old Testament stories-as-mail-art, here are some additional mail art envelopes I created with TAROT themes:
(As an end-note, addresses on these envelopes have been obscured in order to protect the privacy of the intended recipients.)