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I haven't found a watercolor journal that I really love - and wanted something similar to the Moleskine sketchbook, but with watercolor paper instead of that waxed cream-colored paper.  Last year I was intrigued with Jan Allsopp's recycled books and decided that I would try to make some for myself.  I searched for very old books that were still in good condition - but unloved - and really cheap.  Here are the 3 that I made from books published in the 1940s and sold in London for 1 pound and 3 pounds or in New York City for $1.00.  Interestingly, it was the 1929 New York State Tax Report book that I found in London on Charring Cross Road for 3 pounds.  I bought 7 different types of watercolor paper to mix in the individual signatures for experimentation and used a coptic stitch for binding, using Martha's excellent instructions

Fanfare for Elizabeth:  I wanted to create a travel journal for some London sketches.  I take many reference photos while I'm visiting and only do 1-2 pages in my Cachet London Travel Journals each day (not from photos).  I will probably be able to sketch from photos for many months and wanted to recycle a book that was very English.  During one of my London visits I read Philippa Gregory's book The Other Boleyn Girl so this book was perfect at 1 pound.  I saved the photos that were in the original book and added them to some of my new pages. 


Report of the State Tax Commission 1929 - State of New York:  This was the year of our Stock Market Crash so it seemed like a historically important book for my hometown.  It was a duplicate from a British Library - and probably doomed to remain on that bookshelf until it was completely discarded.  I plan to use it for a travel sketchbook as I play tourist in my own city.  I kept the original title page, complete with the British Library of Political and Economic Science seal for the front of my book and used a subway map for the end papers.



Sonnets of Michael Angelo:  This was my $1.00 book bargain - and scattered throughout the sonnets were Michaelangelo drawings!  I added as many original pages as I could in my signatures and used a map of Italy as the end papers.  The spine wasn't in great shape so I strengthened it with book cloth on the inside and hoped for the best.  I am working on figure drawing this year and will add my sketches/paintings to this journal.





I admire your work here and following through on your desire to do this. It looks wonderful and I look forward to seeing what you put in them.

Thanks for this post! What a great idea to buy interesting used books and remake them into watercolor journals. I love this. I looked at the instruction link you provided and will look forward to trying it myself. We have lots of old books around and I'll start with one of those. But I love the idea of finding a great cover.

Shirley, I've been looking forward to seeing these! And they are fantastic! What fabulous books you have made. I LOVE your subway map endpapers. But careful! It is addictive - well at least looking for the 'right' old book is addictive. I've now got a stack about 2ft high! Now all I need is the time to make them up!

This is such an inspiring post, Shirley. I really don't need another distraction, I 'waste' too much time already, but I feel another obsession coming on. Lovely, lovely ideas.

Thanks Jan. You were so much help getting me started on this project. Now I just need to make sure that I fill them up!

These books look wonderful! I love the way you've kept parts of them, and added other inserts like maps and so on. These are such lovely artefacts, and will be even more wonderful once you've filled them with your drawings and journallings.

I love Jan's books as well. Those NY subway maps are an inspiration. If only I'd known what good use they could be put to I would gotten a few. People who live in a city never have maps of it. I look forward to seeing what you put in them.

Hi Shirley! I was looking through your bookbinding stuff and found this - its lovely! You've really inspired me with your recycled book covers :) Thanks for all the lovely comments on my blog ... you know those clamps were just from the local hardware store, and the boards were some off-cut MDF I picked up at the college woodworkers ... people were using all sorts of things - bits of old shelves and stuff. As long as it was flat and sturdy, it worked!

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