I’ve been collecting vintage Reader’s Digest Condensed Books for about a year now. If you’re not familiar with these books, here’s a blurb from Wikipedia:
The Reader’s Digest Condensed Books were a series of hardcover anthology collections, published by Reader’s Digest and distributed by direct mail. Each volume contained several current best-selling novels (or, occasionally, nonfiction books), abridged (or “condensed”). Published originally four times each year, the rate of publication was increased gradually to a bi-monthly schedule by the early 1990s. The series was produced for more than 47 years (1950-1997), until being renamed as Reader’s Digest Select Editions.
I love these books for their fabulous patterned covers. Reader’s Digest Condensed books are easily found at flea markets and garage sales. Many thrift stores consider them so unsaleable that they rarely have them on the shelves. I never pay more than $1 per book and more often than not find them in great quantity cheap. Often these books have their original paper jackets on them featuring each book title and illustrations. Jacket-coved ones are lucky finds as they kept the rich colored patterned covers vivid over the years.
I remove the covers and keep them stacked up ready to craft with. The book “guts” are stored separately, (musty ones tossed,) and used for crafts as well. Here are just a few fun things I’ve done with my books, but that can also be done with most vintage novels you’re willing to cut into.
Before using the brittle book pages, I cover them with Mod Podge Matte to strengthen the page and keep it from tearing easily when working with.
Once the pages are dry I used the Martha Stewart Crafts Hydrangea Punch to punch out multiple flower blossoms from the reinforced book pages the same size as that of the blossoms on a silk hydrangea flower stem purchased at Michael’s.
Book & Butterfly Shadowbox
Using one of my free digital downloads of a butterfly, I printed the image to the corner of a torn-out book page. To do this, measure your book page and set up a file in your image editing software to that size. Place a cropped out image of a butterfly to the area of the file page where you want it to print and print on your nicest setting onto the paper, Mod Podge side down. I positioned and printed the butterfly at an angle and carefully cut it out with an X-acto knife.
I placed the butterfly pages on top of a patterned book cover and placed it into a shadowbox frame. I think a series of these in different colors, patterns and butterfly species would be wonderful displayed together.
Book Page Shelf Edging
I used a tape runner along the ends of a few sheets of Mod-Podge-reinforced book pages and overlapping slightly I created a long runner of book pages. I trimmed the runner down the middle lengthwise and punched the edges with text running off with my Diamond Lace Edger Punch from EK Tools. Folding back a section of the straight cut side, I simply laid a length along the edge of my china hutch tacking here and there with tiny bits of poster putty.