Thursday, May 30, 2013

Surprising time capsule for my next project

For months now, I've been wanting to make my own altered Halloween book or spell book cover like the ones I've seen on the Seeing Things blog. Here are a few examples of what I'd like to try:

Halloween Altered Book

Apothecary Encyclopedia

I knew I would need a hardcover book, so I'd planned to visit Dollar Tree and pick one up there. As it turned out, I got to save a few bucks by taking some home from the dump. Someone had left entire sets of World Book encyclopedias from the 1960s-70s there! They were all clean and brand new. These books looked like they had never been used! It was tempting to take them all, because I'm into history. Also, I liked paging through encyclopedias in my pre-internet school days. Are encyclopedias even made anymore? I was probably part of the last generation to turn to an encyclopedia for information.

I decided to take the two smallest ones, which ended up being from 1961. I also grabbed a 1970 encyclopedia yearbook. At first when I saw the word "yearbook" I thought it was someone's high school yearbook. I would have definitely grabbed a vintage high school yearbook. I had no idea that there were even encyclopedia yearbooks! It detailed everything that happened in 1969, from politics to entertainment. You can learn so much about history just by paging through old encyclopedias.

The encyclopedia yearbook was like a time capsule. There was a psychedelic illustration to go with each chapter:

The education illustration sadly has more emphasis on guns and gas masks than kids studying. That and a mysterious groovy man lounging in the foreground. Interestingly enough, my brain connected the guns in the education illustration with the recent school shootings. Times have changed in so many ways. School violence seems much more random and purposeless than political now.

There were psychedelic illustrations in the beginning of each "focus" chapter, which included the sciences, space program, politics, and the economy.

Familiar characters showed up:

...and of course there was a lot of this guy:

I could also tell how important the space program was by the amount of room it took up in the book.

If encyclopedias are being printed today, I doubt there is much about the U.S. space program in them. I know there wouldn't be as much about Communism in today's encyclopedias as what I saw in this 1970 yearbook!

The G and J-K encyclopedias were from 1961. Those were as specific to their years as the 1970 yearbook was. They were full of how-to tips, which surprised me. These encyclopedias seemed geared toward kids and teens. Maybe they were from a school collection? I couldn't see any school name printed on them.

This encyclopedia even gave instructions on how to make a kite:

I knew I'd struck comedy gold when I saw this page:

Be sure to click on this one to enlarge it for a few laughs.

I couldn't believe I was seeing grooming tips in an encyclopedia. They went on and on from how to care for fingernails to cleaning feet! There was even a chart on the hairstyles women should choose for their facial shape. As if there was only one hairstyle allowed for each face shape!

There you go girls! I hope you like the one hairstyle alloted to your face. It was funny to see beauty tips I'd associate with a Seventeen magazine in an encyclopedia. 

There was even a "Daily Grooming Checklist" with questions a person should ask themselves before leaving the house each day:

1. Did I take a bath or shower?

2. Have I brushed my teeth?

3. Is my hair trimmed, neatly combed, and clean and shining?

4. Are my hands and fingernails clean, smooth, and attractive?

5. Are my shoes polished and in good repair?

6. Is my outfit attractive and suitable for what I am going to do today?

Not that the ideas on this checklist aren't good, I was just surprised to see them listed. I wonder at what point encyclopedias stopped offering personal maintenance advice?

Well, now that I've paged through the books, I'll have to decide what to do with them. It's tempting to go back to the dump and drag away all the rest, but I won't do that. I'll keep you guys up-to-date as I design my Halloween book covers, and I'll leave you with my favorite TV dumpster diving moment:

...and no, I'm not tempted to take that much stuff! Although that skeleton was kind of aww-worthy.


  1. Check out the blog "Propnomicon" for a look at some great ones posted there ... Might give you some "ideas" at least...
    When I was young ... To make a "creepy-looking" Old Tome... I used layers of varnished of Felt ( Cut into my desired shapes ....)And other little "bits" can be added as well
    Hope that you and yours are well

  2. Dr. Theda ~ Thanks for the tips! "Propnomicon" is a clever name for that blog, especially with the Necronomicon connection to spooky books. There are some good looking projects on that blog. I like the "sea bat". I found an actual Necronomicon book on that blog and it's a good one:

    I really like the red eye. I definitely want to use an eye on my cover. Varnished felt, eh? That would probably be more sturdy than the Modge Podged tissue paper I was thinking of.

  3. Wow...we had that set of late 60s through the 70s yearbooks. It must have been around 1977 we got a set. Think they were my step fathers.

  4. Wait, so you can just go in the dump and browse around for stuff?

    Those are great finds. I'd probably go back and get a couple more just so I could keep one or two of the more interesting books intact.

  5. I love everything on Seeing Thing's blog - she has the best projects, doesn't she? I'm scared to start one because I know I'll be comparing my outcome to hers though! LOL

    I'm pretty sure all those tips were in the handout I got when my mother forced me to attend Charm School when I was thirteen. FYI, I flunked. :D

  6. Old Fashion Halloween ~ I thought these covers would be memorable to anyone who had the sets years back. From what I could tell, the covers remained the same for a few decades. So did these photos bring back any memories for you?

    Dex ~ Haha! I'm not sure how many people do, but yeah. :) At the dump near me, things are really well separated. So I went to the paper recycling area to find these books. There is sort of a long metal trailer type thing I stepped into. So I was just in with a bunch of old magazines, books, junk mail, etc. It wasn't too grungy. I'm not sure these hardcover encyclopedias belonged in a paper recycling trailer, but that worked for me!

    The last time I went in, I found a bunch of books with all the covers ripped off. There were probably 100 of them! A quick glance at the text told me they were all dirty books. I had to wonder where the covers went. Maybe they wallpapered a room or something? :)

    It's worth a trip to your local dump if they separate the trash from the recycling. Looking through paper isn't a dirty task. There are a lot of stone garden type things dropped off too, and I've found some neat ones there. The only thing they don't seem to want you to take is the computer stuff. I'm not sure if that's so much about safety as it is about the guys at the dump reselling those parts.

    I wouldn't be able to jump into the really trashy trash even if I wanted to. It's in too high of a container. I know some people in more convenient dumpster diving areas find some amazing things!

    Oh, and I did revisit the dump to take a few more encyclopedias. Just so no one thinks I'm too much of a hoarder, I have scrapbooking plans for them! I got 'W' for Wisconsin and 'C' for Colorado since that's mostly where my family is from. There are some good old maps to cut up in those! Or maybe I'll just print some copies of the maps and keep the books as a piece of state history.

    Depending on how your dump/recycling center is set up, you might just luck out and find some old books too. It will be fun to compare notes if you end up making an altered book.

    Insomniac's Attic ~ She sure does! She has a really creative mind. I haven't tried any of her projects yet, but I've felt inspired by many. I have a feeling that even if I tried to make my books exactly like hers, they would look different. My brain is already going in a different direction with one. Ours will be the same in that we each made an altered book. :)

    Haha! Weren't those tips priceless? So you attended Charm School? I bet you have perfect posture! Or maybe not if you flunked. :) When I think of Charm School, I think of girls walking around with books on their heads. How about that illustration with the "good" and "bad" posture girls? You just don't see things like that anymore!

  7. I love Marilyn's tutorials! She's so talented! Have you seen her latest Halloween Recipe Box?

    Those encyclopedias were a lucky find. Encyclopedias are probably all online now.

  8. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Yeah, she has a lot of great ideas! I have seen her latest project and I thought it was pretty cool. I like the little feet on the box. It could be handy for me, because I have a lot of Halloween recipes.

    I would think that encyclopedias are only online, but I could be wrong. There are probably some people who have been buying them for decades and want a complete collection for each year. I know encyclopedias have been released in a DVD format, because one came with a computer I got around 10 years ago. It was really neat, but in a totally different way from the books.

  9. I really think this is cool! This is my kind of Horror/Halloween stuff! I bookmarked the site and I'm looking forward to seeing your creations :)

  10. Matt ~ Yeah, mine too! Creating a decoration or prop yourself adds something special to it. The found object aspect makes it fun too. Then there's a bit of a story behind the final product. I'm really looking forward to making these book covers. I have lots of ideas floating around in my head, which are somewhat different from the examples I linked to. That's what often happens - A project serves as inspiration, but then I take it in my own direction. We'll see what I end up with!