I was at the library last night, turning in my overdue books and paying off my fines. My library has a "Friends of the Library" area, where people donate books, and then the Friends sell them, to help support the library. And lookie what I found!
They're called "My Book House", and from my Google learnings, I have found that this is 11 volumes of a 12 volume set. I didn't see Volume 12 at the library, but I'm going to go back and look, in case it's been misplaced. They were edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, and each book contains children's stories, poems and illustrations. As you go through each book, the stories become progressively more challenging, to track a child's reading development. They are gorgeously illustrated.
The first thing I saw, when I saw this set, was the beautiful pastel colors of the covers, and my first thought was to have them sitting on my shelf, each one altered into an art journal. An 11 volume art journal, if you will.
However, then I went and looked them up on Google. I always do this with old books, just to make sure I'm not altering some rare, one-of-a-kind book that people want for ridiculous sums of money.
Sigh - and what did I find? That these books are worth something. Not a lot - these are reprints of the first "My Book House" 6-Volume set that was originally published in 1920. But a 12-volume set of this 1971 reprint, in good condition, goes for about $75 on Amazon.com.
This put me in a quandary. Usually, I pick up old books because I like the cover, or the title is clever, or the paper inside is thick and a little bit toothy. But they never turn out to be rare, or worth anything, other than maybe $2 at Alibris. So, I alter them with zero guilt - no one else wants the book, so what's wrong with me altering it?
And this is the argument I use with people that freak out over people altering books - what's wrong with re-purposing a book that no one else wants, into something the artist will enjoy and use? I don't think books are sacred, unless again, we're talking about rare first editions and such. They are meant to be enjoyed, in whatever format that happens to be, reading and/or altering.
But in this case, these books turn out to be beloved by many, and are worth something to other people, as they are.
So, I've had to make a choice here. They are worth something to me, as alterable books, and I want to use them as art journals. I want to see them on my shelf, and know they contain my journey as a person and artist. But, they are also worth something to others, as nostalgic reminders of childhood stories, or as something to be given to their children and grandchildren to enjoy. And I've decided that what they are worth to me, as an artist, is more important than what they are worth to a stranger who may pay that $75 for what I've got. I've decided that being worried about their monetary value to someone else is pretty materialistic, and I'm choosing the aesthetic route.