How to Transform Old Books Into Beautiful Stationery

Notebook with seashells cut from old guides.

I’ve always loved old books, but I realized that I had accumulated almost too many when I began to run out of room on my bookshelves. I knew that I needed another option–and one that didn’t include parting with all of them. Now, some of my old books are in great shape and are totally worthy of a prized place on a shelf or coffee table. Others, though, are diamonds in the rough. Like my numerous seashell guides and coastal travel books. The covers are sometimes unappealing, even though the interiors are filled with beautiful images. Oh, what to do?

Inspired by Etsy and craft fairs, I decided to transform them–nothing too bold (I wasn’t ready to start intricate paper cuttings or book sculptures). I tried my hand at making stationery sets, and found it to be fun and relatively easy. It shows off the beauty and charm of old books, giving them some new life off of the shelf. I wanted to share one of these projects with you today.

For these stationery sets, I tried to capture the style of old botanical prints and natural museum displays. I found that placing the shells in uniform lines on a solid background helped me achieve that look. Here are some tips to make your own:

Step One:

Find an old book with images that have clean lines, which makes the pictures easier to cut out. There are some beautifully illustrated books out there, but remember that the pictures you choose should still look good when cut away from the original page.

Step Two:

Select a notebook with a flat surface (no texture). Canvas, moleskin, and other textured finishes make it hard for the images to stick to the cover.

Step Three:

Use small scissors to cut the images out. I have found this to be easier than using a utility knife since old paper can sometimes tear easily.

Step Four:

Use an archival glue stick to adhere the images to the cover. Wet glue can sometimes make the ink in old pictures run or smear.

You can find the notebooks pictured in this post in my Etsy Shop. Feel free to email me with questions about making your own. I would love to see creative projects that you have made with old books. Leave pictures and links in the comments box below.


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