Giving Vintage Books New Life at Ex Libris Anonymous (

In People in the Neighborhood by lratzlaffLeave a Comment

Jacob Deatherage, owner and creator of Ex Libris Anonymous, loves books. He has, it seems, a special fondness for vintage books. He loves not only the stories they tell, but also the way they look and feel, the way images and words appear on the cover and pages. Jacob collects discarded vintage books and gives them new life by transforming them into beautiful journals, just perfect for writing, drawing or scrap booking.

The Beauty in Books: Jacob selects the books he works with for their aesthetic quality.  His quest for books begins with collections of books he receives from various book sellers.  The books arrive in huge boxes, called Gaylords, and Jacob then sorts through them all to select which books to transform. He is looking for not only books in good condition, but books that have a certain sense of appeal to the eye or are interesting looking.

The Metamorphosis: Jacob and his team then take the book and salvage its cover and some random pages in between. The books, Jacob remarks, are full of amazing things other than words. Some have beautiful illustrations, while others still have the old library cards or handwritten notes and inscriptions.

Inside Book Journals Shop

Book Journal Making: The team then takes around 75 pages of blank sheets and inserts the random pages collected from the book throughout the blank sheets of paper. All of the sheets and pages are placed back between the cover, drilled with tiny holes at the binding edge, and bound together with a spiral binding.

Personal Reflection: Each journal is a unique, hand-made creation. No two are alike, even if from the same publication or edition of the book. These journals are a wonderful vessel for the unique creativity they invite. It’s a blend of old and new that uniquely reflects the person who fills its pages.

Jacob with Boom Box

Book Mania: Customers can choose from hundreds of journals.  The workshop is loaded with shelves of books waiting to be transformed. It’s like walking into a bookstore or library, full of the wonderful books you remember from childhood or had almost forgotten.  The books are all neatly organized according to a system designed to make finding the books easy. This is crucial, because the customer selects the book before it is transformed.

Pick Your Book: Most customers select their journals at the on-line store at  Jacob and his team scan the covers of the books they have collected and place those images on the on-line store. The visitor browses the collection and selects the cover for his/her new journal.  Behind the scenes, the team collects the order and then hand creates the journal.

Experience the Books: Customers are also invited to come to the retail store and workshop.  There, you can browse the shelves, and touch and smell the book you choose for your journal (or the journal you are giving someone else!).  I selected a favorite book from from my childhood, and walked away with a journal I will cherish even after the pages are full.

Book Artist: The idea of Ex Libris Anonymous began about 15 years ago in Seattle. Jacob came into some unexpected funds and used it to start up a business using old books as covers for journals. Jacob notes that he’s always had a fascination with books – that books are remnants of human interaction. He’s picky about the books he uses, selecting maybe 1 out of 500. He’s a bit of a book artist, you might say, and sold his journals at art fairs and craft shows.

The Journal Makers Workshop: As the on-line business grew, Jacob sought larger space for his work. Ex Libris Anonymous has been in Portland since 2004, and in its current space just off SE Belmont for about 2 years.  Now, Jacob has a team to assist in the journal making, but Jacob is the final arbiter on which books to use. The collection is at once eclectic, yet also familiar.  If you like books at all, it’s definitely worth stopping by and perusing the shelves.

Your Personal Journal: If you go to the shop, you’ll enter into a friendly atmosphere and notice the smell of books.  If, like me, you like books, you’ll head to the shelves and take a look. Soon, one of the books will grab your attention, and you’ll know that’s the journal you want!  If you’re lucky, they might even make your journal right there while you wait, and you can leave with your very personal journal in hand.

Visit Ex Libris Anonymous at 916 SE 29th Street in Portland.  Or check out the on-line store at  Watch the video below to learn more!

Featured image source: Ex Libris Anonymous

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