Introduction: The Dissected Manuscript

Picture of The Dissected Manuscript

There are billions of stories that have been told in all of humanity and so there are a few that can be safely forgotten. Take a tour through a thrift store and you'll find hundreds of old hardcover books that are just begging to find a new life. Their intent, if they can have one, is to be read, but let's liberate them into something new. A phoenix from the ashes, if you will.

In memory of the surrealists who cut up pieces of text out of newspapers or books to create new narratives with horrendous plots I decided to take a tawdry novel and open it up to a vast realm of new possibilities. With the pages sliced up you can rearrange the tale of kids drinking, drugging and screwing. Go straight from the psychiatrist couch into a heroin binge and then into a fight with the disconnected parents. Only faster this time.

Or you could just accept this as an aesthetic exercise to see what you can create with a budget of $5 and a rainy afternoon to kill.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

The main ingredient here is a great book. You can define greatness in your own way as that is a purely objective decision. Jackie Collins lives in my city and so I figured that she would be the perfect author to have her work destroyed. She's made millions and I really doubt that she'll be offended. It also happened to be the first book of the right size that I came across. And then I came up with some rationalization so that makes me happy enough.

The other qualities of greatness would relate to the thickness of the paper and the width of the pages. I've done a couple of other versions of this with a big thesaurus and the feel of the paper was better. I didn't feel bad about that as I don't believe in synonyms and any excuse to take those out of circulation is good in my opinion.

In addition to the book, get a pencil, an X-Acto with fresh blades, and a ruler.

Step 2: Make the Marks

Picture of Make the Marks

Choose how thick you want the slices and mark out the increments with a pencil. Do this on the outside and the inside as a guide for the cutting.

Step 3: Get Slicing

Picture of Get Slicing

Use the ruler to guide the initial slicing and you can then use the cut pages to guide the rest of the cuts. Be careful to keep the lines straight as the pages can shift and it's easy to slice off thin ribbons of paper.

Move from cutting line to cutting line and go through the book. Iterate, iterate, iterate.

Step 4: Alternate Sections

Picture of Alternate Sections

With the whole book cut up, grab each section and alternate direction. Half go one way and the other half go the other way. Hold it down with your hand so it doesn't flop back into the middle.

Step 5: Squish!

Picture of Squish!

Plop some magazines down on top of the book to keep it in place. Now get out some ridiculously large design book that you got at the store on an impulse because it had some rad pictures and it was on sale and damn if that cover isn't trippy.

Step 6: Place the Book

Picture of Place the Book

Sweet, you're done and now the book needs some nice place to be appreciated. In my apartment, this means that I get to put it on a table for a couple weeks before my girlfriend gets sick of it and I have to give it away or shove it closed and stick into one of several storage piles that we have.

Close peeks at the book reveal several bits of random salaciousness to enjoy. Lust and greed and overdoses, this book has it all.

Now that the sun is out it's time to get outside for a run or a bike ride. Time to let the subconscious think of other projects or variations to do.

Other ideas:

- One single cut per page that moves from the top to the bottom as the pages progress, creating one big diagonal slice.
- Curved lines
- Leaf design cut out on each page so that a leaf flops out on one side and the negative space flops on the other.
- Two cuts per page that start out next to each other at the middle of the first page and move outwards as the pages progress, creating a mountain on one side and a valley on the other.


or_ford98 (author)2012-07-26

Hey, what camera do you use? The pictures look brilliant!

fungus amungus (author)or_ford982012-07-26

This was a while ago, but I'm pretty sure it was an old Canon Rebel with a 50mm lens

Foaly7 (author)2009-09-13

If you do that, people will hunt you down. And I know a few of those people.

Crash2108 (author)2006-11-11

You should spray it with..............something that stiffens it.

Crash2108 (author)Crash21082006-11-11

I think that would be starch.

Tobita (author)Crash21082008-05-12

or a Viagra-water solution:P

fungus amungus (author)Crash21082006-11-12

That would make the project look too heavy. I was thinking about misting it with water so that it could settle in a new position and then dry out, but was worried about it crinkling.

Spray it with polyurethane! Just apply it in very light coats so you don't saturate the pages. Hairspray might work decently also.

if you found to evenly crinkle the whole book, then it might add to the art!

bmlbytes (author)2008-02-21

He probably studies at Hogwarts

flio191 (author)bmlbytes2008-04-12


RichardBronosky (author)2008-03-02

I am tempted to do this with a Bible. Actually I'd use one of those abbreviated "New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs" versions, because the "potency" of the old testament doesn't lend itself to a mere 3-5 lines being "impactful". I like the idea of discovering something different every time you look at it. It kind of goes along with the "living and active" idea.

A lot of people would consider this kind of "dissection" to be disrespectful. But, I've done a lot worse to Bibles just carrying them around for years.

niclet (author)2008-02-08

Hi, very great project! It reminds me the 1961's Raymond Queneau "Cent Milliards de Poèmes" :
Some explanations
An image

Cheers ;)

marc92 (author)2008-01-25

I'd like to do this to my math textbook (and my English one.) I'm sure the teacher would understand: "The internet told me to do it so it must be OK."

technodude92 (author)2007-12-29

if you cut it... the Potterheads will come... lol, some people at my school are BIG potter fans. If they even heard of your comment you would be toast(sliced toast).

inquisitive (author)2007-09-29

Excellent project-I want to try this on some of the multiple phone books pressed upon us-the paper is so thin-I bet the textural applications would be interesting! Thanks for the idea!

woodknot (author)2006-12-10

I had to take a look at this because the little picture when it exploringly appears and disappears, looks like something made out of cloth. But a second look tells me that it's not cloth, IT'S ART! I challenge you to get even more creative. Specific books cut in specific ways. For example: The Christmas Carol sliced upward and draped down the stood up to look like a tree. I can see a whole art gallery on some side street, and on each white display cube--a book. On one, "A Comedy Legend-Bill Cosby" all cut up. On another, a biography of Truman Capote, nicely sliced and fluffed with those pretty paper scizzors that cut curliques. Someone would pay big bucks. Is that an architech's scale you are using to cut against? Shame on you.

fungus amungus (author)woodknot2006-12-10

I hadn't thought of any cuts related to the context. That's interesting. The variations I was thinking of were more purely visual and geometric. I guess it is an architect's scale. I bought it ages ago for its heft. Something weird about that? Is there some taboo I'm breaking?

Marcos (author)fungus amungus2007-01-31

OMG, you're using your scale as a straight edge to cut?!?!!? =:-o

Yep, strictly taboo! Because it's a precision measuring instrument. If you shave a bit of the edge with your X-acto or other razor knife, you've compromised the precision of the scale. This is especially true of engineer's scales, where you are measuring 1000ths of an inch or millimeter. If your drawing is off by a couple of thousandths, something ain't gonna fit after your expensive tooling is made from that drawing. Yeah, that's the old way, it's mostly CAD now.

You gotta respect the tools! Especially the older ones. You'd be hard pressed to find a good quality scale these days. I have a few of my machinist/pattern maker great-grandfather's tools, and they are heirloom quality treasures as far as I am concerned. Most I still use occasionally.

theStackasaurus (author)Marcos2007-06-02

Ha ha. I'm glad I'm not the only one that was shocked and / or appalled at the cutting use of the architects' scale. On the other hand, this is a really neat project! I'm going to have to try it out and see what I come up with. I think it's better if you don't coat it with hardening stuff, so it can be interactive. You can play with it and flip the pages, like a more adult and artsy version of the kids' pop-up book.

Mace42 (author)2007-05-13

looks like a fun project. + for the uniqueness.

jessyratfink (author)2007-03-15

Take that, Jackie Collins! I suggest John Grisham and Danielle Steel to anyone wanting to do this. There are so many of their books around you should be able to get them extra cheap! Hell, I'll send you some! We throw them out or donate them constantly at work. :P

I'd love to get free books to tear up, but I have a thrift store that sells me hardcovers for $2 each and there are free bins near a couple of other bookstores. Thanks for the offer.

violetseizure (author)2007-01-22

woah, pictures.

cry_wolf (author)2006-11-11

Wow, the best thing to happen to the book since the book mark! Very nicely documented, and you didnt put the lingerie ads from amazon on the bottom of the page did you? Haha, no really there are lingerie ads, stretch alce 2 piece, 13.99 LOL

trebuchet03 (author)cry_wolf2006-11-11

Those ads pay for the site ;) I see it too -- along with two book ads :P

ewilhelm (author)trebuchet032006-11-13

We've been experimenting with contextual ads from Amazon. I was hoping they would automatically identify tools and materials (from Amazon Industrial & Scientific) that could be useful and helpful. Obviously, they haven't quite figured out what this page is about yet.

fungus amungus (author)ewilhelm2006-11-14

As long as there's at least one book ad in there it's fine with me.

ewilhelm (author)fungus amungus2006-11-14

By discussing a certain ad, I think we may have doomed ourselves into seeing it! The Amazon contextual stuff is definitely not as good as Adsense. We'll see if it improves.

zachninme (author)ewilhelm2006-11-25

I keep seeing one for spandex, its on this page. Link
I would like if you could remove it, as it is never in context.

fungus amungus (author)ewilhelm2006-11-14

i took a quick look through other instructables and there seems to be a pool of wild card ads. Sometimes there will be related ads, but if it can't do that then it puts in "What Not to Drive," "Steel Bolt Hacking" or the lovely lace panties. Yay!

Tool Using Animal (author)2006-11-12

Awesome, suggest "Bonfire of the Vanities" as your next object d'art.

It all depends on what I can find at the thrift store. A week ago I went and they had a thesaurus, but I didn't have enough money on me to buy it even if it was just a dollar. The next time around it was gone! My slackness has now doomed someone to synonyms. Dang. But ideally I'd like to do a dictionary or thesaurus next because their paper is thinner and would have a better hang to it.

Doom_Goat (author)2006-11-12

nice, would definately be a conversation starter

gigman (author)2006-11-11

Wow, nice! Very Very Cool!

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.
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