Hollowed out editions of your favorite books

Secret Storage Books sells old hardcovers (mostly remainders and what look like library discards), professionally hollowed out and glued together to form hollow book stashes. You can choose the book that will look most convincing on your shelf. Most of the titles run less than $35. Link (via Schneier)


  1. When I was a teenager, my mom made a hollowed out books for me to store my, ummmmm, supplies. It took her about an hour and a half-bottle of white glue. The only problem was the book was The Last Days of Pompeii, which I really would have liked to read before it was destroyed. That said, it still sits on my shelf three decades later and serves its purpose well.

  2. I was always brought up to see hollowing out books as a very bad thing. There’s no good reason to destroy a book. If one needs to hide something there are much better places.

  3. Thank goodness they are professionally hollowed out.

    All you loudmouthed amateur hollowers can suck it! Leave it to the pros!

  4. When I was 12 and much less cautious, I decided to make a hollow book. I placed the volume on my lap and got out my trust razor-knife and started to cut…right into my leg when the knife slipped off the page. Ouch! 10 stitches and nearly 15 years later, I still have the scar on my upper thigh to remind me about safety and home projects :-)

  5. To quote the laconic silicon Horta of the original Star Trek (with credit to the equally laconic translator, Mr. Spock), “Pain!”

    I, like Joshua Z., have always felt awful about book-hollowing. The act carries the same moral taint as taxidermy or clear-cutting. It’s so mean and destructive of that which we might someday miss and hope to hold in our hands one last time. For instance – that edition of Moby Dick looks like it was beautiful, once. Now it’s dead. One might as well have killed a real whale and then hollowed out its carcass so that one would have a place to hide one’s spare house key.

    (And as someone who read Moby Dick for fun a few years ago, let me assure doubters that not only is it the second-greatest American novel (behind Huck Finn), but it is surprisingly quick, modern-sounding and funny, and not the unreadable slog that it is so often misrepresented as being. So take that, all you Melville-hate-ahs).

    I mean, look at the poor commenter whose mom inadvisedly tore the guts out of “Last Days of Pompeii,” an influential Victorian novel written by one of the most prolific novelists of his age, the incomparable Bulwer-Lytton. And sure, his novel “London” has the stupid opening “It was a dark and stormy night ….” sentence, but still, it’s hard to argue with success, and ol’ B-L was the Harold Robbins of his era.

    Its not just that great (or rare, or notable) books should be spared this ghoulish act. No book great or small, rare or common, deserves this sort of treatment, not while someone in the world might benefit at all from the words contained within that volume (although I suppose exceptions might be made for certain vermin-like works such as the paperback Warlords of Gor series, the Kitty Kelly unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan, or “The Celestine Prophecy”).

  6. J.K., I read Moby Dick, for the first time, this summer. It was absolutely fantastic! But “surprisingly quick” and “modern-sounding” certainly aren’t descriptions which come to mind. “Grueling” is more like it. But very, very much worth the effort, I might add. I didn’t enjoy Huck Finn, which I re-read earlier this year, nearly as much. Twain is a master, but Melville’s use of language is beyond brilliant.

    Now, to keep this on topic, I too must say destroying classics to stash your pot^H^H^H diamonds is officially a Bad Thing. I also feel the same way about libraries selling off “unpopular” books.

  7. I grew up a book fetishist, and I admit it probably would be hard for me to hollow out the object myself, but still I grin at the number of people here crying out in putative pain at the mere idea. How can it be sacrilegious to hollow out Moby Dick? Surely, this is one of the texts that we can rest assured is NOT lost when just one of its in-paper-nation finds itself gutted?

    Surely it’s worse to destroy a book that we cannot ascertain will survive despite our actions than make a box out of a work so widespread as Ishmael’s tale? Come on. The text counts, yes, but the text is insubstantial. The books are but mere transitive objects for it, they are but vessels. Have fun, book carvers out there!

  8. Although I appreciate the sentiment behind the book fetishists’ loathing of doing harm to books, as a professional librarian, I have to turn a jaundiced eye toward the veneration of random copies of cheaply-produced mass market editions. To every thing there is a season, &c., and one of the things that we have to do periodically is weed our collections of out-of-date and unused materials. We try to pass the books on to other readers via book sales and such, but quite often these shelfworn and unloved volumes end up in the dumpster. Put it on eBay or something first if you want to assuage your conscience, but unless you’re really careless and gut a rare edition, there are always other copies.

    The main problems with using hollowed-out books is that a) you have to pretend that a book that you’re willing to destroy is still worthy of inclusion on your shelf, and b) it has to be a book that the casual browser would be unlikely to take down. (Of course, you could just put it on your bedside table where most visitors wouldn’t see it, but what’s the fun in that?)

  9. Oi!

    On the one hand, my bibliomania is pretty full-blown, and that certainly colors my reaction to book-disembowling. On the scale of pathological hoarding, I’m somewhere below the rank of “Likely to be Crushed by Accumulated Newspapers” and somewhere above the rank of “Unconsious of the Number of Pens Taken Home From Work.” As Boing Boing has taught us (if it has taught us nothing else) hoarders like me rarely have an accurate sense of the true economic value of things, and we tend to ascribe considerable economic value to trash.

    So you should certainly retain some skepticism regarding my opinion. Nevertheless, I really do feel a stab of psychic agony when I see an orphaned book left to the cruel knives of the hollowers.

    Halloween Jack (poster #16), I know that as a librarian, you must necessarily take a much less sentimental view toward books. After all, it’s unlikely that the destruction of one, or ten, or a thousand copies of Moby Dick is going to significantly diminish the availability of Moby Dick in the world, and there’s only so much shelf space and money in the library budget. Something’s gotta give.

    But I know from my experiences of libraries public and private, good and bad, rich and poor, large and small, that the tragedy of the library selling off or pulping a forgotten Robert Benchley collection (say, e.g., “After 1903 – What”) or a turn-of-the century illustrated travel guide (“Lost Cathedrals of Belgium”) is that while those unhappy books may not be the last of an otherwise globally extinct line, their destruction nevertheless does result in a local extinction. To wit – the library no longer possesses those books; their names are expunged from the local catalog. Their geographic range is constrained.

    A locally absent object will not be missed (when I checked “Lost Cathedrals of Belgium” out of a college library collection in 1985 (Ah, youth, how fleeting), I was only the second person to have done so in the last 60 years, and so as rare as the book was, it wasn’t exactly feelin’ the love), but if that book is destroyed the intellectual diversity of the library is diminished.

    Do we all like the consequences of “the long tail”? In other words, do we all enjoy the benefit derived from ready access to the forgotten and unpopular bits of art and thought that pile up in the corners of our culture? If we do, doesn’t it feel a wee bit dirty to decrease the richness of the local information field?

    Now, one might say, “But what if I’m looking at 6 outdated editions of the ‘1984 CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics?’ or an outcast, outdated volume ‘A-B’ of the 1996 Martindale-Hubble Lawyers’ Directory? These are monstrous big hard-backed tomes that have all the immediacy of an old newspaper.”

    True dat. Notice that I didn’t extend blanket amnesty to all books – I mean, how would Kitty Kelly feel, knowing that I would happily preside over the mutilation of her work? And notice that the Moby Dick carcass being so mis-used in the photo illustrating this story isn’t some cheapy newsprint-paper mass-market edition. I mean, damn, but that thing looks pricey.

  10. And now, to continue my beating of this dead horse.

    Just out of curiousity, I went to the website of the book-destroyers featured in this posting. To really feel some pain, check out their one-of-a-kind offerings.

    For example, “Memoirs of a Polish Baroque Prince” – translated into English and printed by University of California Press. Let’s say that I’m a fan of Polish arts and letters, and on seeing this book killed, I decide to acquire an unslaughtered copy for myself. What easier way to find a copy than to go to Amazon?

    Alas, the 1976 first edition (edited by Caroline Leach) is unavailable at any price – Amazon’s various partner merchants of out-of-print books won’t be much help there. There are a few copies of the 1980 second edition available, but the cheapest is for $50.00. The most expensive copy sells for well over $300.00.

    So what does this tell us (aside from the fact that the folks at Secret Storage Eviscerated Books maybe oughta check out eBay and Amazon from time to time before they pick up the knife)? This tells us that in a very real and direct sense, the specific people who are offering these specific hollowed-out books are destroying books that are otherwise unavailable.

    And so again I say, “PAIN!”

  11. I am partial to a little book-evisceration when I’m looking for gifts for the weed-fond, shiftless teenage boys I happen to be related to (their universal response: AWESOME!), and my supplier of the hard stuff is a librarian who is necessarily incredibly unsentimental about the books that would otherwise be going in the dumpster out back. Anything that can be re-homed or rescued by a loving reader is, long before it arrives on my desk (she donates many a crate of books to children’s charities, then she sells them at library sales, then she has ‘give-away boxes’, then finally when all other avenues are exhausted I get them). Once in my hands it either gets carved into treasure boxes or the pages are used to create geeky badges/buttons (or both).

    My first book-carving project was a pretty but mediocre edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Very nice cover, and I used one of my favourite sonnets as the inner lining (“My love is as a fever burning still…”). Shakespeare, eh, this book is merely a vessel, my cutting it up isn’t limiting anyone’s access to his writing. And this particular edition? Cheap-arse print-run. Even the kookiest of book fetishists couldn’t plausibly miss it. And it makes SUCH a nice little treasure-box!

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