For the love of books

Deatherage cutting a plastic coil he threaded into a journal.

When Jacob Deatherage was living in Seattle in 1999, the businessman Paul Allen gave him $5,000 to leave the apartment he was living in after Allen bought the building.

This became the nucleolus of Deatherage’s now nearly 20-year-old business, Ex Libris Anonymous, where he makes custom-made journals from recycled vintage books.

He’s worked in Seattle, Portland and Eugene before coming to Astoria.

His shop, located at 1191 Marine Drive, sits in the former space of Thompson’s Instrument Repair and has been open since February.

The space has been remade, with a giant bookshelf visible from the street that reaches from floor to ceiling. Deatherage’s corgi, Crumpton, greets visitors from his perch on the couch when they come in.

With colorful, hardcover books from diverse topics such as “Life in Europe: Italy” to “Guide to Modern English,” and beloved Dr. Seuss books, customers can select the book they want made into a journal.

Deatherage saves the cover and a few pages from the book before adding in white paper and a plastic coil to hold the journal together.

The journals cost $14 and can also be ordered online at

Deatherage spoke to Coast Weekend about growing up reading in Bandon, the difficulties of finding beautiful books and why he chose this space.

Jonathan Williams: Where did you get the idea to start making journals?

Jacob Deatherage: I had seen somebody doing something similar with records and I was a book dealer and book artist at the time in Seattle. I was sort of the book scout. They don’t really exist – I guess they still sort of exist today but it was before the Internet was the main place to sell books and so I’d go to garage sales and thrift stores and find used books and then sell them again to used book stores. So I had access to a lot of good looking books that didn’t have any value but I just kept buying them because they were cheap and because I thought they were pretty. So I found a way of sort of making them into journals.

JW: Do you have to purchase the books even though they are recycled?

JD: You do. It doesn’t look like it, but these books are really specific types of books. One, they’re hardcover. And then two they’re good looking. And if you go to any sort of library and you look at a shelf of books, and you examine the hardcovers, you’ll look and you’ll see that one from every 200 is actually interesting. So I have to look at hundreds and hundreds of books. They’re very, very tightly curated.

JW: What attracted you to this space?

JD: Well look at it. For one thing, it’s delightful. For another, it’s small. It’s like a lot of these spaces in downtown Astoria are 1,500 or 2,000 sq ft and I don’t need that much space. It has beautiful windows, beautiful light.

JW: What attracted to making journals and what do you enjoy most about it?

JD: Well, they sold. Poverty, actually, had a big role in it. Because I could actually make 100 of them and take them out to an art walk or to a Sunday Market or something. I like the process. I like it when it clicks with somebody and they interact with the collection. It’s really fun to see people find something that gives them a little bit of joy, you know? What I like are people. I really like to hear people’s stories and find out what they’re about. So I think of the books as a way sort of getting some insight and that personal kind of relationship with people even briefly is the thing that I enjoy the most. I like making a product that I respect as well.

JW: What do you want Astorians to know about your business?

JD: I make a gift product that’s a wonderful and dynamic sort of gift product that people can choose to come in and look through. If you’re going back home and need some gifts for people or summer events or weddings or just for a teacher or graduation gifts or whatever – it’s a good, inexpensive hand-made one-of-a-kind thing.

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