Many of us read from electronic devices but that does not mean that we do not enjoy a book in our hands from time to time. When I love a book so much I buy the hardcover edition or paperback. It goes on my collection of loved-to-death tomes, and I take good care of it. I enjoy buying older books to add to a very small and modest collection. These become my jewels. Whether antique or new, a much-loved book gets good treatment. Instead of writing a post on How to care for antiques books, I will leave that to the true-experts. You can find plenty of that information on the internet. However, I will write about how I care for my precious books under my real and down to earth circumstances.
Many elements are observed when caring for my precious books. I think of temperature, location, space, air flow, position on shelf, handling, and other issues that may affect the condition of the book over time. Because I do not live in a museum or a mansion, I must adapt my environment to the best conditions for my tomes, as well as my behavior or handling of these. Although my items are in storage now due to a pending move, I can tell you what I did. Here is what I always do.
- The first rule I observe is to never leave a book unattended. I have six cats and some of them love to chew on paper, or play with it. Old books have a plethora of enticing scents and will become a favorite toy or prey.
- The second rule is to treat my books as if they were vampires. I avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or leaving them where I know that the sun rays will hit for some time. Sunlight rays work fast on discoloration and even drying out a cover or spine.
- Third rule – In my case, temperature and location go together. I try to select the best placement in my home – not too humid, not too dry or hot. For example, never leave a favorite in the bathroom or near a cooking stove or on top or near a heater or vent. I don’t have a basement but do have an attic, and neither those would be a good place to store a book.
- Fourth rule – Air flow goes tied to location and placement on the shelf, so I will address those altogether. I try to select a location away from drafts, cold/hot air, sunlight, as well as having a nice airflow where the books will be stored. My shelving is made of wood and it is soft, not rough. Rough shelving might cause tears on your cover and pages, as well as damage on the spine. I don’t place the books too tight, even if I am tempted due to lack of space (wanting to fit another one). I allow a bit of space between, but also, I never lean a book against each other because this will damage its shape and pages eventually. If I have space, I use a felted book end. I’d rather it rests flat than leaning it, although if I lay it flat, another book on top should not be so heavy that the pressure will damage the cover, if it sticks together.
- The fifth rule has to do with how I handle the book. I love when books have dust jackets because of the obvious. I place them upright, but if a book is a softcopy/paperback and it is tall, I’d rather store that one flat on its side because I know that it will bend eventually. I think I only have one or two that are that tall, if memory serves me well. One thing that I try not to do when selecting a book from the shelf is to pull on its spine because I did this once and the thing just came off a bit, so now I rather push the book out from the back and grab it firm with my hand when pulling it out. If there is a decent amount of space between books it should be retrieved easily. In the previous disaster, the book was stored too snug; sometimes you learn the hard way. Under handling, I should mention that I never have cream, lotion or oil in my hands when I am about to read a book that falls under the “precious” category, and by precious I mean “my precious” because I don’t own any valuable or expensive tomes, although I do have a few that are one or two centuries old, and those I have to be very careful when handling them. The reason for this is that the old pages were made of a different material than today’s or more recent books, I think of wood pulp, back in the days when trees were murdered or sacrificed for knowledge. Anything oily or acidic will wreak havoc on the pages (old or new). I do have a pair of white gloves that I keep for the day that I encounter (or afford) that very special specimen. If you have opened an older book you may have noticed that the pages are dry, yellowed, and sometimes a page will crack/crumble when handled. Also, when returning my book to its nest, I try to be gentle, especially with the corners, and try not to touch the wood or the neighboring book. I also don’t dog-ear mark a page or leave a marker inside. Some papers are acidic and will damage it eventually. I bet you have seen the imprint of a marker on a page or its image, even when the marker has been removed.
- The sixth rule has to do with cleaning, and that is simply being aware of using cleaners, oils, and sprays near books or the shelving, dusting gently and regularly so dust does not accumulate heavily. I use a soft duster, but honestly, I don’t even know what kind is better, although I would assume that feathers have oil compared to synthetic dusters; and of course, a separate duster would be better, not the one used around the house.
Other than that, I just try my best to love and care for my books, nothing fancy. Speaking about fancy, if you are into it and want to do it the professional way, there are many book care supplies available such as acid-free protective jackets, gloves, book furniture with glass doors, slip cases, special boxes … . If you own a very special and expensive book then you should consult a antique book specialist or expert that will educate you in the care and or restoration of older volumes. You may want to insure it of course, if it is very valuable. Overall, I just use common sense and TLC.
Ever wondered about the parts of a book? Here is a picture I put together sometime ago. If you notice, at one point, this book was handled with oily fingers because it has markings on the gold-leaf pages; just to give you an example of how something so simple and natural may affect a book later on.
I hope you enjoyed this post.