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Taking Care of Your Books

Deterioration of books with time depends on inherent vices, such as acidic paper and glue, and exposure to damaging elements such as air pollution and UV radiation. There is little that can be done about inherent conditions leading to deterioration. Many books printed in the late 19th Century are crumbling apart because of poor quality paper, and even recent books printed on bad paper, such as the 9-volume Birds of the Western Palearctic (Oxford University Press) are showing signs of serious deterioration. (Before signing a book contract, be sure that it specifies that archival quality materials will be used.)

Book owners can take a number of steps to prevent unnecessary deterioration:

Upon purchasing a book, remove any gummed price tags or other labels. If not removed, glue will eventually spread into the cover or page, leaving a permanent yellow spot. Any excess glue on glossy dust jackets can be removed with a bit of Goo Gone.

Repair any dust jacket tears that cannot be held together without tape inside a dust jacket protector with PH neutral Scotch Book Repair Tape or similar. Never use any tape other than acid-free book tape on books!

Next, cover the dust jacket with a Brodart Archival-Quality book jacket cover or similar. If you have a vast library of books to cover, it probably would be more economical to purchase the covers in rolls. I have always bought them in sheets and have discovered that it is best to purchase the "long" sizes. They may be trimmed with a paper cutter, but it is best to leave them long enough to extend beyond the dust jacket by at least ¼" at both ends. The book jacket cover should be taped to itself above the fold along the bottom with three small pieces of book tape.

Store books out of direct sunlight, as UV will cause the spines and dust jackets to fade. Large, heavy books should be stored flat, although that isn't always possible. Dust your books often.

For further information, especially about the care and repair of collectible books, see the rec.collecting.books FAQs.

Copyright © 2001 John Wall

Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall