Basic Care of Antique Books
And Preserving the New!
- Always use bookmarkers. Avoid folding corners or pages. Pens, pencils, any objects left in books can cause the spine to crack and break. Very thick book markers or gem clips are also not a good idea.
- Remove from the shelf properly. Reach to the rear to push slightly toward you, then grab the sides with all fingers. Avoid the temptation to pull on the top spine, which is the first visible place of wear and frayed.
- Opening any book more than 190° (flat) causes the spine to break and crack over time. Always support the book's spine while it is open, never forcing it to lay open.
- Wash hands before and after handling all books. Lotion, sweat, etc. can cause soil stains. Germs can also be passed to you from used, library, and antique/vintage books.
Cloth bound hardbacks can only be damp spot cleaned. Use a very mild cleaning solution sparingly because color fading can occur.
- Leather dressing obtained from a local shoe store can be used on leather bound books. Scott's Liquid Gold can also be used sparingly by spraying on a cloth and then wipe the book. A furniture polish with a high concentration of oil will allow softening of the leather and help prevent drying out.
Home remedies may or may not work. We would not recommend books sealed with baking soda or cat liter in a way where the substance touches or has direct contact with books. Otherwise it may produce satisfactory results.
- Slight odors may be removed in an airy location such as screened porch or shaded deck with book laying open for several hours.
- Another remedy is to spray a disinfectant into the air while flipping pages, not allowing pages to become wet. Some have suggested sealing books in a plastic bag for several days with a strong solid, air freshener.
We suggest specialists for this area or any more difficult problems. Regular scotch tape and regular household glue is never a good idea. There are specialty products designed for books that can be obtained at a local library supply house.
- Books should never be boxed or stored with spines facing upward. This puts pressure and the weight of the book on the spine. Flat or shelved position is the correct manner.
- The yellowing of pages often found in older books is irreversible. Sealing in an air tight container is the only remedy to stop the process. Books today are printed on acid free paper to prevent them from yellowing.
- Book Parts:
Spine: The side that shows when properly shelved which is the part where the pages are bound together.
- Hinge: Each book has an inside and outside hinge in front and in back. It is the part that connects the cover. Hinges can become cracked or separated. Pages generally start to become loose when there is damage on the hinge or spine.
- Title Page: Usually the first or second printed page with title, author and publishing company. The copyright date is usually found on the front or back of the title page, along with which edition, printing and other publishing information. The last, most current date on the book is THE copyright date. Several years of copyright dates denotes the changes or edits, that have been made since the book's first edition --- the year it was first copyrighted.
We hope this will help you and help teach our children how to handle and take care of our books for years to come.
Expert Care & Value:
We are not experts by any means. Please contact a specialist if you have concerns not addressed on this page or contact the Library of Congress. Their direct link is: Preservation FAQs. You will find professional help from the Library of Congress regarding the preservation of books, photos and other valuables.
Please do not email us to determine the value of your books. We are not qualified for book appraisals. Most books vary in value for a great number of reasons. We suggest you search eBay or http://www.abebooks.com for a listing of a similar book and what it may be going for at the time. We do not purchase used books from individuals, nor do we sell used, original vintage books. The Book of Knowledge Sets are the only exceptions and we have offer consignments on those sets only. Your best option to sell is using eBay.com or use message and swap boards. You will find an abundance of helpful information to help you determine the value of your book at American Library Association's Rare Book and Manuscript section.
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