Identify, Prevent, and Remove Mold and Mildew from Books

A handy guide!

Imagine: You just came across a wonderful book in your favorite used book or thrift store, and it seems to be everything that you were looking for to add to your shelf. It is nearly perfect, except for the pervasive, dank smell that comes along with it.

Unfortunately, that smell can be an indication of improper storage in a cold, damp basement or uninsulated attic, leaving it open to the growth of mold and mildew. These fungi are the most common culprits of the familiar “old book smell,” but that odor is the least of the detrimental effects possible.

Mold and mildew live off of organic material (leather, wood, paper, cloth) and over time their presence can weaken the structure of the book, stain the cover and pages, and prompt negative effects in your health, especially for folks with allergies or asthma.

It is important to identify the active growth of mold and mildew and remove it before it spreads through your entire library! (more…)


Simple Book Jacket Makeovers: How to clean, repair and protect book dust jackets and covers

The Able McLaughlins
This was a listing for a dust jacket only,
no book included!

It’s spring here in New York City, and people are hurrying off to work weighed down with more than the usual laptops and cell phones. Spring — and the related notion of spring cleaning — has these folks carrying garments they’re not wearing, things in need of cleaning and repair. Many of these are what designers call jackets.

Which, of course, is what another species of designer calls the attractive and informative attire books wear. Those jackets are meant to be protective, too. And, like our clothing, they need care now and then.

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To Clean or Not to Clean? A complete guide to the simple art of cleaning books

Book Cleaning

Our first question when we handle new acquisitions is always, Does it need cleaning? The usual answer is yes. Then we must decide how much cleaning is appropriate and choose the method that will be most effective and safe.

Each of us has a personal definition of dirt. For general book purposes, dirt is whatever doesn’t belong on a book; it’s foreign matter. Dirt obscures beauty. Dirt is not necessarily a passive substance. Dirt and its components can be abrasive, not just unsightly.

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How to remove library markings from books

Ex-library books
Ex-library markings can detract from the appearance of books, but with the proper tools and techniques you can help your favorite ex-libs look and feel better.

At a book sale in support of your local library, you discover a title you really want, one you’ve longed to find for years, one you may have given up hope of ever owning. Now it’s in sight, now in your grasp, and the price is right, a dollar or two going to a good cause. But you’re not happy. In fact, you may be disappointed. You’ve found something you want, and it’s in bad shape. Its tattered dusk jacket bears the volume’s former shelf address as expressed by Dewey, its quota of library stamps and pockets and other stigmata attest to years of circulation, its dingy look and grimy feel suggest not so much as a single meaningful cleaning since the day it was cataloged. There may be evidence of many readers, from fingerprints to dog-ears to marginal notes.

This has happened to us so many times that we’ve outgrown every reaction but the urge to rush the book to the cashier and then back to what we think of as our M*A*S*H unit, our medicine chest for ailing books. Is there a dealer or collector out there who can’t recall, and weep and recriminate as the story unfolds, a book that wasn’t bought because it was in poor condition, often because it was ex-library, with all that term entails? The remedy for the human condition is simple: see the book, buy the book, especially at library sale prices. Remedies for the former library book’s condition are more varied, but not much more complicated. (more…)