What Not to do to a Book: A Top Ten List

Water-damaged Book
Oh, this poor thing.

Books, especially old and antique books, can be finicky and temperamental. To keep your collection in pristine condition, be sure to avoid the following pitfalls of book ownership.

1. Do not expose to water or damp atmospheres

When wet or damp, pages quickly wrinkle and become brittle. In some cases, the ink can run and spill onto other pages.

 2. Do not place pressure on the binding

Age, quality, and use can all result in weakened binding, and undue pressure can cause pages to fall out and the binding to split.

 3. Do not subject to harsh or ultraviolet lights

Books with hand-drawn or fragile illustrations and platings can become dull when exposed too frequently to ultraviolet lights or camera flashes.

 4. Do not store books in dark, cramped places

Book lice, silverfish, and several types of beetles can damage books and chew through pages.

 5. Do not smoke near books

Books can become victims of secondhand smoke as well. Cigarette smoke and ashes can settle deep into the pages, and it can become very difficult to remove the odor.

 6. Do not attempt to ship books without proper packaging

Books often get scratched or dinged in transit through the postal system, so pack your books with care. In extreme cases, the binding of older books can become badly damaged when not packaged with care.

7. Do not fold books with paperback bindings

While some may prefer to fold paperback books for more comfortable reading, this can cause undue pressure on the spine and result in torn bindings.

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

 8. Do not store books in rarely visited storerooms

Rats and other rodents can cause significant physical damage to books, so be sure to store them where they are not vulnerable to the nibbling of vermin.

 9. Do not oil leather bound books (unless you are a trained professional)

Although it may seem like common sense to keep leather bound books well-oiled to preserve the quality of the leather, PBS notes that “What ultimately determines the life span of leather is not whether it’s oiled, but how well it was made.” The best tip to preserve leather quality is to make sure the books are kept in well-ventilated, non-humid environments.

 10. Do not burn

Nothing good can come from burning books.

We have a few other blog posts about book repair and maintenance:



This entry was written by and posted on July 12, 2013 at 11:11 am, filed under Book Care, Home Library, How-to, Top 10 Lists and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink

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