How do I Care for Antique Books?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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If you have any antique books in your collection, it is important to know how to protect them. Storing them properly in a humidity controlled environment and handling them gently are all part of caring for antique books. Learning how to repair your books is also essential to keeping them in good condition.

Books, especially older ones, are prone to developing mildew. These spores can spread rapidly and destroy an antique book. To prevent mildew from developing, it is important to keep books stored in a room with temperature and humidity control. Air conditioning is almost always a must, and running a quality dehumidifier can be essential in preventing damage to your antique book collection. Placing a dry-cleaning pad, which can be purchased at large retail stores and from dry cleaners themselves, around or inside the book can help to soak up any additional moisture, thereby preventing mildew.

Antique books should be stored either upright or flat to protect the binding from warping. They should never be left leaning at an angle. Antique books should also be stored in sleeves made specifically for older books. This helps to prevent damage from outside sources, thus greatly reducing the deterioration process.


How you handle antique books is also part of caring for them. When taking an antique book off of a shelf, it is important to always grab it from the center of the binding rather than the top or bottom to prevent the binding from bending. If you are using a particularly heavy book, wait until it rests on a flat surface before opening it. Always hold a smaller book from the middle of the spine and support it with both hands.

When opening your antique book, it is important to not force it. The minute you feel resistance in the binding, stop pushing. Antique books made from leather can benefit from light handling with bare hands because the oils in the hands help to keep the leather soft. Other books, depending on their age, are often best handled with gloves.

If your antique book has a scuff mark or smudge, you can typically remove the stain by rubbing a little bit of petroleum jelly on the spot and then rinsing it off with a document cleaner. There are also specialized erasers on the market that, when used very gently, can also remove some unsightly marks. If your antique book has any torn pages, you can often repair them with a very thin acid free tape sold at most major art stores, and often with scrap booking supplies. If you are very skilled at repairing antique books, there are specialized glues to repair pages without taping. If you feel unable to undertake this task but do not want to use tape either, its probably best to take your antique book to a book repair specialist.


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