Kerry Hammond recently attended a four part series of classes at her local used book store, The Printed Page Bookshop. Each class taught a different topic about rare books, preservation, and collecting. Here are her notes from Class Two: Protecting Your Collection. We're running her notes on each class each Wednesday this month.
There are many aspects of protecting your collection of books: where to store them, how to handle them, and, if necessary, how to clean them. Books have been made out of different materials over the years, and each one can show their own kind of wear and require a different method of preservation. Up through the Industrial Age, paper was made from cotton and linen rag. Post Civil War paper was almost exclusively wood pulp. It can be difficult to determine one way to protect books that are so different, but there are a few things that seem to be universal.
The books need to be kept in a stable environment. The four buzz words are: cool, clean, dry, and dimly lit. Cool & Dry: If the books are kept too dry they may become too brittle, but if a temperature level is maintained, the relative humidity tends to also be stable. Temperatures between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit are best. Clean: dust books off before opening them, this will avoid allowing the dust to get inside. Dimly Lit: to avoid overexposure to UV light, don’t hang things on the wall opposite a window.
Some of the different things that can happen to a book to damage it include foxing, UV damage, tearing, and water damage. Foxing appears as brown spots on a page. It has to do with rust like fragments of metal in the pulp used to make the paper. If there is a mold component due to humidity it will be worse. These spots are usually repaired with a hydrogen peroxide formula, but this shouldn’t be attempted at home, as it can damage the book if not done properly.
Tidemarks are water damage that hasn’t dried properly. The impurities in the paper are pushed to one spot and leave a mark. There are special gum based erasers that are used to remove these marks. They can be purchased from Archival supply websites.
Next class: Bibliographies