A Quick Guide to Care & Repair of your books

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Many people collect books but all to often, they are not stored correctly or are not handled carefully.  Here is a short guide to help you look after your books and tips on how to repair them.


Handling books
Old books require special care and it goes without saying that you should make sure your hands are clean and free from grease.  Books should be taken off the shelf gently and should not be pulled by the top of the spine as this will cause the binding to weaken over time.
Turn pages carefully to avoid creasing and be careful not to bend the pages back more than necessary as this can break the spine.  Avoid writing in books if possible as this decreases their value and if the books have dustcovers, then these require extra care and attention.

Whatever the condition of a dustcover, it should be protected with clear plastic sleeves or film.  Plastic sleeves are more hard-wearing and will protect from dust, dirt, moisture, tears and creases. These can be found in various sizes from several internet suppliers or some bookshops and bookfairs and are usually acid-free. 

Correct Storage
The best place for books is on a shelf or bookcase.  A glass cabinet is even better as this gives extra protection from light and dust.  If your shelf is made from wood, you need to check it is free from woodworm.  Make sure the area is clean and dust-free and books should not be placed anywhere near sunlight or bright lights as the books will fade over time.
Books should be stood upright on the shelf and not stacked in piles, with plenty of room above the tops of the books and the next shelf up to allow for easy removal.  They should not be so tightly packed together so they are hard to remove - air needs to circulate around the books to avoid foxing and mould.  Never push the books right to the back of the shelf as this can also encourage mildew.  The books should not be so slack that they are leaning right over on top of each other.  Remember never to push your books along the shelf altogether - this will cause a lot of wear to the book.
Room temperature is very important, always maintain some heat in the room and never store your books in attics/garages/cellars etc. as the damp will create warped covers and wrinkled pages.


Torn pages and dustwrappers
Old dustwrappers often have tears and rips and these can be neatly repaired using clear Scotch tape or 'filmoplast'. You must never use sellotape as this will crack and discolour in time.  Filmoplast is an archival quality, acid-free document repair tape and once applied, is almost invisible. Slightly more expensive, but well worth the money.  This can also be used on ripped or torn pages.  Always repair dustwrappers on the inside for a better finish.

This is the term given to rust-coloured spots that are common on pages of old books, due to the impurities of the paper produced at that time and exposure to damp or mouldy conditions.  Foxing is a type of fungus and will spread unless treated.  There is a substance called Chloramine-T which is applied with an applicator to the affected area.  This neutralises the fungus and continued applications help whiten the rust spots. 

Cracked Hinges & Split Spines
These can be repaired with a special book adhesive that is flexible when dry and dries clear for a professional finish. 

Old Sellotape
Old sellotape marks can be removed with a special adhesive solvent that removes tape from paper surfaces without fuss.  It can also help to remove staining from sellotape.  Never try to remove sellotape without the use of a proper chemical remover.

Writing & Scribbling Marks
Pencil can easily be removed by a good quality rubber, however if the pencil was used with a lot of pressure, you will still have some indentations left on the paper.  Take care to rub out in one direction and hold the page tightly between two fingers to avoid the page creasing.  Pencil is a lot harder to remove if it is over a colour illustration, as the illustration will be worn away slightly with your rubber.
Biro/Ink/Felt tip & Wax Crayon are almost impossible to remove and it is perhaps better not to attempt it.  Some biro rubbers may work slightly but there is always an impression left behind on the page.  Don't be tempted to tear out whole pages of books as some people do - this will only devalue the book completely.

Tobacco/Mouldy Odours
To remove unsavoury smells of any kind, simply place your book in a cardboard box, filled with scrunched-up newspaper and leave for several days.  This usually takes the smell away completely.

You should now be armed with enough tips to restore all your books to a wonderful condition!

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