Book collecting and care of Books

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The Care and Feeding of Your Book Collection


What Are Some Tips For The Beginner Collector?


Decide what you'd like to collect (certain writer(s), topics, illustrators, colours, etc.--

Buy the best condition books you can find and afford.

Buy copies of any two of the following and read them: Robert Wilson, Modern Book Collecting; Allan & Patricia Ahearn, Book Collecting; William Rees-Mogg, How to Buy Rare Books, and for your permanent collection, John Carter, ABC for Book Collectors.

I presume you have subjects or authors that already interest you. If you don't already have First Editions of those titles, they're the ones to start with. You'll want to begin to develop relationships with a few book dealers that can help you build your collection. A collection grows and changes over its life, just as the collector does. Collect what you enjoy and don't worry about financial gain. Those who come in just for the money have ruined too many hobbies already.

One thing you'll need to do is rid yourself of the belief that just because a book says "First Edition" it must be important or valuable. How many of us have heard that from a non-collector looking to sell books: "It must be worth a lot of money, because it's a First Edition." Well, every book has a First Edition; for many, it's the only edition. In fact, if publishers had their way, there would only be First Editions, at least for fiction. As far as they're concerned, a second edition (or even second printing) means the extra cost of going back to press, because they didn't accurately gauge the demand for the book. After all, the publisher never makes any money on future price increase for First Editions of an author's books.

Authors first books are always a good investment, everyone starts somewhere. Little known authors of today may be the next c s Lewis or Tolkien


How Do I Protect My Collection?


If the spines are yellowing or fading, get your books out of the sun. Sunlight will bleach dust jackets, and do bad things to leather bound books as well. To avoid chipping, use Mylar covers, They should work better than plastic bags particularly if you want to actually pull the books out and look at them from time to time. To combat dust, put the books in a book case with a glass front or glass fronted doors. Sometimes you can find them for reasonable prices. That also keeps the cats off the books. (living with my wife’s six cats has taught me this) Dust that is on the books may be blown off or gently brushed off with a clean large watercolour or paste brush; I often hold the book firmly between the knees with the top edge facing down (vertically) and brush off dust. And in general, try to avoid high humidity, huge temperature swings, and even if they are well protected take a look at them every now and then to make sure some insidious insect hasn't breached your defences.

No treatment can reverse the affect of the aging, but spray deacidification is your best option to slow down the effects of aging on wood pulp paper. There are currently two products available, Wei T'O and Bookkeeper. Of the two, Bookkeeper is the best for your type of paper. It also has the added advantage of being non-toxic and proven safe on inks... just in case the books have inscriptions. To be safe though, always test first by putting a drop on any ink you may think suspect. When spraying you will want to thoroughly wet the pages, but not so that the fluid runs down the page. Just spray, turn, spray, turn.... Pages will dry on their own relatively quickly. None of this, however, will reverse the effects of embrittlement and discoloration to the paper. It will, however, slow down the effect of further deterioration.



How Do I Clean My Books?


I have found that lighter fluid is a great way to clean dust jackets. It is a great solvent. Just don't smoke while you're cleaning!

My feeling is always to stay away from products such as Backus Book cloth Cleaner. It does clean book cloth and especially illustrated book cloth very well .....but for only about 12 months. Then you have to clean it all over again. Each application seems to fade the cover a little bit. It is much favoured by some dealers in the United Kingdom and I recommend that British readers of this buy some so they can recognize the smell of it and avoid the books if possible


I stumbled across ABSORENE paper & book cleaner when someone recommended it to kill the musty smell on books. It's really good for cleaning off surface dirt on both cloth books and dust jackets. Maybe it's my imagination but it seems to brighten up the books.

I have also used a product called "AFTA" which is a cleaner, degreaser and adhesive remover. Works great but practice first to find out how much to use (a little goes a long way!)


How Do I Clean The Page Edges?


Try a product available from Lineco Archival Products available in US Document Cleaning Pad it's a bag of eraser crumbs, really, but works wonders. You may be able to find it for sale on Ebay.


How Do I Clean Vellum Binding?


Milk and cotton wool. Moisten the cotton wool and rub the vellum gently but firmly. please try this on a cheap book first, just to get the hang of it.


How Do I Remove Pencil Marks?


My favourite is an Eberhard Faber Magic-Rub, a white vinyl eraser intended for non-abrasive, non-smudging used on drafting film. I prefer the pencil-shape to the block, because I find the former more comfortable to handle. There are, I think, several varieties & brands of white vinyl erasers that would all work well, and I've also heard that kneaded rubber erasers do a good job.

You can also use an electric eraser, Because it's electric, you can adjust the pressure with your hand. Be careful though you may thin the page.


How Do I Remove a Label From a Book?


I have successfully remove things glued to books with a mixture of flour and water. Simply mix enough flour into the water to keep it from flowing when it is poured onto a surface of the sticker. Then use a small paint brush to generously coat the paper that is being removed. Usually, within 15-20 minutes, the water soluble glue will soften and the unwanted paper/label can be peeled off. (Please don't try this on a valuable book for your first attempt! Practice on a cheap ex-lib book first).

There is a liquid called "stamp lift" that is available from Stamp shops and stamp mongers at antique fairs. I have had some success using it to lift bookplates. The problem is that different glues need different solutions. Another source of bookplate lift is bookbinder suppliers. 17th, 18th, and 19th century bookplates tend to lift more easily than late 20th century ones because they were using friendlier glues.

In a well-ventilated place, spray it with lighter fluid, wait five seconds, gently rub with a cloth or cotton ball (or cotton flat pad, which I find works best). I've used this technique literally hundreds of times without a problem: the excess fluid evaporates in a few minutes and leaves no residue.

A number of years ago I had come across a product called Bob's Book Plate Remover. According to the label, it was made with what they called "Wetter Water". Wetter water, or wet water, is actually a common product in model building trade. (thanks dad). It is made by adding a few drops of detergent (liquid washing up detergent works well) to water. The detergent helps break down the surface tension in the water. Don't know if this will work on bookplates, but if you can't find the Bob's product, or don’t want to risk lighter fluid it's worth a try.


You can also try Removing the label by applying a hot iron for a moment to heat the label. This loosens the glue and often, but not always, the label can be removed very cleanly. To supplement the iron, try using cigarette lighter fluid, very little on a cotton wool ball which helps get rid of any sticky residue. Once cleaned up, many up ex-lib books become much easier to sell. It's amazing what a few minute touch up will do. Yes, you must still declare the book ex-lib when selling.



How Do I Remove Crayon Marks From a Book?


Unlike ink, which penetrates the paper, crayon marks are at the surface. I've had success with very fine steel wool (0000 grade). Gentle rubbing will usually remove, or minimize, the crayon marks without causing harm to the paper. (As with any cleaning method, practice on a book you don't care about.)


How Do I Get Rid of That "Musty Smell"?


Try enclosing in plastic bag after dusting with baking soda liberally.

Also try putting the book in an enclosed bag with cat litter. Make sure the stuff doesn't touch the book, and also make sure it's not been used.

One further comment, which may be of interest. The smell receptors in your nose will become "fatigued" after being exposed to an odour for a period of time. This means that you will stop noticing the smell. So, this means that if you go to someone's musty shop and start looking at their books, eventually you won't notice the smell that could be present in some of the individual items. But later on, after you've brought your new purchases home and your smell receptors have returned to normal, you'll once again be able to smell the mould on the books (which you didn't notice at the time you bought them).



How Do I Get Rid Of Unwanted Odours?


Some of these I have tried and tested, some I’ve been taught through the book trade, and some may be old wives tales, but all are interesting, and you can never learn enough about books.

Some of the items used are available through your local retailers, some are more specialist and may take some tracking down, but hey that’s what the internet is for.




Seriously, folks, the best method of removing cigarette smell from books is Absorene paper and book cleaner. It's a pink clay that you apply like a sponge to the front and back of books. It absorbs the smell. On the ends of the books, apply very gently. The stuff is magic!

Activated Charcoal

charcoal or baking soda or any other odour absorber would also work. sealed in plastic bag.

Aftershave Lotion

( don’t laugh) Putting a book in an airtight container with aftershave lotion works. Best if the book is fanned open, and of course kept from getting the liquid lotion on the book. Moisten some kind of absorbent material in the bottom of the box with the book above it. The after shave lotion method is used by 2nd hand car dealers to freshen up a smelly car. They spray or put moistened rags in the car and keep it closed up for several days. (things you didn't need to know).

Baking Soda or Talc

Baking powder absorbs both moisture and odours, but the process is tedious and messy and not guaranteed. Interleaving with powdered paper takes forever, so I reserve it for those books really worth reviving. I have used rice paper dredged in baking soda or unscented talc. There probably is some pre-powdered paper on the market. I've used both baking powder and baking soda. The powder is ground finer and so is more absorbent and harder to brush off.

Another way of doing it is to put said smelly book in a plastic bag with baking soda in the bottom. You should also put a layer of paper between the book and soda so there was no direct contact. I've gone the soda route and it works reasonably well - I've let the book "sit in it" for around two weeks.

Carpet Deodorizer:

Carpet de-odouriser non coloured-non scented variety. Use one called 'Neutradol' if you can get it. It is a white powder a bit like talc. Dust every page and the cover with it, then wrap it up for about two weeks (use a plastic freezer bag). The powder will come off easily with a small vacuum cleaner such as a Dust Buster, or brushing with a soft shaving brush. Hey presto, a smell-free book.

Cedar Chips

Cedar chips have done wonders for me with all kinds of odours. You get a bag at a pet store (think cat litter), then put the books and a load of cedar chips in a plastic bag or sealed carton for a period of time.


Coffee Grounds

I have had luck with removing mould/must smell from old paperbacks by placing them in a plastic bag, and placing an open container of coffee grounds in the bag, and then leaving for a week or so (seems to help if placed in a warm environment). The mould smell disappears, and the books, if aired for a couple of days before being placed on the shelves, lose the coffee smell. Both used and un-used coffee grounds work.


Fabric Softener Sheets

I got this suggestion from someone on AOL last year. Tried it with an ARC of soul music which must have lived its whole life in the smoking room...It pretty much worked, The suggestion is to take one or two of those dryer fabric softener sheets (I use Bounce), cut them into a few lengthwise strips and place the strips here and there inside the book. Then seal the book up in a plastic bag, strips and all, and wait for a few days (I left my copy sitting around for months, but that wasn't really on purpose). And no, I have no idea whether this would be chemically bad for the book's paper; certainly my ARC wasn't any the worse for the treatment.


White Vinegar

Put the book on thread spools or something similar in the microwave oven. Use another object to prop open the topside cover. DO NOT TURN THE OVEN ON!!! Place a saucer of white vinegar in the oven, and let it work overnight. One night usually takes care of it. The book may smell like vinegar for a few hours, but then is odour free. I only suggest a microwave oven because it seals air tight, but any air tight container will do, try not to spill the vinegar on the book, or you will have a whole lot of different problems to sort out.


How Do I Get Rid of Mould? cloth boards


R.L. Shep in his "Cleaning and Repairing Books... a Practical Home Manual" mentions using hydrogen peroxide, carefully applied to the area with an eyedropper or lemon juice applied the same, and placed in the sun for a "short time only"; denatured alcohol, applied with a soft rag or cotton swap; thymol in a solution of alcohol. As with all "blot up any excess". If mildew is between the pages of the book, he suggest diatomaceous earth, sprinkled between the pages and brushed or vacuumed out several days later. If the book is spotted from a previous "infestation", using lemon juice or a weak solution of peroxide, applied in small amounts with an eyedropper and wiped off quickly, followed by a good coat of "Renaissance Wax" or some other good wax.

(1) Getting rid of the stain.

If you think it could be removed with a stiff brush, do not go ahead and remove it that way, as that will almost certainly damage the surrounding cloth or page. Instead, take a sharp-pointed, scalpel-type blade and/or a pair of tweezers, and a high-powered magnifying glass and work carefully at scraping/prising away the gunk without damaging the cloth itself. Some moderately light brushing towards the end may help to get rid of traces.
If the stains cannot be removed in this way, water is probably the next thing to try. Use wet tissue to dampen the whole surface of the board (otherwise damp stain marks are likely to appear). Then draw a blunt edge (like a plastic ruler) smoothly across the board. Don't use anything sharp or you risk damaging the cloth. Don't rub the damp board with tissue or cloth or anything, as this will probably remove the dye in the cloth. Depending on the type of dye used, you are likely to lose some of the colour anyway, but do it carefully and the loss will be negligible and pretty much unnoticeable. Work very carefully round the title/gilt stamping or similar, drawing the ruler away from such areas towards the edge of the board. Basically, you're teasing the dirt out of the fabric; don't dump it on top of the title, etc., just work it towards the edges of the board, where it can be wiped gently off.
You may be able to remove much of the stain this way but the stain (or parts of it) may simply mix in with the water and the dye on the cloth. Even so, the resulting gunk, when distributed smoothly across the boards with a ruler or similar, will be an improvement!
Don't use chemicals. They may improve the immediate appearance of the book, but within a year or two their corrosive effects will begin to become apparent. The most you might try is a small amount of some lanolin-based cleanser (e.g., Amodex). If you do use something like this, try to remove it afterwards with water as much as possible. Spray the board with a deacidification spray (or apply it as a solution) afterwards, for good measure.
One of the things that gives older books their "feel" is the accumulation of grease from the hands of its readers. The above treatment will remove a lot of that grease, which can be restored in the form of a very small amount of very low-acidity (ideally ph neutral) vegetable oil - or just a lot of handling with sweaty hands! Actually, the grease from fingers is slightly acid, and in itself aids corrosion in the long run.

(2) Killing off the spores.

The spores (if they are such) are probably best killed off by sunshine, which apparently works just as well (or even better) behind glass as in the open air. Leave it on the windowsill on a sunny day for an hour or so. Ideally, if you are going to dampen the board to clean it, do it on a sunny day and put the book in the sun to dry. Don't do any of the above on anything that's really valuable; leave it in the hands of a professional.


How Do I Get Rid of Foxing?


There's really only one technique which might work and at the same time will not damage the book in other ways (e.g., by impregnating corrosive material on the pages). Wait until it is a fine, sunny day. Then take a piece of moist cotton wool or tissue and very gently moisten the page. If residue transfers itself from the page to the tissue at this stage, take a fresh moist tissue and repeat the process until all such residue has been removed. The tissue should brush over the page with feather-lightness; no pressure at all should be applied, or the page will certainly wrinkle when dried (it will very likely wrinkle anyway!). Then place the open page in a sunny spot (it doesn't have to be direct sunlight; behind glass works fine) until it has thoroughly dried. Don't leave it there to long, or the page may start to fade. 20-30 minutes is probably about right - less if it's very hot. Test the process on a page that doesn't matter too much before touching the title page, etc.

The main things that can go wrong are

(1) As I've already said, the page may wrinkle. Nevertheless, it may look better wrinkled than foxed. And, if you've done it carefully (without stretching the fibres of the paper by applying pressure to it while wet), the wrinkling will be much reduced after the book has been back on the shelf for a few weeks. You can use an electric iron to iron the winkles away, but do not have the iron to hot as this may cause scorching to the page.

(2) If you dab at spots of foxing, rather than washing the whole page smoothly, it may dry leaving a watermark stain.

(3) It may not work anyway.

(4) It may not only not work, but it may leave you with a page which has wrinkles and watermarks in addition to being foxed!!

Finally, when it comes to any advice on this subject, remember,

"Nothing Costs More than Something for Free" (title of a play by Yukio Mishima)!


For the faint hearted you could try this method

I've had some success with this method and the best thing is "it can't hurt if you're careful". Maybe? Take a slice of white bread (not the bread with bits in or brown) and remove the crust. Spread a newspaper to catch the crumbs. Remember white bread is made with bleached flour and is moist. Gently rub the bread on the page in a circular motion and it will soon crumble, ball up, and if you're lucky, start to darken. The light abrasion applied will not harm the paper, the bleach will help whiten and the moist bread will remove some soiling and lighten stains. Don't expect perfection but look for improvement. And - hold the mayo.


What Do I Do About Book loving Insects?


Remember its them or your books

Place your books in airtight plastic bag and put them in your freezer for a couple of days. That will kill the insects.

Prevention is the best route, and that's best accomplished by climate control. Low temperature and low humidity discourage most book-eaters. I keep my book room as cold and dry as my mothers sense of humour. (sorry mum)



Can I Fix A Cocked Or Slanted Spine?


Here's one method a book dealer friend taught me, simpler in the doing than the saying

1. Put book on flat surface.

2. Open to 2nd page and run finger along left inside edge near spine from top of book to bottom.

3. Open to last page - 2 and run finger along right inside edge near spine from top of book to bottom (as above).

4. Repeat from front of book page 4. 5. Repeat from back of book page [last - 4] 6. Repeat pattern until you meet in the middle.


You could also try simply turning the book upside down and "reading" it backwards. (think about it)

On paperbacks, the books can be micro-waved gently to warm the glue inside the spine. I have seen several items in auctions of vintage paperbacks listed as, "micro wave able". This process will usually correct off kilter or rolled spines. GO EASY !! don't cook them on high for 4 days or anything like that. 30 seconds on low setting should do the trick, remember paper burns


How Do I Repair a Water Damaged Book?


I know the U.S. NTSB (The National Transportation Safety Board) has used a "freeze-drying" method in the case of aviation logbooks that have been submerged for as many as fifteen years. The word is that the books come out of the process in "like new" condition.


Should I Remove Rusted Staples From a Pamphlet?


Under most circumstances, any piece will retain more of its value if left as close to original as possible. Trying to replace the staples could possibly lead to accidental damage. Also, It is very unlikely that you could find staples the same size. If it were mine, I'd keep it dry and hope for the best.


How Do I Halt Paper Deterioration?


Nearly all books between about 1870 and almost the present time used acidic paper. After about 100 years, most of them are so brittle they will disintegrate the first time you read them. One treatment that will extend paper life is Bookkeeper or Wei T'o deacidification sprays. with Wei T'o. Note that this will not restore the strength of your brittle paper -- it will just slow down the deterioration. Some ink, especially some coloured ink, will get smeary -- test this before you treat a whole book.

Low temperatures and humidity are a big help. Don't let the books get to dry though -- 20 or 30% is fairly good, and consistency of both temperature and humidity is much more important than the exact numbers. Just remember that every time your book warms up in an environment where there's also increasing moisture, it's as though you were dipping it into a dilute acid bath. That's one argument for storing books that you might actually want to use at temperatures around 65 degrees F. It would be better to store them at a lower temperature, but if you ever took them out of the low temperature area, you'd want to warm them very, very gradually. If you keep them at a constant 60 or 65 F., you can just go into the storage room and use them there. In the average house try getting thermostats fitted to any radiators in your book room, so you can control the air temperature in that one room. Why not buy a thermometer and keep it in your book room


How Do I Stop Binding Glue From Becoming Brittle?


There are three main types of glue used in bookbinding. The most traditional is wheat paste, made from flour and water. Also in use until the 20th century (and still used by some old-timers) is animal hide glue, which is heated and applied in essentially a molten state. Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) is in popular use among bookbinders now. It has all the properties of Elmer's Glue, except that it stays flexible when dry. There have been other glues used, for example rubber cement, but they are all inferior to the three I named.

Bookbinding glue needs to stay flexible, and not disintegrate and become brittle. Not likely with PVA, but with animal glue or cheap substitutes this happens. There's not too much you can do. Most glues are either hydroscopic or thermoplastic, but you are taking a risk to use water or heat around a book. Taking the book to a binder and having it re-glued is the best bet. Especially on your more valuable books.


How Do I Pack Books When Moving?


The books should be placed flat and spine to spine for the different stacks. If you place them spine-up, you risk weakening the hinges. If you have dust jackets, I assume you have protected them already. When placing the books in the boxes you have to decide how much and whether to include padding material. A lot depends on who will handle the boxes. A box dropped on a corner can cause a lot of damage to the books inside. If at all possible, do not store the boxes on a cement floor (i.e. garage) for any extended period of time. Cement has a lot of moisture which can be drawn up into the dry cardboard box and dry paper books. Water destroys books faster than fire.


Should I Re-bind An Old Book?


I would think twice about having it re-bound if I were you. Unless there's something really wrong with the original binding, you could significantly lower the value by rebinding. An alternative would be to have someone construct a slip-case of archival boards, or a clamshell case made of the same material. This would protect it and keep it square and tight without sacrificing the original binding. This is true even if the original "binding" is just a drab paper cover. Of course, if you were making some kind of presentation copy for someone and were having it bound in carved leather, or some other kind of custom, art binding (especially by someone well-known for their binding designs), that's a horse of a different colour. And, almost certainly, a damned expensive one.


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