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How to Look After Books

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Caring for your books     

Books have been important to humans almost as long as language. Books have functions other than the obvious source of information, these are:-

    * Collectors Items
    * Works of Art
    * Amusement and Entertainment
    * A Record of History (though not always accurate).

Many collectors buy books for their subject area to form part of their collection. Often, if they want to read the book, they will buy a cheaper edition too so as to preserve the condition of their collected piece.

The condition of a book is often made worse by inappropriate handling. Careful opening and storage can help books to last in their bindings for well over 100 years.

Since around 1900 hardback books have been produced with a dust jacket that protects the boards from stains and rubbing. Colletors value the dust jacket as highly as the book itself, especially for modern first editions. Because of this a book with its dust jacket could be worth twice as much as the same book without one. The best way to protect the dust jacket is to wrap it in specialist mylar plastic wrapping, available from Brockwells when ordering a hardback book.

How to Store Books
The binding of a book is designed to stand upright on a shelf. They can be laid flat but the stacking of several books in this way can lead to distortion of the lower books in the pile. Long term storage conditions should be cool and dry.

Do not leave newspaper or other cuttings in books for long periods because this can stain the pages.

How to Open a Book
This applies to all books but especially to large, thick or old items.

Take the book from the shelf, avoiding too much dragging. Place the book gently on its spine and on a flat surface. Using a hand on each side, allow the book to open somewhere near the middle. Most books will do this naturally. Turn to the place you want by turning sections of the book over. Never press down on the pages near the joint or force the boards back beyond the flat position.

How books are made
Most books are made from a number of parts which have special names. First the text is printed on large sheets which are then folded into sections of 16 pages (sometimes fewer for old or large books). Older books often have a letter printed on the first page of each section to help the binder to sew them in the right order. In hand binding, the sections are sewn or glued together and the book spine is rounded with a hammer. End papers have been glued on.

Then a piece of muslin type cloth, called mull, is glued over the spine, along with a headband if one is being used. When the Victorians were binding, they sometimes used old shirt linen for headbands. Next a hollow is made by folds of paper, one side of which is glued to the spine.

The case is made from boards which are covered in cloth or leather. The trimmed book is fixed into the case by fixing the cloth to the hollow and pasting the mull overlaps and the end papers to the inside of the boards. All the operations have to be even and precise so that the book stands and lays evenly without any distortion. The design and construction is simple and robust but will not stand up to regular heavy handling.

Block
Main part of the book before it is fixed in the case      
Boards
The outside covers of a hardback book      
Case
Boards and spine of the book
End Papers
Blank pages at the front and back      
Foot
The bottom of the book      
Foredge
The edge which faces the wall when a book is on the shelf
Frontispiece
A page, usually an illustration, glued in at the title page      
Half title
Page with the title printed alone immediately before the title page      
Head
The top of the book
Hollow
That part which forms a hollow in the spine when opened      
Mull
The muslin type cloth that helps to keep the book in its case      
Paste on
The blank pages which are pasted onto the inside of the boards
Recto
Right hand pages      
Spine
The back of the book where the title is usually displayed      
Verso
Left hand pages
Tipped/Tipping in
Refers to a page, often an illustration, that has been permanently
inserted into a book by pasting the inside edge and attaching it to a
guard or another page.      
Corners Bumped
Usually caused by dropping a book. The effect can be reduced by placing
the corner on a flat surface, cloth side up, covering with a soft cloth
and gently hammering with a light hammer. Frayed corners can be
reinforced by gluing and pressing.      
Paste Wash
A means of cleaning cloth or leather using a diluted form of flour
paste. Never attempt without getting instructions on how to make up the
paste and how to apply. Never use on gilt.
Guard
A part of the binding that is used to receive tipped in illustrations.
In rebinding, paper used to reinforce the sewn edges of pages.      
Tissue Guard
A tissue weight of paper used (usually) to protect illustrations.      
Foxing
Spots of staining on the pages of a book mostly resembling rust marks.
Dampness and contaminants in the paper are causes.
Sunning/Sunned
Discolouration or fading of a book or its pages by the effects of
sunlight. All books should be kept out of direct sunlight.      
Dustwrapper
The jacket of a book. Torn or damaged jackets are nowadays regarded as
preferable to no jacket at all. Using a jacket from another similar book
to improve appearance is frowned upon by purists. The appearance of poor
jackets can be enhanced by the use of a clear paper backed cover
(Brodart or similar)
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