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Oct 24, 2012

Handling Your Antique Books to Last a Lifetime

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Getting your hands on a valuable antique book can be quite an accomplishment, especially if there was a lengthy hunt or significant amount of money involved. Once you have acquired this valuable treasure, it is essential that it be treated with the great level of care it deserves. After all, antique books are very delicate, which is what makes them so special, and in some cases, very rare. By taking the proper measures, we can help insure that these antique books that are such an important part of the past can last long into the future.


Humidity
When it comes to protecting your antique books from their environment, humidity can be your most formidable enemy. Extremely humid conditions may lead to mold, which doesn’t only look unattractive and give your pages an unpleasant musky smell, it can also lead to book mites. Book mites are nearly invisible bugs that love the chance to feast on mold tainted paper. Adequate ventilation inhibits the growth of mold, especially when combined with a high performance HEPA air filter.

Temperature fluctuations
While high temperature and humidity levels will damage a book, even worse are levels that are frequently fluctuating. Variations in Temperature and humidity can cause the pages and binding to expand and retract and over time can cause the book to warp. This is why it is not a good idea to store antique books in attics or near heating and cooling units. The best place to store books is in a cool dry part of your home, between 65 and 72 degrees. Temperatures higher than this can cause the pages to become yellowed and brittle and may causing cracking on the cover.

Light
Ultraviolet light can also be very harmful to an antique book, as the damaging rays can quickly cause fading in the binding cover. If the book is leather bound, over exposure to light can lead to a condition that antique books are vulnerable to called red hot in which the leather fibers are broken down resulting in a dried out and fragile book. It is best to store your books away from any bright windows or other sources of extreme light. If the manuscript is very valuable or in a highly delicate state already, acid free book storage boxes can be purchased for extra protection

Shelving and Handling
It is suitable for many antique books to be stored vertically on metal shelves, or wooden only if they are sealed or very old. New and unsealed wood may give off acidic gasses that are harmful to books. The books should be completely straight up and down, as leaning or slumping can cause the spines of the book to become weakened or bent. If the book is taller than 18 inches, or has a spine width of over 3 inches, it is advisable to store it lying flat on its back cover with no other books on top of it. When removing the book from the shelf, never do so by just grabbing the top of the spine. Remember that antique books are extremely delicate, and try to handle by placing a hand on either side of the book and removing it from the shelf slowly.

As you see, with the proper care, antique books can be treasured and rewarding possessions for ages.

Cynthia Williams is a free-lance entertainment blog writer and avid bibliophile, with a great passion for collecting antique books in particular.

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