How can books help us?

Broken spine, yellowed pages, mold growth ... Every bibliophile knows the problem that books are prone to damage of all kinds. We have collected a few tips and tricks on how to protect books from environmental influences and thus avoid loss of value: from the simplest basics, which you don't really need to mention, to expert tips for collectors of antiquarian books Books is everything there.

Tips for reading

  • Only handle the books with clean, dry, unlubricated hands. Do not eat or drink while reading.
  • To avoid creases in the spine, you should never open your books 180 degrees. Use a book cradle or book pillow instead.
  • When opening a book for the first time, open it as follows to avoid creases in the spine: Place the spine of the closed book on a table. First open the front cover, then the back cover. Now turn a few pages alternately from the front and back until you are in the middle of the book. Repeat these steps several times.
  • Do not wet your fingers when turning the pages.
  • Just enter notes with a pencil and rub them out when you no longer need them. Alternatively, you can write your notes on post-its, stick them in the appropriate place and remove the sticky notes later.
  • Never put the books face down and do not fold the corners of the pages to mark your current page. Always use a bookmark.

Damage due to incorrect installation
Photo: Cornelia Lemmen

Care tips

  • Dust off your collection regularly.
  • Cedar wood, lavender scent and ginko leaves, which are inserted into books like bookmarks, keep vermin such as moths or silverfish away.
  • Check your collection regularly for mold and vermin infestation.
  • Do not leave acidic paper, such as newsprint, between the pages. This darkens the paper.
  • To protect the book or the book cover, you can make a protective cover out of transparent film.

Tips for the right storage location

  • Correct storage of the books begins with the selection of the correct storage location. Basements are usually not suitable for storing books as they are often cold and damp. Books should also not be stored in the attic, as the books there are often exposed to large temperature fluctuations.
  • Heat, high humidity and direct sunlight can cause serious damage. The ideal room temperature for storing books is around 20 degrees Celsius. Since high humidity can lead to wavy sides and promote the formation of mold, the humidity should not exceed 50%. Dehumidifiers or small bags of cat litter keep the humidity low.
  • Direct light can also damage books by fading. Therefore, bookshelves should not be too close to the window.
  • Opaque cabinet doors offer optimal protection.

Water damage
Photo: Cornelia Lemmen

Storage on the shelf or bookcase

  • Place shelves and cupboards a little away from the wall to allow air to circulate.
  • Cedar shelves are ideal as the smell of the wood keeps bugs away.
  • Storing books in a locked cupboard instead of on a shelf has the advantage that they are protected from dust, sunlight and pests. If you'd rather see your books, you can use a glass door.
  • Place books of similar size next to each other on the shelf.
  • The books should support each other on the shelf, but not stand so close that they warp each other.
  • Books should not be tilted for long periods of time as they can warp. When you have taken a book off the shelf, you can close any gaps by moving up other books. Use bookends if a row is not completely full.
  • Never pull your books out of the shelf by the capital (top end of the book spine). Instead, slide the book forward from the back.
  • If you store books horizontally, make sure that the largest and heaviest copies are on the bottom.
  • Even if it looks decorative: Do not leave books open for long periods of time.
  • Do not store valuable books on the lower rows of shelves to protect them in the event of water damage.

Faded book cover
Photo: © Cornelia Lemmen

Protective measures for particularly valuable books

The best way to protect special expenses is with a custom-made box or case. Since these have to be specially made, they are not cheap. Therefore, this protection should only be considered for the most valuable and sensitive books. There are different types of book covers and boxes.

Slipcase: These protective containers, usually made of cardboard or cardboard, are custom-made for a book or several books. The slipcase encloses five side edges of the book, the spine is left free so that the title can still be read.

In a book case, however, antiquarian jewelry is protected from all sides. In some cases, boxes with double hinges are used on the back so that it lies flat when opened. The book is in the lower half, the upper half closes over the lower. There are also other shapes with removable lids that look more like a box of chocolates.

Discoloration from acidic paper
Photo: Cornelia Lemmen

Restoration and repairs

Restorations and repairs should always be carefully considered, as the book is then no longer in its original condition and this can significantly reduce its value. If possible, you should compare the prices of restored and unrestored specimens or obtain a specialist's assessment before repairing.
Once you've decided to have your book repaired, find a bookbinder or restorer who specializes in the type of repair you need. Your trusted antiquarian or a VDA member can help you with your search.

Book warped by drought
Photo: © Cornelia Lemmen