How to take care of rare books

Whether you're a keen collector or someone who has come across a hidden gem in the garage, here are five golden rules to follow to take care of your own collection:

An illustration of two crested penguins taken from a rare book
Crested Penguin (Eudyptes robustus), 'Birds of Australia' by John Gould, Volume 7, Plate 83

1. Wash your hands

When reading or flicking through your books make sure your hands are clean and dry because oils, perspiration, dirt and food residue can cause a lot of damage.

2. Be gentle!

Some books will not want to lie open at 180 degrees; if the spine does not want to bend in a particular way then it is best not to force it as this can cause damage. Turn pages from the side rather than the corner and when removing books from a shelf always pull it from the sides rather than the top of the spine.

3. Light and temperature

Keep your book collection in a cool place with minimal exposure to light and away from areas with radiators or vents.

4. Storage

Store books either upright or lying flat, not leaning at an angle. Books should be supported on either side by books or book stands of similar size, and it is best not to pack the books in too tightly. Large, heavy folio-size books are best stored flat.

5. Dust regularly

Dust your books often as dust can quickly accumulate on books. It is very important to remember that, if the conditions are right, dust can be a food source for mould and mildew!

Another important tip would be not to attempt to carry out any books repairs yourself. While it may be tempting, you may end up damaging the book further and reducing its value.

Got a question about rare books? Ask us!

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