Antique Books? Here’s how to care for them
If you want to keep your vintage books looking better longer, these tips will help:
- Environment -- Books need to be out of direct sunlight and away from moisture or high humidity. They need a stable temperature (65-70 degrees) and good air flow to prevent mold growth. Attics and basements are not good places.
- Shelving -- Choose glass or baked enamel shelves over wooden shelving for display. Wood not sealed with epoxy can transfer damaging acids to the paper and bindings.
- Spacing – Books that are crammed together will rub against one another as you remove and replace them, damaging the covers and spines. Use bookends.
- Keep tall books flat -- Protect the bindings of large books by keeping them flat on a stable surface rather than upright. If stacking large books on top of one another, avoid tall piles, and gently remove top ones first when viewing them.
- Light – And especially ultraviolet light, can damage old books. To keep printed material vibrant, maintain light levels at a minimum and place ultraviolet filters on windows and fluorescent fixtures
- Storage -- Antique books are best kept in protective boxes or sleeves made from acid free materials. Look for containers designed to store antique books safely
- Preservation --If your book needs repair, consult a professional before trying to fix the problem yourself.
Many books produced in the late 19th and early to mid-20th century were made using inexpensive wood pulp paper. Paper made from untreated wood pulp releases acids over time. Acid accumulation yellows and deteriorates the paper, eventually destroying it.
You can extend the life of books made with acidic paper through deacidification. At home, you may find spray-on products that neutralize the acid in wood pulp paper. If you think a book may be valuable, though, it's probably a good idea to consult an antique book conservator before treating it yourself.