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Taking Care Of Your Antique Books

Jun 5, 2008
The word antique comes from the Latin word 'antiquus' meaning old. Antiques represent a bygone era of society and are desirable due to their age, condition, rarity, and craftsmanship. Antique items are highly valued for their utility, appeal and social acceptance. People are ready to pay a high price for perfectly maintained antiques and evidence for this can be gauged from the prices that dealers, auction houses, and brokers charge.

Apart from adding to the aesthetic value of your home, antiques are considered a good investment for fetching returns many times over the purchase price. It helps to know ways to take care of your valuable antiques, especially the ones that are extremely vulnerable, such as antique books.

Taking Care of Antique Books:

Knowing the parts of a book is important in taking good care of your valuable antique books. The spine of the book is the most sensitive and vulnerable part of the book. It is the binding that joins the front and rear covers of the book. Pages of the book are hinged to the spine and it is the thinnest and the most sensitive part of the book.

Leather bound books need special care to prevent the leather from becoming brittle and eventually cracking. The quality of the original leather, age of the skin and tanning process used are important factors to consider. Generally, leather produced before the 17th century is finer and usually longer lasting than leather produced after the 17th century. Modern leathers deteriorate much faster due to air pollutants and light. Relative humidity below 40% will dry up the leather and make it brittle and eventually crack; high humidity above 68% will hasten the chemical deterioration of the leather.

Store the book away from bright lights to prevent leather covers from fading and occasionally apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly - this will prevent the leather bound books from drying and cracking.

Humidity is another important factor responsible for the deterioration of antique books. It is advisable not to store the books in the basement or the attic, as both places experience heavy fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels during summer and winter. Also, the basement is likely to get flooded during heavy rains. Temperature in the range of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

Low humidity will make the paper dry and brittle, and will tear while you are turning pages, whereas high humidity will cause paper swelling and warping. Mold spores are present in the air and dust. Mildew or molds are fungus and they thrive in humid and warm environments. High relative humidity encourages the growth of mold, causing serious damage to the book as molds digest the material. This will lead to staining and loss of strength. It is recommended that antique books be stored in a clean and dry place away from bright lights.

The covers of the book should be protected with transparent material. Acetate can be used to cover books, as it is both transparent and stable. In the unfortunate instance where the cover of your antique book comes off, please seek professional help. Trying to repair it yourself may cause further damage to the book.

Antique books are a valuable investment and you are advised to take good care of them.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant about books. When shopping for books, we recommend you shop only at the best bookstores for used books, autographed books, and vedic books.
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