A rare book is a treasure that is meant to be preserved for your lifetime and beyond. Building your own personal library is a way to conserve a cultural heritage and create a lasting legacy for future generations. These books cannot be easily replaced, and it is vitally important that you understand how to take care of your items and protect them properly. Taking care of your books shouldn’t be difficult. Think of the golden rule and in some ways, just treat them the way a person would like to be treated.

Store your rare books correctly

Most people don’t like the be lonely, but they don’t like to be crowded either. Rare books should be stored vertically on a shelf and snug (but not too tight) against other books of similar size or a book end. They should never be tipped diagonally. If a book is too large for a shelf, it is also permissible to lie it down horizontally.

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Protect them from the sun

Most people don’t like to be too hot or in the sun for too long. It is the same with books. Rare books should be protected from direct light and high temperatures. Exposure to direct sunlight will cause the spine to fade over time and high temperatures and can cause the paper and bindings to become brittle. A dark room is fine, but be sure that it is also not excessively damp or humid. Moisture can lead to an oxidation in the paper called foxing or cause warping of the boards or papers. Custom leather clamshell boxes can be made to help protect any book. These come in a wide variety of colors and are made to look like a book so that they fit seamlessly into your library. Boxes can also protect the book from dust and insect damage. If you notice insects around your collection of books, find the source right away. You wouldn’t let an insect keep pestering you, so if you see any pests, don’t delay and take care of them right away.

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Don’t rub them the wrong way

People don’t like to be rubbed the wrong way and either do books. When you handle your book, be careful not to rub the edges. Hold it in the middle of the spine and pull straight from the shelf. Take care when opening the book to not open it too far, which can crack the hinges, particularly if it is an older edition. The photo below shows us using gloves for our first edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle from 1493, but you do not necessarily have to wear gloves unless holding something very rare. Leather books actually like the oils from your hands.

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Give leather books some special treatment

Most people like a good massage. Every once in a while, give your leather books a little special treatment. If your leather books appear to be drying out or degrading from high temperatures or humidity, this may be red rot. There are a variety of products with which you can treat your books with a leather conditioner. Cellugel is one product that helps with more severe deterioration.

Dress your books well

People also like to be dressed well.  A book with a dust jacket should always be protected by a clear archival quality acid-free mylar cover,  particularly because for modern first edition books, much of the value of the book is derived from the condition of the jacket. Mylar protects the jacket from being scratched, torn, and from the oils in your hands. We always put fresh mylar on all the books that are sold at Raptis Rare Books, but if you ever need to replace your mylar, never adhere it to the jacket directly with tape.

If you need help. Don’t delay. Get assistance right away.

If a book accidentally tears or breaks, do not attempt to repair it yourself, but seek the advice of a rare book expert. You can search online for book restorers in your area or call us at 561.508.3479 or email us at mail@raptisrarebooks.com for advice or recommendations.