Book Care, Preservation and Conservation

Book Conservation Techniques:

Courtesy of CoOL, Conservation On-Line is a project of the Preservation Department of Stanford University Libraries. You can find a full text library of conservation information for all kinds of book and paper conservation issues including mold, mildew, fungi, biological pests, etc. While compiled for professional conservators, there is also much useful information of interest to all bibliophiles.


Handling and Storage of Books:  Tips on book preservation courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Northeast Document Conservation Center is a private non-profit regional conservation center whose mission is to improve the preservation programs of libraries, archives, museums, and other historical and cultural organizations as well as to provide quality conservation services to institutions that cannot afford in-house conservation facilities or that require specialized expertise; and to provide leadership to the preservation field. The Center provides preservation microfilming, and education and consulting services as well as conservation treatment.

Everyday Care of Your Old Books:

The advice below is courtesy of retired book conservator Carol Pratt:

  • The paper and stitching of the book are old - as old as the book itself, and they are not able to tolerate the kind of casual exercise we normally give to books. Avoid opening the volume to a fully flattened position. Instead open the covers no further than 120 degrees (less is better) and support them with your hands or with some mechanical means, such as bricks, which have been wrapped in clean Kraft or other paper. A book cradle, if you have one, is ideal. Do not place any weight on the book when it is open.
  • Turn the pages carefully to avoid breaking or tearing the edges.
  • Do not use the pages of the book to flatten and dry plant materials or to safeguard locks of hair or other mementos. These items are probably very acid, possibly dirty, and plants introduce moisture. Moreover, placing these foreign materials into the pages puts strain on the spine and its stitching, something to be avoided.
  • Keep the volume in a room that is likely to be moderate in temperature and humidity. Do not place it in an unheated space such as an attic or a basement, and do not leave it exposed to sunlight. Swings in temperature and humidity will cause rapid deterioration and irreversible damage to all parts of the book. Protect the book from dust if you can, if it is displayed, by dusting carefully with a gentle vacuum suction or with a "Magnetic" dust cloth of the kind used to clean computer monitors. If not displayed, a wrapping of well-washed clean cotton sheeting can hardly be improved on.
  • Shelve a large book on its side - DO NOT place oversize volumes upright on a bookshelf.
  • The book wants to be treated with deference for its age - not too hot, not too cold, not damp, not too dry. Handle it gently and with respect. It has seen many years and should endure many more.


More Everyday Care and Repair Tips and Tricks:

Our colleagues at blog about various book care and repair topics for hardcovers, paperbacks, ex-library books and general book collections. Book Repair for Booksellers is another handy reference.


Archival Products:

The webstores at Talas , Hollinger, Conservation Resources International  and Light Impressions specialize in archival products to help repair, preserve, protect and display books, photographs, documents and ephemera. Gaylord Archival Demco/Highsmith and Brodart also are very good sources for conservation and preservation supplies.