From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon May 30 14:55:36 EDT 1994
Article: 62214 of rec.arts.books
From: email@example.com (Jonathan Grobe)
Subject: Care and Feeding of Books
Date: 27 May 1994 16:36:20 GMT
Organization: INS Info Services, Des Moines, IA USA
This is a reposting of some comments by Peter Verheyen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rare Book Conservator at Cornell University which I thought others in
rec.arts.books and rec.arts.books.marketplace might be interested in.
(Please do not reply to me (email@example.com) about anything here
and also note that Peter does not have Usenet access.)
In response to:
>Is there a good book about the caring for and the feeding of books?
There are two books available, off the top of my head, which deal with the
basic care and preservation of books and some artwork. They are:
The Care of Fine Books, Jane Greenfield, n. Lyons Books, New York, 1988.
Cleaning and Preserving Bindings and Related Materials, Library Technical
Program, American Library Assoc., Chicago, 1967. (This has appeared in
several newer editions. Some of the advice such as washing leather
bindings with Potassium Lactate should be ignored and applying dressing
should be treated VERY CONSERVATIVELY.
University Products and Light Impressions (both have 1-800 numbers) sell
archival mending supplies such as Filmoplast tape, which while being far
from perfect do not create anywhere near the problems masking and scotch
tape do. Gaylord, which is also brancing out seriously into the
preservation/conservation market also has available, for free, "Preservation
Pathfinder" broshures. There are 3 so far, one a general introduction with
bibliography, one for papers and other archival storage materials, and one
for photographs. They are (not to) subtle forms of advertising for their
products, but those products are highly recommended and identical to ones
offered by other conservation supply vendors. THey also have a (1-800 number
which can be gotten by calling 1-800-555-1212).
As I conservator I DO NOT recommend dusting books with baking soda to absorb
mildew or smoky oders, nor do I recommend using Lysol or other bleach like
products to remove stains or odors. All these will produce fatal results
especially with cheaper papers which were and are still being used. Books
which have smells should be stood, fanned out with the text supported, in a
well ventilated area. This will help reduce the smell and dry out damp books
(moisture leads to mildew) helping with those problems. Foxing is something
which conservators are still working on and the origin of which is still not
know. We are getting closer though, we think. Bleaching those will only make
In response to:
>Why is this? Has there been any problems with potassium lactate?
> Unless I misremember the idea was p.l. was to replenish the supply of
> some salts in the leather - has this turned out to be unnecessary?
> I'm curious, because I fiddle a bit with minor book restoration, and I'd
> certainly like to avoid anything that has turned out to be harmful.
THe reasons not to use Potassium Lactate are numerous. 1: to replenish the
salts in leather would require gallons. 2: leather by it's very nature is an
acidic product (the tannins are all acidic except for those with an aluminum
retan which are closer to neutral) and washing them with the p.l. which is
basic can reverse some of the tanning or at least make it more subseptible
to deterioration. 3:leather all age differently. Some might seem to be
sound, but when washed with the p.l. turn black and seem to melt into a
smelly goo. The is especially common with newer leather 19th century onward.
Some can take it, but the person doing the washing usually does not have the
training to decide if it will work out or not. It can also lead to more
benign discolorations. Basically it is not worth the trouble. Dressing
should also be applied very sparingly and are much more cosmetic in nature
In response to:
> I was wondering if you have any suggestions for books that have
> already been attacked by mildew? I have several books (not really
> valuable, more sentimental value) that I did not discover had
> been damaged in storage until the mildew had already started.
> These books are now dry (this happened last summer), but I'd
> appreciate any pointers to ways of helping them out of their
> misery if possible. :)
Mildew is a form of mold or bacterial growth, and is influenced most by
environmental conditions. The best advice I can give is to keep the books in
moderate (temperature and humidity) environment with decent air circulation.
There is very little that can be done in terms of treating the actual items.
Mold is everywhere in the air we breath and there is precious little we can
do about it other than living in sealed bubbles and filtering out every
speck in the air. There are advanced conservation treatments such as thymol
or other chemicals, but most of these are dangerous to the user as well as
being detrimental to the paper.
If you fan the books out supporting the text and place them in a well
ventilated area the smell at least should be reduced.
In response to:
> I've got a set of small leatherbound volumes from the early 1900's that
> are pretty dry and brittle. Is there anything I can do for them?
When you mention that this small, leatherbound set of books is "pretty dry
and brittle" what exactly do you mean. Is it the leather you are referring
to or the paper. Considering you live in Seattle, and correct me if I'm
wrong, you have reasonably humid air. If the leather is still sound, ie not
red-rotted(powdery) or excessively worn and abraded you could very sparingly
apply some leather dressing, which if nothing else provides a barrier to the
leather to protect it. You also shouldn't keep the space where you keep your
books too warm about 70degrees. Having it too hot and dry will desicate the
If you are referring to the paper... you have a problem. When paper
production took off in the mid 19th century, they began to experiment with
different sources of cellulose for the paper, not beign toally aware of the
composition. Wood pulp for example (the source of most modern papers) can
contain large quantities of lignin which will quickly breakdown, yellowing
and embrittling the paper. The other culprit here is the sizings and other
fillers added to the pulp. Many of these are neccesary to make the paper
printable and give it some strength, but when the were originally used. it
wasn't understood how these would age. It didn't help matters that often
homes were lit with gas lights (and now car exhausts) which give off sulfer
dioxide which when introduced to moisture will eventually turn into first
sulfurous than sulfuric acid breaking the cellulose chains into smaller and
smaller pieces, resulting in embrittlement. Dust is an accomplice here
because it is also acidic and when settling on books the acids migrate into
the paper. Have you ever noticed how yellowing starts along the edges?
Edge guilding helps protect the paper because it acts as a barrier. In
addition, light (natural and flourescents) can cause leather, cloth, and
paper to discolor and deteriorate. This applies to books and art on the
walls equally. So don't expose your books and artwork to too much intense
direct light. You should still be able to enjoy them though.
Paper can be deacidified, both aqueously as well as non aqueosly. Washing in
water is the prefered method because it also removes many of the degradation
products from the paper and the buffer(Calcium Hydroxide or Magnesium
Bicarbonate) will help neutralize further "acid attacks". Washing also
helps strengthen the paper. The downside her is that it requires the books
to be disbound and them rebound, an invasive as well as EXPENSIVE proposition.
Non-aqueous deacidification can be sprayed onto the pages adding the buffer
to the papre, but it DOES NOT strengthen the paper or remove any of the
degradation products, nor improve the appearance of the paper. It too is
Peter D. Verheyen >
Rare Book Conservator <
B-39 Olin Library >
Cornell University < firstname.lastname@example.org
Ithaca, NY 14853 > (607) 255-2484
Jonathan Grobe email@example.com
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