How to Properly Care for Your Book Collection

How to Properly Care for Your Book Collection

Every bibliophile knows the thrill of finding a book they have wanted for a long time and the joy of bringing it home to join the stately ranks of the other tomes on their bookshelves. Since it is an unfortunate inevitability that objects deteriorate over time, precautions can and should be taken to ensure your books stay in the best condition possible for as long as possible.


Mylar Covers

If you have invested in a hardcover book with a dust jacket, consider buying a mylar cover to protect it. Do not use glues or tapes on your cover. These will leave a residue that can be permanent. Some independent bookstores offer the service of covering your books for you, so ask around your local bookshops if you don’t feel comfortable covering your books yourself.


Protect Against Silverfish and Other Insects

Silverfish are the arch enemy of books. The slithery pests feast on paper, leaving noticeable damage along the text block. Use essential oils or insect traps around your bookcases to help keep silverfish at bay.


Do Not Shelve Books Too Tightly

Do not pack your books too tightly against each other on your book shelf. You can damage the boards and also cause damage when trying to inch the book out of a spot where it is too tightly wedged. Instead, keep an inch or so of available space for your books to breathe and rest comfortably.


Leather Stains

Be careful of storing paperback books next to a book with covers made of old leather. The latter can shed as it ages, leaving a rust colored dust on any books stored next to it. For paperbacks especially, this dust can get in to the grooves of the paper and cause permanent discoloration.



Moisture on books causes a host of problems including mold, mildew, foxing (the rust colored spots that develop on older books), and moisture stains. Do not store your books next to vents or pipes where they may collect excess moisture. If you live in a particularly humid climate, consider keeping a de-humidifier in the room with your books to help regulate the amount of moisture in the air.



Never use a paperclip as a bookmark, or mark your place by leaving the book open, spine-up and pages-down on the floor. This will break the spine and effect the way the pages lay. Avoid using anything acidic as a bookmark, as it will stain the pages of the book.


Do Not Store Things in Books

In addition to not using acidic bookmarks, veer away from storing leaves and flowers in your books. They will seep onto the pages and leave stains and imprints. Anything thick, such as a folded piece of paper, or several photographs, will permanently alter the shape of the pages and the book will not close properly if these things are stored in the book for an extended period of time.


Handle with Care

Do not grab a book by the top of the spine, or open it roughly. Old books tend to start breaking apart near the front hinge (the valley between the board and the spine) and will simply fall away if opened roughly. Take care when opening and leafing through old books. Remove a book from the shelf by grasping the spine on either side and gently tugging as opposed to grabbing it by the top of the spine. The latter will result in an ugly tear and reduced the value of your book.



You can store valuable books in a case with a glass cover. This will help reduce the amount of sunlight and harsh elements your books are exposed to, while still allowing you to enjoy the sight of your collection. Anything that is folio size (12 inches or taller), very thin, or otherwise oddly shaped should be stored flat.


Provide Proper Support

Do not allow books, especially large, heavy, books, to lean without any support. This can permanently warp the boards and pages. If stored upright, make sure your books are supported on both ends, either with books of similar size and weight, or with suitable bookends. NOTE: Bookends should be heavy enough to provide proper support for the books. Be wary of using metal bookends, as the sharp edges can tear pages easily.

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