If you’re thinking about collecting antique books you purchase at estate sales, auctions and antique stores, you need to know how to care for them properly – and there’s more to it than you might think. A little preventive care can go a long way in preserving every antique book you purchase.
How to Store Antique Books
Sometimes you’ll need to store antique books rather than put them on display – and in that event, you have to be careful about how and where you pack them. Follow these tips to pack antique books:
- Don’t overpack a box.
- Pack your antique books flat in the box. Keep the largest books on the bottom. If you can’t pack them flat, pack them vertically with the spine down.
- Put all the books in the center of the box and use padding around the outer edges.
- Use acid- and lignin-free storage boxes to prevent damage to your books.
- Use medium-sized or small boxes. Large boxes, when packed, will be too heavy to handle properly.
Good Storage Environments for Antique Books
Keep your antique books in a climate-controlled, low-humidity area – for the most part, this means inside the house or in a special indoor storage unit. Your best (and safest) bet is to maintain 35 to 55 percent relative humidity where you’re storing the books. The closer you can get to 35 percent, the better. The best temperature for storing antique books is between 60 and 70 degrees F.
Never store your books:
- In an attic
- In a garage
- In a basement
The temperature extremes in each of these areas, as well as the uncontrollable humidity levels, can cause irreparable damage to your antique books.
Pro tip: Don’t store your books in plastic storage containers. If you’re in a humid environment, moisture can get trapped inside and increase the risk of mold growth.
You can learn about treating common condition problems here.
Handling Antique Books
When you’re handling antique books, your main concern is most likely preserving their value. With that said, never handle your books near food and drink, and make sure your hands are clean before you even touch the cover. It’s also important that the area you’re using the book in, such as a table surface, is clean.
Follow these tips to handle antique books safely:
- Remove the book from the shelf by holding both sides of the spine in the middle.
- Never pull an antique from the shelf by the top of its spine.
- Don’t force a book to lie flat on a table.
- Don’t use paperclips or use bookmarks that could be acidic.
How to Display Antique Books Properly
If you plan to display your antique books, try to avoid doing so on a wooden shelf. Rust-free metal shelves are your best bet – but if you can’t do that, make sure your wooden shelves are sealed with water-borne polyurethane varnish so acids can’t transfer from the wood to the books.
Ensure the shelves are at least an inch, but preferably farther, from the wall to promote air flow. Don’t keep them against an outside wall, which is more susceptible to temperature fluctuations.
Store large (those taller than 18 inches or wider than 3 inches) and heavy books flat. Try to avoid stacking them, but if you must, put smaller and lighter books on top.
Don’t display your books in direct sunlight, which can cause fading and make the materials brittle (as can extra-dry environments).
Are You an Antique Book Collector?
If you’re a collector – or if you’re thinking of becoming one – check out our upcoming estate sales in Jacksonville, which often feature antique books. We’d love to answer your questions about holding your own estate sale, as well, so please feel free to call us at 904-806-4274.
You can also check out Great Expectations Auction & Estate Services on Facebook to look at current offerings and discover upcoming sales.