The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Handling and Mishandling of Books Part 2

When the bindings of books are affected by damp in the form of mould spots, they should be well rubbed with a soft duster-not forgetting to open the book and rub the insides and edges of the boards, as well as the outside-and thoroughly aired before they are put back. The shelves may also receive attention by the application of carbolic acid or some other germicide. Good ventilation is one of the best preventives of damp, and in order to allow free circulation of air it is advisable that an interval of about half-as-much should be left between the inner edge of the shelf and the back of the bookcase. While the bookcase is in question it may be noted that, since contact with a sharp angle is liable to be destructive to books, the arns-that sharp and true edge which is the pride of the joiner's craft should be ruthlessly rounded off the front of the shelves.

Books should not be packed so tightly on the shelves that they cannot be taken from their place without risk of damage to the binding; nor should they be allowed to stand so loosely that they gape open and let dust fall between the leaves. Other enemies to the well-being of books are the fumes of gas, most noticeable on the shelves near the top of the room, which, in time, will reduce leather bindings to dust; strong sunlight, which also dries up bindings and plays havoc with their colour. Last, though not least, spring cleaning, when books are banged together with a will, making joints to crack and boards to part company, while the intelligent dust heads straight for the open window (so it is firmly believed); afterwards, the book-lover has the consolation of being assured that the books have been put back on the shelves 'exactly as they were.

The leather binding of a book that is in frequent use retains its suppleness longer than one which stands idle on the shelf. This is probably due to the slight dressing of grease which it receives in being handled. If the leather is allowed to get very dry it loses much of its strength, becomes brittle, is liable to crack, especially at the joints, and the surface crumbles away. To keep leather bindings in good condition they should be treated occasionally with some lubricant. A good preparation for this purpose is a mixture of castor oil and paraffin wax. 'To prepare it, some castor oil is put into an earthenware jar, and about half its weight of paraffin wax shredded into it. On warming, the wax will melt, and the preparation is ready for use. If paraffin ointment be used instead of paraffin wax, the ingredients mix more readily and it will not be necessary to warm the preparation before use. Both vaseline and furniture polish have also been used for this purpose. The former is fairly satisfactory, but as the acrid odor of the latter suggests the presence of an undesirable element it had better be avoided.