The Printed Book

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

Handling and Mishandling of Books Part 4

Another point which deserves more attention than it usually receives is the method of opening a new book. If a book is to open comfortably and the leaves turn over freely, the back, which is rounded while the book is closed, must assume a concave shape when the book is in use. But the back of a new book is stiffened with glue, and if it be opened violently in anyone place, with the leaves gripped fast between finger and thumb, the back will probably crack at that point, making an awkward angle; and, since the back cannot afterwards take the supple curve which is its natural form, the book will always evince a desire to open at that particular place.

To prevent this, a new book should be carefully opened throughout. It may be done in the following manner: 'Hold the book with its back on a smooth or covered table; let the front board down, then the other, holding the leaves in one hand while you open a few leaves at the back, then a few at the front, and so go on, alternately opening back and front, gently pressing open the sections tm you reach the centre of the volume. Do this two or three times, and you will obtain the best results. A book having been carefully cut and properly opened is entitled to yet further consideration. In reading, it should not be held near the fire or the boards will warp; nor should it be left lying in the sun, for the same reason. There are various ways of keeping the place when reading a book. It can be laid face downwards; or it can be dog's-eared, by turning down the corner of the leaf; or, following the habit of a certain school- boy when absorbed in Henty, the corner of the leaf may be pinched off as it is turned over. A slip of paper is a simple and inexpensive alternative to any of these barbarous practices. In closing a large book the end leaves are liable to crumple up if the book should happen to be open near either end; to avoid this, take the advice of an eminent librarian and open the book about the middle of the volume before shutting it up.