Healthy Book tips: How to safely handle and store your books

How to Handle Your Books

If you reach for your books by placing your fingers on the top of the spine and pulling them toward you off the shelf, you are not alone. Most people pull books off a bookshelf by tilting or sliding the volume towards them using the most obvious place to get a grip – the headcap, or row of stitching at the top of the spine. Pulling on the headcap, however, will eventually cause damage to the book.

photo 1   *This is the incorrect way to pull a book off a shelf.

Instead, press down on the top of the page block and gently tilt the book out until you can safely grasp it on either side with your thumb and fingers. Another option is to push back the books on either side of the desired volume so as to leave a space for you to grasp the book on either side with your thumb and fingers.

photo 2   *This is the correct way to pull a book off a shelf.

Storing Your Books

If you have a large book that can’t fit upright on your shelf, the best way to store it is lying flat. If space just doesn’t allow for that, store the book spine down. If you store your book spine up, the text block (all the pages) call fall out of the binding.

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*image retrieved from Northeast Document Conservation Center https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.1-storage-methods-and-handling-practices

If you have a book that is fragile and needs support, the best thing to do is create a box made of archival-grade material that fits the book exactly and gives it the support it needs. The Northeast Document Conservation Center has a pamphlet on how to construct a protective book boxes, but if you don’t feel up to the task, contact a book binder or conservation centre near you to enlist expert help.

A Bookbinder Near You

Does anyone out there have a book (or books) that looks like this?

IMG_1213     IMG_1212

As you can probably guess, I do! Well, I did. The two books pictured above were my mother’s, and they were published in 1908. Clearly, they suffered a lot over the years, and I decided to take them to my local bookbinder, Don Taylor, so they could get a new lease on life.

Restoration specialist Kate Murdoch worked on my book, and we discussed what should be done. I wanted the two books bound into one, since the one volume was missing both covers, and we hoped that the remaining covers could be salvaged. Kate resewed the pages, making the binding tight again (shown below). The beautiful endpapers were lifted from the original covers, but alas, the covers themselves were too weak and could not be restored.

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The end result (shown below) is a beautifully tight, crisp new volume that will be around for the next hundred years.

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Thank you Kate Murdoch and Don Taylor Bookbinder! If you’re in the area and have a book or two that could benefit from a skillful restoration, here’s where to go:

Don Taylor – Bookbinder 
176 John Street, Unit 511
Toronto, Ontario
M5T 1X5
Phone: 416.591.8801
Email: dstbook@gmail.com