Five Ways to Save the Interior Lives of Your Books

Often when buying books, we as dealers are impressed with a book when we first see it, but when we open the book we change our minds rapidly. Even well-intentioned book lovers often fail to ensure that the pages of their books are as well cared for as the exteriors. Books can be well shelved in a cool dry place and yet the state of their pages dramatically reduces their value. Here are the five mistakes book-owners make.

1 Books defaced with ink and pencil

Yes, people still destroy their books with names, places, notes, underlining and other marks in ink, felt-tipped markers and pencils, even colored pencils. The only writing permitted in books is the author and / or illustrators' signature, preferably without a dedication. This should be in ink, no pencil, and should preferably include the name of the place where it was signed and the date.

2 Food and teeth marks

The excuse "the dog ate it" is not much of a joke when it comes to books. Puppies and toddler definitely love chewing books. You would be surprised at the number of books we find that have deep tooth marks inside and out. This is usually accompanied by torn pages. Toddlers do not stop at chewing books. They find the sound those tearing pages make very diverting. And there seem to be a lot of curry-eaters who enjoy reading their valuable books over lunch. Yellow food marks are often in evidence, particularly in those nail-biting bestsellers. Keep children away from books and do not read books when you eat.

3 Marks made by paper

Most people do not realize that paper can damage paper. By leaving a receipt, a postcard or a thin card bookmark in a book over a period of a year or more, chemicals from the small piece of paper can permeate the pages of a book, leaving a perfect negative image on a page or even both the pages that have been sandwiching the paper for months and months. If you are not reading a book, do not leave a bookmark in it. This goes for leather bookmarks too. They are generally thick enough to damage a book if any weight is put on it or it is tightly squeezed into a bookshelf.

4 Sticky tape damages books

It astonishes me the way many people take the trouble to cover a book with plastic, brown paper or wrapping paper, usually with the intent of protecting the book, and then sticky-tape the paper quite aggressively to the inside covers of the book. The damage done is two-fold: first the tape rips the paper when it is removed, and if the tape is never removed it yellows and causes the paper underneath it to turn yellow as well. If you cover your books make sure you keep the sticky tape away from the book itself.

5 Dust is death to books

Dust is no good for books, particularly for the edges of the pages. While it may be possible to remove dust and grime from glossy covers using turpentine or thinners, to remove dust from the page edges is nearly impossible once it has become a thick layer. Dust the exposed page edges of books lightly and frequently, with a fabric duster or feather-duster. Do not try to rub dust away. It will just become ingrained in the page edges. This applies specifically to grimi dust, such as accumulates near where food is fried in oil or near car or engine fumes. Your most valuable books should be kept in glass-fronted book cases to eliminate the dust problem entirely.