Conservation: Books

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Letter by letter, word by word, page by page, until it is finally bound, the creation of a book is an example of complete collaboration.

The conservation of books requires a broad knowledge that includes paper and printing processes, as well as an understanding of binding techniques. Because books are made from a variety of materials, there will be a variety of requirements for their care. In almost all cases, it is recommended to meet and discuss with a professional how to care for your collection.

Books will suffer most from poor storage, light, humidity and temperature factors, as well as insect infestations. It is essential to create an atmosphere that is beneficial for your collection; otherwise there will be no collection. Again, meeting with a professional conservator is always encouraged, as they will take into account the specifics of the situation.

  • Always keep every piece of original material connected with the book, even if they have fallen out or been torn out.
  • Do not rebind books for they will lose their value.
  • Proper care must be taken in regards to humidity, light and temperature variation where the books are stored.
  • Regularly inspect for insect or rodent infestation.
  • Occasional dusting may be performed, but always check the book for any damage before proceeding and discuss the cleaning process with a conservator.
  • When dusting remove book from the area, so dust does not fall back onto other items.
    Either use a low suction vacuum with gauze covering the soft brush, or use a hogshair brush depending upon the book.
  • Once more, discuss with a conservator how to clean the individual item.
  • When handling books, never pull at them from their binding or their headcap.
  • Always remove them carefully from storage by the fore-edge.
  • Always hold book securely with two hands.
  • Do not pack books tightly on shelves.
  • Do not shelve books loosely so that they fall at an angle onto each other.
  • Shelves used for storing books should be lined with acid-free card, even if they have recently been painted.
  • Large sized books can be stored on their side, but be certain they are completely supported.
  • Book-boxes are an excellent way to store books that require little airflow.


When designing a book-box take into account:

  • Working with archival material
  • Supporting the book without it being difficult to remove the book from the box
  • Having easy access to opening the box.

A book shoe is another type of book-box. This should be used for books where the spines need to be seen. The same design issues need to be taken into account for the book shoe as the book- box. Always discuss appropriate book-boxes with a professional conservator.

Featured Providers

Orlandini Art Conservation

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Valeria Orlandini 4515 Willard Avenue
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Heller Conservation Services

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