How To Store Old Books

Old Books

What makes a book obtain an old status? Is it just the age? Is it the quality, the author, or the subject matter? In all actuality, an old book can be considered rare based on any and all of those standards.

From William Shakespeare to J. K. Rowlings, many books can obtain huge prices if sold, even if they are not that ‘old’. Most often it would be the First Editions of the writings that are considered rare or collectable.

Rarity, Collectibility, Desirability

Old Books

As stated, many books and written works will fit into any of the categories. According to Bauman Rare Books, a company with locations within the United States states that a rare book is one that is considered one that is “scarce, rare and desirable”.

Age and condition among the rarest of books are difficult to find. To find one with all three traits would be the ideal collector written work. Most written works are not stored properly to maintain their condition as they get older and rarer.

When you have old, rare or valuable books, there is special care should be taken in order to ensure that the books remain in the best condition possible. When these written works are not cared for properly they will deteriorate, mildew and the ageing process will accelerate.

Certain chemicals, dust and humidity can cause damage to old books.

Book Storage

Books can be stored in boxes for preservation, they can also be proudly displayed and still preserved. There are some best practices that should be followed which will allow you to keep your books in the best shape possible.

In The Open

Old Books

When you are proud of your collection, you want to show it off. This is perfectly understandable and easily done. To store them on shelves, be sure that they are standing upright, with a little space in between each book. Leaving the space in between the books will prevent too much pressure on the books and the binding will not be stretched or stressed when the book is pulled out.

Books of the same height should be kept together. This prevents any indentation of smaller books affecting the front or back covers from being permanently damaged by pressure indentations.

Leaving books laying in an open position for an extended period of time can damage the binding of the book. It is best to not leave the book laying open for any period of time. You also should not lay the books down face down for any amount of time, as this too, will damage the binding. Books should not be stacked on top of each other unless it is a certain type of book.

Books that are larger than eighteen inches, or thicker than three inches, would include Atlases and maps. They should be laid flat, yet, no higher than three in a stack. The pressure on the books can leave indentations, which will reduce their value. These can be placed on shelves, in storage bins or in prepared boxes.

In Boxes

Old Books

When it comes to storing books inside boxes, it will take special care. You need to be sure that the box will not allow any Ultra Violet rays into the box. You also need to be sure that the box will not leak in any fashion.

Artefact boxes are the safest type of box to use. There is no acid or lignin used in the making of the box. These types of boxes are used in museums and libraries when they are storing items, including books for long periods of time. The type of box that this is will safeguard against deterioration of antiques or vintage items.

Climate and Humidity

Old Books

Vintage and Antique books are very susceptible to humidity and fluctuations in temperature. In order to prevent any deterioration in pages, covers or the bindings, the ideal temperature should be kept between 65* and 70*. The humidity should be no higher than 30 to 50%.

Any room that has the ability to be controlled in the way of humidity and temperature, would be the perfect room. Libraries and museums will also use interior rooms or rooms with no windows or very few windows. This prevents the sun and UV rays from penetrating and having a negative effect on old books.

To store old books in your own home, invest in a dehumidifier that will keep the humidity low, but not too dry. You also need to protect old books from the UV rays at home. Room Darkening shades will help with this if you do not have a room with no windows. Basements in many locations are not recommended as the humidity does get too high in these areas.

On the other hand, rooms that are too dry can cause just as much if not more damage. For instance, the pages in a book will become brittle and crack. Books with leather covers also will receive damage. Dry heat or too dry of a room can cause the leather to dry and crack, This will take away from the value of the book immensely.

In order to monitor the humidity in your home, you can purchase a hygrometer. This instrument can ensure that your books will remain in an ideal condition for many years to come.


Old Books

The collectable old and vintage books are very seldom removed from where they sit. For instance, even if they are in closed book hutches, they can still collect dust. Although the enclosed bookshelves will protect them from oils and some dust, the dust that is collected could lead to mould or insect infestation.

To remove the dust from these books, use a very soft-bristled brush and brush away from the spine of the book. Be sure to hold the book tightly shut so that the dust does not get in between the pages.

Before the books are placed back onto the shelf, be sure to dust the shelf off. Do not use a cloth with any chemicals on it, however. The chemicals can damage the covers of the book.

Proper Handling

Old Books

Clean and dry hands are a must when it means handling old books. Your hands should be free of any lotions or oils also. It is a very widely used practice within Museums, Libraries and BookStores, when it pertains to vintage or rare books, a pair of white inspection gloves is always the safest method used if a book must be touched.

This may seem to be an obvious warning, however, you would be surprised how often this is done. Never use a marker or ink pen to underline or highlight certain phrases or passages in a book. A simple lead pencil is the smartest way to mark the spot. The reasons for this are simple, the marker or ink can actually bleed to other pages. Similarly, be sure to note that markings of any type within the pages of an old, vintage or rare book will reduce the value of the book over time.

Value of Old Books

Old Books

There are seven factors used to determine the worth of an aged book or one that is considered vintage. These seven factors include:

The Provenance. This would be documentation that shows the ownership of the book.

Contemporary Binding is different from the binding you find in books today. A book with the original binding will have a greater value.

The Primacy of the book. For obvious reasons, the first books are even rarer than a First Edition book.

Conditions of the book. Obviously, a book in excellent condition is worth more than one that is in different stages of deterioration.

The quality of the binding and also the pages show how well cared for the book or written work has been. Market Demand will vary from book to book and author to author. The demand means how many collectors are actively seeking each book. The more demand, the higher the value is.

The scarcity of the book or books by a particular author or authors. This is somewhat similar to market demand, however, you would find fewer collectors actively searching out a James Patterson book compared to those actively seeking certain books from J. K. Rowling.


Old Books

In review, when you find that you need to store an old book or set of books, be aware of the best practices for keeping them in the best condition possible. The room should have a somewhat low humidity level, no higher than up to 50% humidity but also no lower than 35% humidity. Too dry is just as detrimental to an old book as too humid.

Books should be stored in an upright position, not leaning and with a space between each book. Larger sized books such as Almanacs can be stored in a laying down position. No more than three books high and they all need to be the same size to avoid indentation marks on the cover of the lower book.

Keep the books in a windowless room if possible or use a storage box as the Museums and libraries do, this prevents UV rays from damaging the books.