Quick & Easy Steps of Maintaining Your Rare Book Collection


William Shakespeare’s First Folio, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone have all attained “rare book” status despite the fact that they all deal with quite diverse subjects. These books have fetched hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in copies sold. In reality, rare books include a broad variety of subjects and literary subgenres, and their historical importance and monetary worth might vary.

The same fundamental principle applies to all rare books: they need special attention to preserve their structure and condition over long periods of time. The art of book preservation has been mastered by libraries and museums, who attempt to halt further deterioration and even reverse current problems. Discover what qualifies as a rare work, how to estimate its worth, and useful hints for caring for and storing old books.

What are rare books?

A really rare and valuable book is characterized by a variety of elements, including rarity, condition, association, and age. Rare books Shapero noted that the most important factors that define a piece’s worth are probably age, condition, and scarcity, mainly since older literary works seldom have this crucial combination. Most old books aren’t always preserved properly, which leads to quick page and binding degeneration and, eventually, loss of value.

Tips for maintaining a rare book collection

Special care must be taken to avoid rapid aging, degradation, and mildew development for these things to remain in excellent condition. There are measures that may be done to transform any area in your house into a great location to show and keep your priceless collection, even if professional facilities like climate-controlled storage rooms in libraries or museums give the best protection.


Over time, give serious thought to how to keep valuable books. Due of their transient nature, additional precautions must be made to guarantee that their new habitat won’t hasten their aging or trigger new problems. Books of any age may be harmed by dust, humidity, and even chemicals from unfinished wooden shelves. Follow these recommendations to keep your rare book collection in good shape whether you want to proudly display it on shelves or pack it up for preservation:

  • To lessen strain on the binding when books are removed from shelves, they should be kept upright with some room between each one.
    • To assist prevent indenting, which may happen when books of different sizes are forced together for a prolonged length of time, keep volumes of the same size close together.
    • To lessen stress on the book spine, avoid keeping the volumes open, face-down, or stacked for extended periods of time.
    • Atlases and maps should be stored flat and in groups of three on bookcases or in storage containers if they are longer than 18 inches or deeper than 3 inches.

Verify the box before putting books inside it to make sure it won’t leak or let UV light in. Since they are devoid of lignin and acid, artifact boxes or archival boxes—commonly used in museums and libraries for long-term storage—protect against the degradation of old and worn-out things.

Humidity and Climate

Vintage editions are particularly sensitive to even-smaller changes in humidity and temperature. Maintain temperatures between 65- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit with humidity levels at a consistent 30 to 50 percent to prevent paper or binding disintegration or defects. Older artifacts are often kept in libraries in climate-controlled spaces, which may help keep them in good condition for a longer length of time. However, if you want to keep these artifacts in your own house, seek for areas with few windows and exposure to the outside elements. You should also consider buying a dehumidifier to maintain consistent, low levels of moisture.

Dry heat may also be a problem, leading to the shape and look of rare books altering due to the drying out of book glue and the cracking of leather covers. A hygrometer may be used to monitor the humidity levels in your house and assist avoid these problems to create the perfect environment that will keep your books in top shape for years to come.


Even while all light may permanently alter the chemical composition of book paper and binding, ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight are particularly destructive and can hasten the destruction of old books. Even after the book has been moved out of direct sunshine, this UV damage, commonly known as sunning, might still happen. Bleached, yellowing, or browning paper, deteriorating cloth, and binding fissures are all indicators of sunbathing.

Reduce the amount of light that your books are exposed to, particularly direct sunshine, to help preserve them. Invest in a UV-filtered coating for any adjacent windows or light fixtures, or store in a darkly lit area. Another excellent solution, particularly if a dark storage space isn’t easily accessible, is modern dust jackets with UV protection.


Since these works are often infrequently handled and stored in one place over lengthy periods of time, this prevents unnecessarily exposing them to oils or other natural factors. Due to their stale state, these artifacts are prone to dust accumulation, which may hasten the growth of mold and encourage insect infestations.

Regular dusting is advised to preserve rare books in their finest shape. Since the top of the book is more likely to accumulate dirt and dust, it should be lightly dusted in the opposite direction of the spine using a soft paintbrush or cloth. Before placing the book back where it belongs, wipe off the shelves and hold it securely to prevent dust from settling into the pages.


Maintaining condition and avoiding unneeded degeneration need proper management. To avoid spreading any dirt to the pages, hands should be clean and dry before to handling. Using white inspection gloves for extremely damaged or old books is advised by Archival Methods, a Rochester, New York-based company that specializes in storage options and archival supplies for photographs, paintings, textiles, and other artworks. This prevents seepage from oils that are present on human skin.

Final words

To prevent putting additional strain on the spine, it’s vital to keep your book openings to a minimum while reading or checking it. Use a clean, non-toxic object to support either side of the book while reading, such as a dust cloth or another book. Older books shouldn’t ever be written in with pens or markers since they might leak over adjacent pages. Older novels are best marked or edited using pencils, although it’s crucial to remember that marks of any type might over time reduce the value of the books.