Antique Books

Antique Books

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  1. There are countless old books in existence, but they are not necessarily antiques.  Whether a book is an antique or not depends on several factors.  The condition of the book is of utmost importance. No one wants to buy a book that is torn, stained, or missing pages.  It must have the dust jacket, which can be worth more than the actual book, and should be in near mint condition.  Usually a book must be a first edition in order to have any antique value.  


    In order for a book to have value as an antique, it must be rare.  The fewer there are in existence, the more importance it will have as an antique.  Not all rare books have value, though, they must also be in demand.  Many rare books are worth very little because there is no market for them.  Antique books that were written by prominent authors, or that have won prestigious awards have greater antique value.  In order for a book to be considered an antique, it should have been written in the mid 1800’s or earlier.  Books printed later than that have been produced in greater quantities and tend to have little worth.

    Caring for Antique Books

    Antique books are fragile and damage easily.  Covers, as well as pages, fall apart easily and should be handled as little as possible.  They should be kept in areas where the temperature does not fluctuate too much.  Humidity is very harmful to books, and they should never be kept in damp basements.  The moisture in the air can create brown or black mold spots on the books and will give them that old, musty smell that old books so often have.  Excessive humidity can also cause book covers to separate and peel.  

    It is important to store antique books away from direct sunlight.  Constant exposure to bright light can cause books to fade and discolor.  The heat from direct sunlight can also cause pages to become brittle.  When antique books are stored, they should sit upright, not leaning at an angle.  This can damage the spines and make the books appear lopsided and warped.  It is also safe to store them lying flat on their sides.

    Repairing Antique Books

    Making repairs to antique books requires special materials and a steady hand.  Once something is done to a book, it is difficult to undo.  The most important thing when repairing any older paper item is to use materials that are acid free.  Any product containing acid will cause the paper to break down over time.  Regular adhesive tapes, such as scotch tape, should never be used.   Special acid free paper tape is the only kind that should be used to repair antique books.

    Acid free tape can be used to repair torn or missing pages, and should be carefully applied to both sides of the page.  Damaged spines can be mended using paper and book paste, and affixing them directly to the spine, inside the hollow space in the book end.  Spines that have become unstable can be fixed by inserting glue into the same hollow and spreading along the side where the pages are attached.   This can also be covered with paper to keep the glue in place.  The book should be weighted and stored flat until completely dried. 

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