The Preservation Handbook Online

Table of Contents

I. Preservation
II. Assessment
III. Collection Assessment
IV. Agents of Deterioration
V. Monitoring collections
VI. Materials
VII. Storage
VIII. Conservation
IX. Disaster Planning
X. Housekeeping
XI. Resources / Suppliers
XII. Preservation Grants

Materials - books

Books - introduction

The proliferation, materials, craftsmanship, and the use of books makes preservation and conservation efforts in library collections more complex. Preservation of books in library settings may involve the types of bindings that will maximize use, reinforcement of paperbacks and developing ways to secure items such as optical disks and audio tapes that belong with a printed source. Most of these needs are met in-house and are strictly utilitarian. This handbook address preservation and conservation of cultural property and will focus on books that are to be retained permanently in archival and museum collections. At the bottom of the page are external resources that address the everyday needs of active collections.

Books - history

"The word "book," which comes from the Anglo Saxon word for beech tree, indicates there was a time when the Saxons and Germans wrote on beech boards. Similarly, the term "codex," by which we designate bound manuscripts, is derived from the Latin "caudex," tree trunk. The concept of "leaves" of a book suggests the use of leaves as writing materials. Pliny, referring especially to Egypt, says that men first wrote on the leaves of palm trees. In India and the Far East trimmed palm leaves, bound at one end like a fan, have long been used for books and continue to be used in some places till this day. Some early books have left their vestiges only in names. The perishable nature of the materials has left us with scarcely a trace of whole literatures of such people as the Cretans and the Etruscans." vii

Many organic substrates used for text, such as papyrus, have led to significant intellectual loss of early societies because of their inherent qualities. As the art of book making spread the styles and materials changed with each culture and period. Prior to the sixteenth century, books were expensive, revered, and treated with great care. This accounts for the large number of manuscripts and religious texts that have survived for centuries. Most texts were hand recorded, or block printed on vellum until paper mills started to spread across Europe. Literary sources indicate that paper made from rag pulp began in China around A.D. 105, but was not wide spread in Europe until the fifteenth century. The ability to mass produce paper was the first significant revolution in communication. The second was the invention of moveable type. For the first time books could be acquired by the peasant classes and the demand for books continually increased. By the middle of the nineteenth century rag material had been depleted and paper makers sought alternatives. The Industrial Revolution ushered in mechanized process and printing changed into linotype and cylindrical press. The new printing process required the ink to set on top of the paper and chemical additives were used to reduce the ink diffusion. Inspired by the wasp, paper makers started using wood pulp and adding alum sizing to meet consumer and craftsman's demands. For the next 100 years paper that was inherently unstable was widely used.

Books - inherent vice

The "brittle book" problem was identified in 1961 when the Council on Library Resources established the Barrow Research Laboratory in Richmond Virginia to study environmental effects on books. The following year the American Research libraries commissioned a large scale preservation study of it's member libraries. "Why were so many books on the shelves of American research libraries literally crumbling when touched? Books deteriorate due to two sources: chemical composition of its materials- the paper, the binding, the glues, and other elements of construction- and the environmental conditions under which the books are kept. The greatest culprit in decay is the deleterious levels of acid found in paper manufactured from 1840 until 1980 and beyond."viii

Wood based paper pulp is highly reactive to environmental changes. Increased heat accelerates chemical reactions; fluctuating relative humidity weakens fibers; ultraviolet exposure leads to discoloration. All of these reactions will embrittle high lignin paper used in books or manuscript and add stress to the overall structure. Complete loss is imminent however, the rate of deterioration can be controlled. At some point information migration should be considered to preserve intellectual value and increase access to primary source material. Microfilm, preservation photocopy, and digital surrogates are three possible solutions. The selection process for materials to be involved in migration will be unique to institutional goals and resources. There are scholars, subject specialists, and bibliographers that identify collections to be preserved. Objects that are maintained because of artifactual value should be given every advantage through preservation efforts.

Book - structure

Pages within a book are groups of signature sewn together to become the text block. The binding techniques will be unique to region and time period.

Folio is a piece of paper folded once.

Signatures or gatherings are the groups of individual folios designated by letters or numbers printed in the tail margins on the first leaf of each section. These letters or numbers are used by binders to assemble the book in correct order.

Text block is all of the signatures sewn together to make up the text.

Frontispiece is an illustration facing the title page of a book.

Title page contains the first state of the title.

Books - preservation

Preserving an item also limits the use of that item. The ideal is to minimize risk to the objects while maintaining the use.

"The strategies that have emerged in the past two decades to manage preservation risk to print and media (non-digital) research collections include:

Book - storage

See storage chart for recommended book and manuscript storage. Books that show signs of stress and weakening such as loose hinges should be placed in custom made boxes and stored horizontally. Phase boxes should:be acid-free; lignin free; have no moisture sensitive dyes or inks; and use spacers in partially filled boxes. Storage containers can be as simple as wrapping books in acid-free tissue with matboard cut slightly larger than the book cover and held together with cotton twill tape.

Book - conservation

There is not an absolute list that establishes the criteria of book treatment. The diversity found in books makes this an impossibility. "Often there will be quite legitimate and apparently irreconcilable difference of opinion over what should be done to individual books, when the interests of curator, scholar and conservator cannot be made to agree. Most commonly this will arise over the need to gain access to the text, but where the binding, or the nature of some form of damage, will not allow this, discussion then comes down to one of the perceived relative importance of different components of the book."x

The first questions to answer when considering conservation treatment would be: What is the reason or goal in repairing the book? and, What are the options available? The expertise of a bibliographer and a conservator will be needed to answer those questions accurately. Implications to both bibliography and conservation should be considered prior to treatment. The bibliographer will establish wherein the value or values of the book are. The conservator needs to know why the book is worth repairing. Effective communication is essential and will determine successful treatment or not.

Documentation should include: what is thought to need repair; special features within the text block; indications of provenance that must be preserved; the significance of the binding structure or decorative elements; evidential value of the damage itself; projected future use of the book; future storage conditions oft he book; what the minimal and least invasive treatments are; is the survival of the book endangered; does the damage make handling unsafe; does the book have to be taken apart to repair the damage; how much of the existing binding can be saved; can the original material be preserved and how much this will limit use; and are there better ways of putting the book together.

Resources for in-house treatment

BonaDea, A. (1995). Conservation Book Repair A Training Manual. Alaska:
Alaska Department of Education
Online: <>

Dartmouth College - Preservation Services
A Simple Book Repair Manual
Online: <>

Bookbinding and library binding

Acme Bookbinding
P.O. Box 290699
100 Cambridge Street
Charlestown, MA 02129-0212
Toll Free: 1-800-242-1821

Brian Roberts the Book Doctor
Online: <>

The Denver Bookbinding Company
2715 17th Street
Denver, Colorado
Phone: 303-455-5521
Toll Free: 1- 800-727-4752
Online: <>

Heckman Bindery, Inc.
1010 North Sycamore Street
P.O. Box 89
North Manchester, IN 46962
Phone: 260.982.2107
Toll Free: 1-800-334-3628
Online: <>


VII Levarie, N.(1995). The art and history of books. United States: Oak Knoll Press & the British Library
VIII Smith, A. (1999). The future of the past: preservation in American research libraries. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resource.
IX Smith, A.(1999). The future of the past: preservation in American research libraries. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resource.
X Pickwoad, N. (1994). Distinguishing between the good and bad repair of books. In Hadgraft, N and Swift, K.(Ed.) Conservation and preservation in small libraries. Parker, CO.: Parker Publications.