How to Store Rare Books
Rare books should be stored to prevent damage. The best way to store them but also keep them secure and accessible is on a shelf.
If storing them on shelves, the best choice rust-free metal. If you wish to store them on wooden shelves, you must first seal the wood with a water-borne polyurethane varnish to prevent acids transferring from the wood to the book. Oak shelves are a poor choice for storing rare books, as they are very acidic.
Be sure to ventilate shelves to prevent mold and mildew. Shelves should be at least an inch away from the wall to allow air to circulate. Be sure the shelves are not against an outside wall, as the damp temperatures can damage the book. Use solid book ends to keep the books standing up. Store larger and heavier books flat but not stacked, which can cause damage.
Rare books that are very fragile should be stored in custom-made, acid-free book boxes that are sized to each book. You can make them from pre-cut bond stock or buy them ready-made. The ready-made boxes have four flaps surrounding the book and are sealed with some type of string, magnetic tape, or Velcro. The box should cover the entire book, including the spine.
Be sure to store books in a clean place with an even temperature, low humidity, and little light. Attics, basements, and closets on exterior walls are poor choices for storage. Attic temperatures can be too warm; basements can be cold and are prone to moisture, flooding, and mildew; and closets on the exterior walls do not have even temperatures. The best storage temperature is between 60-70°F.
Tips for Storing Rare Books:
- Avoid storing in slipcases, which are containers that slide onto the book and do not cover the spine. They can lead to damage when taking the book in and out.
- Large books taller than 18 inches and/or wider than 3 inches should lie flat. Do not stack more than three books.
- Do not pack them too tightly when putting them on shelves. You should be able to remove a book without rubbing the binding, yet they should be close enough to the other books that they can support each other.
- Group books on shelves according to size.
- Do not allow sunlight near the books. Be sure to cover windows with shades.
- Do not store books in an area that is too dry, as that can make the paper brittle and cause leather bindings can dry out and crack.
- Do not pull a book off of the shell by the top of its spine, as it will cause damage.
- Do not leave the book face down or open for a long period of time, as it will also cause damage.
Rare books should be handled and stored with care to preserve their condition.
The advice on this website is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. “Storage Tips” are offered as-is and no warranty is expressed or implied. For more information, see StorageFront’s Terms and Conditions.