Care, Preservation, and Display of Rare Books and Printed Materials
By Julie Carleton
Note: all italicized words are included in the glossary at the end of this article.
The information contained in this article is intended for the entire spectrum of book owner, from the novice to the seasoned collector. Basic instruction is provided on how to ensure the finest condition of collected books and printed materials such as pamphlets, ephemera and broadsides. As a result, you will stand a better chance of protecting your investment by maintaining the value of your rare book or printed material.
Rare and fragile books (and printed materials) require proper care so that they maintain physical integrity and ultimately, value. The owners of such reading materials should have a basic understanding of the causes of deterioration, and thus take the proper measures to avoid them. These basic preservation procedures include correct handling, display, storage and housekeeping.
This article addresses the care, preservation and handling of several types of printed materials: books, broadsides, pamphlets and ephemera. A “rare” book (or any printed material) can be defined as any such material that has an enhanced value because the demand for the book exceeds the supply, usually because of its importance, scarcity, age, condition, physical and aesthetic properties, association or subject matter. You may note that not all rare books are valuable1.
A book is a collection of leaves of paper, parchment, vellum, cloth or other materials (written, printed, or blank, fastened together in some manner, with or without a case or cover.
A broadside2 is a publication printed on a single or composite piece of paper or other material; it may be printed on one or both sides and may be bound or unbound. The content is mostly textual in nature but may contain illustrations that are subordinate to the text.
1 David Nathanson, “What Makes a Book Rare?” Conservogram 19/1, (July 1993): 1.
2 Joan M. Reitz. ODLIS: Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science. 2002.