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Caring for Antique Books

Caring for Antique Books Shapero Rare Books

Here is some basic advice to help keep books in the best possible condition.

Even if you are not an avid collector, these basic precautions are sound habits to ensure a long life for any of the books on your shelves.

Caring for Antique Books Shapero Rare Books


  1. Store books on flat, smooth shelves that are strong enough to support their weight.

  2. Books should not come into contact with unsealed wood as it can release damaging vapours.

  3. Place similar size books together upright on a shelf.

  4. It’s important not to pack books too tightly to prevent warping or damage when removing from the shelf.

  5. Use book ends to prevent books falling over.

  6. Dust-jackets should be covered in acid-free book jacket covers.

  7. Do not leave any acidic papers such as newspaper inside the book. It will darken the pages.

  8. Make sure books aren’t stored under plumbing and water pipes. Water damage from these sources is more common than one might think.

  9. Make sure bottom shelves are raised from the floor in case of flooding.


  1. Keep all books in a stable environment.

  2. Excessive heat or high humidity will attract insects and encourage mould growth. Air needs to circulate freely.

  3. Avoid direct sunlight, which will fade leather, cloth and dust jackets.

Handling books/cleaning

  1. Always carefully wash and dry your hands before handling books.

  2. Use bookmarks. Do not place open books face down, and definitely do not turn the corner of pages over.

  3. When reading, carefully turn pages and don’t force the covers down flat or even beyond; this can damage, or even break the spine.

  4. Regularly clean bookshelves, even if it’s only once or twice a year.

  5. Don’t eat or drink near books.

Extra protection for your books

While everyday practical tips will avoid unnecessary damage and deterioration, there are some extra protection methods one can adopt to avoid any expensive repairs to a treasured collection.

  1. Regularly clean books with a cloth or a soft brush.

  2. Purchasing a bookshelf with a glass door may help to avoid dust buildup.

  3. For the most valuable books consider custom-made cases to fit the size of each specific book.

Restoration and repair

Repairs to highly collectable books should only be done by a recommended and highly skilled restorer or book-binder.


We hope this will help you to understand how to handle and take care of books for years to come. When considering the purchase of a book for your collection, the condition and, if applicable, the dust jacket is very important factors affecting the value.This article was written by Dakota Murphey; a content writer and literature enthusiast. Working alongside bespoke library interior designers, Artichoke ltd.

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About Us

Shapero Rare Books is an internationally renowned dealer in London, specialising in antiquarian & rare books and works on paper, with particular expertise in fine illustrated books from the 15th to the 20th century, travel & voyages, natural history, modern firsts, rare children’s books, guidebooks, Hebraica & Judaica, Eastern European, and Islamica

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