Collecting Three Investigators books
can be quite expensive, so obviously preserving your valuable collection
is very important. Unfortunately, most editions of The Three Investigators
were made with fairly inexpensive paper and bindings that can degrade considerably
over time. Bindings crack, spines and covers fade and the paper becomes
brittle and brown. It can be difficult to effectively repair what
has happened, so certain steps should be taken to prevent or minimize further damage.
The following information is based on my own knowledge of book preservation,
as well as information found at the National
Archives and Records Administration and The
Library of Congress Preservation websites.
The type of environment surrounding
a book is perhaps the most important aspect of book preservation.
An unacceptable environment will begin or accelerate deterioration.
For example, the high humidity in an attic or basement can promote mold
growth, cause foxing (small brown disfiguring spots in paper), and attract
insects. Extremely low humidity, as found near hot radiators, can
dry out bindings and adhesives. Books will last longest if they are
in a stable environment, similar to that which we find comfortable for
ourselves: 65-72 degrees F; 40-50% relative humidity; with clean air and
good circulation. Inside walls are drier than outside walls, therefore,
the central part of your home provides a safer environment than a hot attic
or damp basement. Maintaining steady temperature and relative humidity
is preferable over conditions that cycle up and down.
Direct sunlight or indoor light with
a large ultraviolet (UV) component (such as fluorescent) will promote chemical
degradation in the paper and fade inks in printed covers and spines.
The effects of light exposure are cumulative and irreversible. Since
of collecting is typically displaying and enjoying a collection, keep your
books out of direct sunlight or fluorescent light, or place them in an
enclosed cabinet with glazing designed to filter UV light (UV conservation
glass or UV acrylic sheet). Typically, incandescent light (from a
standard light bulb) will not cause fading, but as incandescent light bulbs
are very hot, they should be kept far enough away to prevent damage from
If you choose to display your books,
always place them on shelves. The shelves must be deep enough to
support the book's entire bottom edge and strong enough to not bend in
the center from the weight. Place similar sized books next to each
other vertically, packing them neither too loosely or tightly; this will
help to prevent warping of a tall book next to a short book. Large,
heavy volumes should be shelved horizontally rather than vertically, as
this method of storage provides greater protection and support for textblocks
and bindings. Never place these books horizontally on the tops of
vertical ones; this can crush the top edges.
If you choose to simply store your
books, do not put them in regular corrugated cardboard boxes.
These boxes are very acidic and the acid will slowly leech into the books,
destroying them over time. Like light exposure, the damage is irreversible. Paperback book pages brown because of the relatively
small amount of acid contained in the pages themselves - just imagine what
can happen if the entire book is surrounded by an even more acidic environment.
Therefore, always store books in either archival quality cardboard boxes
(these are special, pH neutral boxes) or polymer containers made of a completely
stable material such as polypropylene or polyethylene. I personally
find the best containers to be the polypropylene kind made by Rubbermaid,
Sterlite, etc. that are found at most stores like Target or Walmart.
They are inexpensive, very sturdy, stackable and available transparent
so you can see what's inside without taking off the lid. Polypropylene
containers can be identified by their #5 recycling code on the bottom and
usually the letters "PP." Before using these containers, make sure
to wipe out any dust or dirt with a damp cloth and allow to completely
When placing books into storage containers,
pack them snugly, but not too tightly. Never store books on their
front edge or spine. If possible, it's best to stand books upright,
just like on a shelf. Again, never place additional books horizontally
on the tops of vertical ones; this can crush the top edges. If it's
not possible to stand them upright, lay all the books flat in the box,
in neat stacks. Make that they are all laying square, and not twisted
in the bindings.
How a book is handled contributes
to its longevity. If a book will not lay flat, do not force it open
further, as the binding can crack. In addition, the covers should
always be supported when the book is open (e.g. do not leave one half of
the book hanging over the edge of a table).
Many books are damaged by the habit
of pulling the books off the shelf with the head cap or the top of the
spine. It is a much better practice to push the two adjoining books
inward and remove the book by grasping the sides of the spine.
Paper clips should not be used to
make notations since clips will rust or crimp the pages. The folding
down of page corners is also damaging because it will often cause the page
corner to break off over time.
If possible, don't ever write in
your books, especially not in ink. Ink can easily bleed through to
the opposite page, obscuring text. From a collecting standpoint,
it's best to not even put your name and/or address inside the front cover.
Even a neatly written ink name in a book will reduce it's value significantly. If you already
have put your name in your books or have purchased one that way, do nothing.
If you feel you must put your name in your books, use a soft number one
pencil that can easily be erased.
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This page last updated on 02-Sep-03