When storing rare, antiquarian, valuable or fragile books, there are a number of considerations you will need to take into account. Proper storage can protect your book for centuries, improper storage can accelerate damage, so, what do you need to look out for?
Paper can be very susceptible to damage from environmental issues, one of the biggest risks being acid. Acid will be present to varying degrees in most book pages (if they are made from pulp based paper), it is formed as the lignin, a natural impurity in the the wood pulp, reacts to the environment/atmosphere.
What will acid do to paper? Acid will cause the paper to ‘yellow’ and become brittle over-time, you will have seen this reaction in paper, most notably newspapers (as they are made from cheaper and less refined pulp). You will notice more often than not, the edges of a book’s pages will show higher levels of deterioration than inside. This is due to exposure to various elements the edges of the book have been subject to that have accelerated the deterioration.
What is acid migration? Acid migration is the transferral of acid from one material to another either directly through touch or through the air. Acid migration can originate from any number of materials, some plastics, wood, adhesives, paints or air pollution can contribute to an acidic storage environment. It’s important to remove the risk of additional acid in the book’s stored environment by using buffered storage materials, such as our archival quality board.
Unlike normal cardboard, our board has been manufactured to not only be acid-free but to have an alkaline buffer to neutralise environmental acid. This is the stuff used in museums around the world to protect some of the globe’s most valuable artefacts, so you know it’s the best available. Some board may be listed as being 'archival' or 'acid-free' but this may only apply to its condition when it leaves the manufacturer, poor quality 'archival' or 'acid-free' board can become acidic relatively quickly and actually damage the contents, ours will not (in accordance with ISO 6588-1:2012). You can read more about the specification of our board here.
If you’re reading this you’re obviously interested in protecting a valuable book or collection and getting your book storage specification right. As we have already discussed why you need archival board, the next part of that decision is the design of the box.
There are a few considerations for your box:
Let’s start with stopping exposure to damaging agents. Dust, UV light and insects (like silverfish) all present risks to your book when in storage, so preventing exposure is important. A box can offer an individual book excellent protection from these issues. But it’s also important that you can easily view the book if required.
Access is made easier with choosing the right design, you need to be able to place and remove the book easily to remove the risk of accidental damage. We've got two box designs that are perfect for books.
Clamshell book box
It’s unlikely you’ll find these available so easily anywhere else in a completely bespoke size.
Our clamshell box with non-locking lid opens completely flat – it’s the best book storage box you’ll find. This allows you to open the box fully and, without having to tug on the cover and risking damage, slide your hand under the book to lift it out. Other box designs don’t allow you to do this. Buy another design and you may end up tipping the box to get the book out, or pulling at a weak point, which could cause irreparable damage.
4 Flap Book Wrap
You could also consider a 4 flap wrap for your book. The wrap will open completely to allow access to all sides of the book when handling. These are usually tied with cotton tape or string to keep them closed. We would not advise using any self-adhesive tapes when storing valuable books. Wraps can also be made of thinner materials, like our manilla board.
Having a box that fits properly will prevent damage to your book by supporting it correctly whether it’s being transported, or placed in storage. Boxes that are too large allow the book to move inside the box, this could cause abrasions to the cover or allow the text block to pull away from the binding. Packing a box out with tissue paper is fine, but becomes more troublesome when the book is viewed. Too small, well, it just won’t fit!
Boxes also provide a protective environment from fluctuations in humidity or temperature which can accelerate the degradation of all materials books are made from. This can help prevent the growth of mould or excessive drying of leather or adhesives. It's important that the environment is monitored and managed or a box cannot help!
Should you use plastic boxes to store your books? Sealed plastic boxes could seal in excessive moisture and create an environment for mould to grow. Books, being made of paper, will themselves hold a level of moisture which could cause condensation on the walls of a plastic box. Plastic boxes that contain PVC will eventually become acidic and must not be used under any circumstances.
Particularly with antiquarian books, no two are sized the same so it is rare that you will be able to buy the perfect sized box ‘off the shelf’ – boxsite is the best option for made-to-measure boxes to store your valuable and antiquarian books.