The Preservation Of Books In Hot Climates

Books in hot climates quickly deteriorate unless carefully guarded. There are three destructive agencies: (1) damp, (2) a small black insect, (3) cockroaches.

(1)   Books which are kept in a damp atmosphere deteriorate on account of molds and fungi that grow rapidly when the conditions are favorable. Books are best kept on open, airy, well-lighted shelves. When there has been a prolonged spell of moist weather their covers should be wiped, and they should be placed in the sun or before a fire for a few hours. Damp also causes the bindings and leaves of some books to separate.

(2)   A small black insect, one-eighth of an inch long and a sixteenth of an inch broad, somewhat resembling a beetle, is very destructive, and books will be found, if left untouched, after a few months to have numerous holes in the covers and leaves. If this insect be allowed plenty of time for its ravages it will make so many holes that bindings originally strong can be easily torn to pieces. All damage may be prevented by coating the covers of books with the varnish described under (3). When books are found to contain the insects they should be well wrapped and placed in the sun before varnishing.

(3)   The appearance of a fine binding may be destroyed in a single night by cockroaches. The lettering of the binding may, in two or three days, be completely obliterated.

The following varnishes have been found to prevent effectually the ravages of cockroaches and of all insects that feed upon books:


Dammar resin....... 2 ounces

Mastic............. 2 ounces

Canada balsam...... 1 ounce

Creosote........... 0.5 ounce

Spirit of wine.......20 fl. ounces

Macerate with occasional shaking for

few days if wanted at once, but for a longer time when possible, as a better varnish will result after a maceration of several months.


Corrosive sublimate, 1 ounce; carbolic acid, 1 ounce; methylated or rum spirit, 1 quart.

Where it is necessary to keep books or paper of any description in boxes, cupboards, or closed bookcases, some naphthalene balls or camphor should be always present with them. If camphor be used it is best to wrap it in paper, otherwise it volatilizes more quickly than is necessary. In dry weather the doors of closed bookcases should be left open occasionally, as a damp, still atmosphere is most favorable for deterioration.

How To Open A Book

Never force the back of the book. Hold the book with its back on a smooth or covered table; let the front board down, then the other, holding the leaves in one hand while you open a few leaves at the back, then a few at the front, and so on, alternately opening back and front, gently pressing open the sections till you reach the center of the volume. Do this two or three times and you will obtain the best results. Open the volume violently or carelessly in any one place and you will probably break the back or cause a start in the leaves.