Found at Jot HQ the other day—The Private Library—an attractively bound volume of 1897 by the antiquarian A(rthur) L. Humphreys, author of How to Write a Village History, Old Decorative Maps and Charts and the Berkshire Book of Song, Rhyme and Steeple Chime.
Among the various interesting things he has to say about books in general is his section on ‘The Care of Books ‘. These observations may be listed in a number of sub-headings which could appear thus:-
1) Anecdotes by Andrew Lang.
‘…( Sir Walter ) Scott was very careful; he had a number of wooden dummies made, and, when a volume was borrowed, he put the dummy in its place on the shelf, inscribing it with the name of the borrower. He also defended his shelves with locked brazen wires. ‘ Tutus clausus ero’ ( “ I shall be safe if shut up “) , his anagram, was his motto, under a portcullis…Housemaids are seldom bibliophiles. Their favourite plan is to dust the books, and then rearrange them on fancy principles, mostly upside down. One volume of Grote will be put among French novels, another in the centre of a collection of sports, a third in the midst of modern histories…The diversity of sizes, from folio to duodecimo, makes books very difficult to arrange where room is scanty. Modern shelves in most private houses allow no room for folios, which have to lie, like fallen warriors, on their sides.’
2) Heat and dust as enemies of books.
‘Mr Poole , a very experienced American librarian…made an experiment in the upper gallery of a library, and found that—“ while the temperature of the floor was 65* Fahr., that of the upper gallery was found to be 142*. Such a temperature dries up the oil of the leather and burns out its life. Books cannot live where men cannot live.”
In London particularly dust, smoke, and soot get at books and do great damage. To have the top edges gilded is an excellent way to prevent dust getting into the leaves. Books which have roughly trimmed tops harbour dust much more readily, and it is with great difficulty removed from such…Books should not be either swung together
or beaten together. The carpet in a library should not reach the wall, or right to the cases, but should fall short so as to be removed when required to be cleaned…’ Continue reading