Over the past week, I have been dealing with the scourge of mildew. And it’s not much fun and it is a bit disheartening. And it would be easy for me to lecture and shake my finger but it happens with me, too. We all must be careful with our books.
I have mentioned many times, that the first things I do when looking to buy books is to check to see if the condition is fine and whether or not it is a first edition. Well, part of my checking for condition is giving the book the sniff test. And chances are that if this book has mildew, or other nasty features such as foxing or dampstains, then other books from the same library will as well.
With greater frequency, I just put the book back because it is so difficult to restore a book once it is mildewed. However, I did buy a mildewed book a couple of weeks ago because I thought I could fix the problem, light mildew, and the book was appealing. It was The Christmas Pony by Helen McCully; Dorothy Crayder, with beautiful illustrations by Robert J. Lee. It was published by The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, in 1967. The attraction for me was that the book was set in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and one of the drawings showed a steam locomotive at the town’s train station.
It took a fair bit of effort, but I have almost completed the rehab process. What I do is spray the dust jacket, the covers and inside the covers of the book, and the pages as, I flip them, with Lysol. And then I put the book in an enclosed space with an open container of baking soda. Another week of treatment should do it.
Yesterday, we received an inquiry about a 1974 novel, that we have listed on the internet for US$100. Our description of the book was fine in a fine dust jacket. The inquiry was whether or not the jacket was price clipped. This has been and is a very common practice in new bookstores. They want to sell the book for a different price so they cut the pre-printed price from the dust jacket. It is so prevalent that it is often not mentioned by dealers one way or the other. I retrieved the book from the shelves, and there was the price nicely intact. But, I was horrified to see that the top of the pages was slightly discoloured and spotted. No way was that in fine condition. And I can only blame myself for the condition because I bought it brand new in 1975. I could think of only one possible remedy before I would change the condition status of the book. Hydrogen Peroxide! It doesn’t always work but it was worth the try. I slightly dampened a soft cloth with the HP and did a little test spot and the result was encouraging. Look at the accompanying photo – back to fine condition. After I confirmed that the price was intact, the person ordered the book and I could now accept the order for a fine copy. Somewhere, I had put this book where there was damp conditions. My fault.
I was in a thrift store yesterday and spotted a great art book. A great artist by a great publisher. Edward Hopper by Harry N. Abrams, New York. The oversized book must have weighed 10 pounds with fold out reproductions, etc.. The book stank! I returned 5 minutes latter and went through it again. Not only mildewed but dampstained. It was beyond redemption. In fine condition, I would have listed it for US$300.
Here is the lecture. “An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.” We have all heard this before and it is so true here. So many books end up in cardboard boxes in the basement and in most basements that is the kiss of death. Our basement, which is our Raven & Gryphon Book Room, is pretty good but we still have a de-humidifier going constantly. So be cautious, and ask your relatives and friends to be careful.
Treasure to Trash does not take long.