Rare books are not just investments, they are treasures. Their origins tell a great story that gives the volume both intrigue and intellectual value. Who owned it, when was it printed, where was it printed, whose cover decorated it, and whose notes commented on it - all of these and many more are some of the basic questions to ask about a rare book.
How to be a rare book collector
Collect what you love. Your passion for a topic or genre will help you learn the basics of the field and what to look for in copies of the rare book collection. Find some specialty stores like Shapero and start a relationship with them. Ask questions about the rare books they offer or ask for advice on books that you can find elsewhere. It's also good to find like-minded collectors to interact with and follow rare book blogs or mailing lists that they offer. It is also important to obtain and read catalogs from booksellers or auctions, especially those that cover books in your area of interest.
Factors to consider when storing a rare book
Maintaining a constant temperature with constant humidity contributes to the most efficient environmental conditions for storing a rare book. Books must be exposed to both a stable temperature of 65 to 70 degrees and relative humidity of 45 to 55%. The most important thing to keep in mind, both in terms of humidity and temperature, is that both remain constant and that changes that are required should be gradual.
Extreme in all aspects should be avoided.
When it comes to moisture, it is best not to place the bookshelf where you place your rare book too close to a bathroom where the humidity can be high due to the proximity of the water. If you have an HVAC system, it is possible to trap bad air while excluding and filtering external contaminants. Good air conditions also prevent the growth of mold. Humidifiers are useful when there is no system that can mitigate moisture and temperature.
Air conditioning in summer and general heating in winter is essential to maintain the correct temperature. Excessive heat can destroy and accelerate the breakdown of rare books. Therefore, it is best to maintain a cool and dry environment for your collection with as little temperature variation as possible. In addition, rare books should not be kept in basements, attics, or near heat sources. Doors and windows must be sealed and protected from the weather to prevent the ingress of outside air, light, and pollutants.
Metal shelves are ideal for rare books. However, the best alternatives are pore-free, solvent-free full-body paints on hardwoods such as mahogany or walnut. It is best to avoid woods like oak because of its very acidic nature. Ideally, the shelves should be adjustable and have enough space behind each shelf for good ventilation.
Note: Storing or collecting rare books is a highly specialized business. You want to learn more about rare books or know how to do it. Shapero's Bookshop is the right source to get all the information you need.