People collect rare books for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes for historical significance, sometimes for aesthetic appeal, sometimes as an investment, and other times just out of intellectual curiosity. No matter the case, it’s necessary to properly store or display rare books to preserve their value. Here, we offer practical tips for book collectors who want to preserve and showcase their valuable books.
Why collect rare books?
Sure, people spend a lot of money on their collections, and that includes rare books. But collecting is not always done to see a return on an investment. Here are four common reasons people collect rare books:
Antiquarians are collectors that are interested in books printed prior to 1900. The focus of their collection is more on the age of the book, not its edition or if it’s signed by the author. Its age alone makes it an artifact and a rarity.
These collections go beyond the words on the page and focus on the artwork and aesthetics of a physical book. Titles with beautiful covers, special bindings, amazing images and illustrations that capture the eye are the goal with this collector.
Most bibliophiles (book collectors) are not in it for the money. But those that buy and sell titles for investment look for first editions, special editions, first printings, and signed copies in addition to rare books.
Some people build their collection on a single topic that fascinates them. Whether it’s biographies of war heroes or the history of beekeeping, the topic defines the parameters of the collection. A person may seek various and diverse topics to collect as well.
5 easy ways to protect and display your rare book collection
While the value of a rare book is determined by its scarcity and its condition (binding inscriptions, edition), even if you don’t collect as an investment, it’s wise to protect your collection for future enjoyment.
There are many Display Cases for Collectibles to keep your collection safe and organized. While books are on display in a range of settings from libraries and bookstores to schools, museums, and retails establishments, we are focusing on the collector. And even a collector, similar to a retailer, will want to keep a large inventory of books organized with book displays, shelving, and more.
Use acrylic boxes to display featured books.
Acrylic boxes can protect books from dust, sunlight, and paper-eating insects without storing out of sight. To show off a particular title, consider a base in a contrasting color to the book’s cover. shopPOPdisplays has display boxes with white bases, display boxes with black bases, and custom size acrylic display boxes with more color options. Even a long acrylic riser can offer both prominence and protection. Stack books on top and underneath to divvy up the book pile’s weight. To further secure a title, encase in our flat locking display case. Or you can feature a favorite title on an acrylic j stand – 5.5” x 6” x 1.5” displayed on a shelf.
Use bookshelves to stand the books upright and store them securely.
Books on shelving should be stored in a vertical, upright position. Arrange books of similar heights together so they fit snugly but not overly tight. (If using bookends, they should be a similar height as well.) If a book is too large to be placed upright on a shelf, you can display it horizontally. Give books “breathing room” by not pushing the books all the way to the back wall of the shelf. Leave about an inch so air can circulate behind the collection.
Regarding the bookshelf itself, the Library of Congress recommends metal shelving for rare or vintage book displays. That’s because the acids in wood can penetrate the paper in books and cause deterioration. You can still use a wooden bookshelf, like our four shelf wooden open display. You just need to create a barrier between the wood and books by lining the shelves with a polyester film, corrugated polyethylene or polypropylene boards, metal foil laminate, acrylic sheets, or glass. You can order custom sheets of acrylic on shopPOPdisplays to fit existing shelves or use a display case with glass shelves, such as our 4’ wide wooden lighted floor standing display case with sliding doors and mirrored back.
Ensure your books are out of direct sunlight and utilize acrylic to block out UV rays.
A book’s condition is an important consideration in its value so make sure you store them safely—away from direct sunlight and moisture, and not exposed to swings in temperature. UV light not only fades a book’s print and cover art, but it can remove moisture and make the book brittle and prone to damage. On the flip side, too much moisture can warp pages and cause brown discoloration (called foxing). An acrylic display case offers protection from the sun’s harmful rays as well as humidity. Acrylic is also shatterproof, optically pure, lightweight, insulating (no wild temperature swings) and cost effective. All benefits any book collector would love.
Use clean hands when handling the books.
The white glove rule no longer applies for handling vintage books. But dirt from your hands will cause more than smudges and stains so they need to be clean prior to touching the paper. Also, make sure any surfaces that you place the book on are clean and take care to remove any food or drinks that may spill. An acrylic book/binder stand will provide a clean surface for rare books that you are paging through.
Utilize custom display cases.
Your book display is personal so customize it to fit your needs. Book display cases can be floor-standing or wall mounted, open shelving or lighted cabinet displays, or even a single tome enclosed in acrylic on a pedestal. If we don’t have what you want in stock we will work with you to create custom display cases to showcase your collection.
ShopPOPdisplays carries a variety of book displays, including shelves, acrylic stands, acrylic boxes, and more. View our stock and customizable selection and order today! Contact us with any questions or for more information.