Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Caring for Family Bibles

Kari Miller Fenwood demonstrates a technique for cleaning old books. Courtesy of Hope College. Photo by Kelly Jacobsma.

Hope College recently hosted a workshop on the care and restoration of family Bibles and other rare books. Kari Miller Fenwood, of Kari Miller Restoration, spoke about the complexities involved in book restoration due to the variety of materials involved. She demonstrated several restoration techniques, and offered tips on how to properly care for old books.

Fenwood recommends:

  • Eliminate care of dust and other surface contaminates by vacuuming. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is preferred.
  • When placing newspaper articles, flowers, leaves and other materials into a book, protect the page with glacine or other archival paper.
  • Store books away from direct sunlight.
  • Control moisture levels as much as possible. The guidelines for furniture apply to books – make sure the environment is neither too damp nor too dry.
  • When doing repairs at home, be sure to use archival-quality materials. DO NOT use scotch or masking tape to repair tears.
  • Before making any repair, clean the surface of the page with a dry cleaning pad intended for documents.
  • If books are badly damaged or deteriorated, store them in acid-free boxes, or wrap them in acid free paper. This will help to protect them from further damage. You may wish to consult a conservator to determine the best course of action for books that are valuable and/or meaningful.

Fenwood emphasized reversibility, noting that any repairs should be able to be undone if necessary. Books may be permanently damaged by a well-intended “fix.”  

For more information on caring for family Bibles or heirlooms books, two excellent resouces include Your Old Books, a guide sponsored by the Rare Books and Manuscript Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Care, Handling and Storage of Books webpage from the Library of Congress.

This workshop is part of a series of lectures and workshops offered throughout March as part of the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition at the Hope College Van Wylen Library. Approximately 40 people attended the hands-on workshop, which also included demonostrations on cleaning and repairing  several items from the Hope College Rare Book Collection.

Kelly Jacobsma is Director of Libraries at Hope College.

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