Monday, November 8, 2010

The Enemies of Books

“The surest way to preserve your books in health is to treat them as you would your own children, who are sure to sicken if confined in an atmosphere which is impure, too hot, too cold, too damp, or too dry. It is just the same with the progeny of literature.”
                           William Blades
                           The Enemies of Books

In his classic work The Enemies of Books, William Blades (1824-1890) identifies nine arch-enemies of book collections.  Some aren’t really relevant to this blog, but others remain on the mark.

Here are the four that I'm especially conscious of as I consider the preservation of our family books:

Fire:  “There are many of the forces of Nature which tend to injure Books; but among them all not one has been half so destructive as Fire.”

Water:  “Next to Fire we must rank Water in its two forms, liquid and vapour, as the greatest destroyer of books.”

Dust and Neglect:  “Dust upon Books to any extent points to neglect, and neglect means more or less slow Decay.”

The Bookworm and Other Vermin:  “There are several kinds of caterpillar and grub, which eat into books, those with legs are the larvae of moths; those without legs, or rather with rudimentary legs, are grubs and turn to beetles.”

The following five enemies aren’t as serious concerns for me, at least when it comes to preserving our family books:

Ignorance and Bigotry:  There’s still plenty of these to go around, but let’s hope the books in our house are safe from them.

Drawing of open book by Art Price, circa 1949.
Gas and Heat:  Granted, heat is not good for books, but Blades’ major concern is with the fumes from the 1880s gas lights.

Bookbinders:  Malicious and/or incompe-tent bookbinders shave off margins when rebinding.

Collectors:  Namely the villains who cut books apart to sell the prints, woodcuts, and other artwork piecemeal.

Servants and Children:  “Children, with all their innocence, are often guilty of book-murder.”  So true…

© 2010 Lee Price

1 comment:

  1. Remember how Laura could even tear apart board books when she was a baby??