If a "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Books" existed, its members would be horrified at the apparent lack of concern over the proper care of books. Most people, I daresay, would have their libraries rescued by fanatical undercover bibliophiles from this fantasy group who place the mistreated collections in the homes of true book lovers.
While such a society does not exist, a list originally published in 1937 offers sound advice when caring for your rare and collectible books. Following are ten of those commandments for caring for your books:
1. Thou shalt not tightly pack thy shelves. Packing your shelves too tightly can cause rubbing and tears to dust jackets and paperback covers.
2. Thou shalt not pack thy shelves too loosely. The opposite of packing your shelves too tightly, loosely packing your shelves can cause spine rolling and warp the covers.
3. Thou shalt not open they new books with violence. Opening a new book too quickly or with too much force can break the book's spine, causing hinging and hastening the loss of pages and other unsightly damage. While you don't need to treat your books like spun glass, you should still handle your books with respect and care.
4. Thou shalt not lay thy books face down with other objects stacked on top. Laying a book on its side and stacking other objects on top is a sure way to bow or warp the boards or cause the book to "pop open" to a section or page when opened. Like warped lumber, warped books are no good for building a collection.
5. Thou shalt not use large bulky objects as bookmarks. Closing a book around a bulky object will eventually cause hinging and other injuries to a book's spine. Use only flat objects as bookmarks, such as actual bookmarks, which are specifically made for just such a purpose.
6. Thou shalt not use thy books to level chair or table legs. While it may seem appropriate to misuse some books in this manner, no book, no matter how badly written, or how badly trashed deserves this hellish fate.
7. Thou shalt not dog-ear page corners to mark thy place! Again, use a bookmark to mark your place. Dog-earing the corners of pages promotes tearing and creases the page, not only detracting from the book's appearance but from its value as well.
8. Thou shalt not use a paperclip or other metal objects as a bookmark. Use only a bookmark created for that specific purpose to mark your place. Using a paperclip or metal object can not only tear the page, but will leave creases and other unsightly marks.
9. Thou shalt not use a rubber band to mark thy place. As stated in three previous commandments. Don't do this unless you enjoy torn, funky-marked pages, or a sticky gooey mess when the rubber breaks down.
10. Thou shalt not turn thy pages with excessive force. While the binding of most books is strong enough to withstand some force when turning pages, excessive force will not only tear the pages themselves, but tear them from the book as well.
Most books are made to last. But as with anything, improper care and misuse will not only shorten the life of your books, but will significantly decrease their value as well. Being a good steward of your books will ensure that your books can be enjoyed by others as well.