Category Archives: Book Collector Guidelines

Markings on your books


This design was often used by the King’s bookbinder in marking Charles II’s books.

Identification Markings go back as far as the first handwritten records because the reader

had to know what was being written about.  Clay tablets had tags attached to them, and this carried over to the early parchment manuscripts.  A manuscript in a large library would be marked on the end, either with a tag or spot of color, each color representing a certain subject.

Most discerning of lay book collectors shun all books that have markings other than notes by the author or a famous contemporary.  This is very admirable and certainly to be hoped for, but today’s security-conscious society you also have to think about theft.  Not only the prevention of individual items, but how to identify your items after they’ve been taken.  Which means, mark the book!  Jeanne Bennett mentions in her book “Hidden Treasures, the History and Technique of Fore-Edge Painting” a legend about Charles II, King of England, saying that he had his coat of arms painted on the fore-edges.

Most collectors are content with a bookplate that is pasted inside one of the covers.  Newcomers and some accumulators merely write their name inside.  Another class will use a rubberstamp or embossing stamp on a flyleaf, in varying sizes and colors.

What is best?

The best guidelines are probably:
(1) keep the identification as small as possible, like a small pencil dot or a pinhole
(2) put it in an out of the way place (on the back flyleaf or inside the back cover at the bottom), or in the case of the dot or hole, over or under a letter in a certain position in each book (next to last vowel of last paragraph on the next to last page?)
(3) keep in your files as complete a description of the book and its mark as you can make.

If you have a cataloging system, then provide space for this information.  Ideally, this information would include at least the following:  a photo of the binding (front, spine, and back); a photo or xerocopy of the titlepages or any other pages with identifiable marks and bibliographic oddities (like broken letters, a tipped-in errata sheet, etc.)


Bookplates are labels specially designed and printed to show who owns theknabensbergbookplatem.  Throughout history plates have been made with all kinds of art on them, in all sizes, and depicting a myriad subjects and scenes.  The first bookplate is supposedly dated from 1450, is a whopping 7-1/2” x 5-1/2” in size, and belonged to Johannes (Hans) Knabensberg in Germany.

Whether you purchase pre-made bookplate or design one of your own, follow these to guidelines:

Print your bookplate on an acid-free paper and keep it as small as your ego will allow.  A small bookplate will make it easier to placing it in a small book, 4”x5” for example.  Will not, in older books cover the advertising or drawings on the endpapers.  Advertising can be important for various reasons when researching an author, publisher, or book.  Besides it’s a crime to cover illustrated endpapers.

Fasten your bookplate with a benign paste.  A benign paste like YES Paste, available from better art supply stores or wheat or rice starch paste.  Do not use a self-adhesive label, as they will either dry out and fall out.  Or will leave a sticky residue behind when they fall off.


Don’t do it if you want to remain friends with other collectors.  Leave the embossing to the notary public people.

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Caring for your Book Collection

General Care

General Care for your book collection will follow the basic rules of all libraries:

  • Food or drink should be banned from the area of the bookshelves.  Or from that room if you’re lucky enough to have an entire room for your library
  • No pens of any kind, pencils only for making notes (see markings on your books)
  • Keep unsupervised pets or small children out of the library area

Keep your bookshelves out of direct sunlight.  Also away from any sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, open heating vents, southern walls)

Some tips from one of the countries best rare book dealer’s Bauman’s:


Shelving your book collection is easily done.

  • Line them up so all the spines are about one inch from the front of the shelf
  • Put oversize books on their spines, not the fore-edges; or a number of them together on one shelf and laid flat

Dusting the books and the shelves annually is a very good idea.  After removing all the books on a shelf, wipe off the shelf  with a slightly damp cloth to pick up all the dust; do NOT use a furniture cleaner or wax!

To dust the books use a soft cloth, a soft-bristled brush, or a vacuum cleaner.  If using a cloth or brush, tip the top edge of the book toward the floor, squeeze the two covers tightly together, and gently wipe the top edges of the pages away from the spine.  If you use a vacuum, just make sure to cover the opening of the vacuum tool with two layers of pantyhose netting as this will cut down on the velocity considerably and help protect your collection

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Book bookmarks that are book friendly

Bookmarks that are book friendly are made of acid-free paper or something very thin.  You are looking for bookmarks that won’t stain, crease, tear, or otherwise cause stress to your pages or binding.  We have been horrified by what we’ve seen in the last year or so that are being sold as bookmarks.  Pieces of pierced or cast metal, clips that are supposed to fit benignly on the edge of the page, woven tapestries with who-knows-what chemicals in them, and some with elastic bands.  These could put irreparable wrinkles, holes, tears, or discolor your pages.

What to look for in book friendly bookmarks

Post-it bookmark has lifted the text off the page

Post-it used as a bookmark has torn the page taking text with it as it was removed.

The best is simply a strip of acid-free paper, and that does not include Post-its.   The adhesive on Post-its is not only strong enough to lift the text from the page, but sometimes will also lift a layer of the paper itself, especially older delicate paper.  So if you need to use a Post-it as a temporary bookmark, be sure to put it on the margins of the page and not over the text.  If you so use a Post-it, carefully remove it from the page.  Check to see if any of the adhesive was left behind to either discolor the page or pick up dirt.

Dogearing the page can cause the corner to fall off especially if the page is older delicate paper or acidic/brittle.

Notice we said acid-free paper and not cardboard, even though you can get acid-free board.  The thickness could stress the binding of the book especially if you need more than one bookmark.  Placing the bookmarks closer to the fore edge of the book rather than the spine will help from straining the binding.

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