25 April, 2015

Basic Book Collection Tools


--- “工欲善其事,必先利其器” 孔子·论语·卫灵公

So here are some of the basic tools that I use for book collection. Most of the stuff are from Brodart, which has an extensive range of archival products. It tends to give discount of between 10% and 30% over unscheduled periods, and I usually stock up on 30% discount. A minor irritant is Brodart's requirement for non US-based customers to sign a declaration (?) form and additional charge of 50USD for every oversea shipment. I circumvent that by ordering to a forwarding service with a US address. The competitors are Gaylord and University Products; both look very decent but I've never used their products.

The underlying blue self-sealing cutting mat protects the working surface and the cutting blade. Then, there are the usual ruler, pen-knife and tape. The brush is for cleaning the books (clam the book tightly in one hand and sweep off settled dust on the book's edges gently with the other) and should have soft bristles. Above the brush is a bone folder used to make sharp creases on dust jacket protectors.

Dust jacket protectors are extremely important because a first edition is only complete with its first issue dust jacket, which comprises 80-90% of the book's value. The archival protector, usually made of inert plastic, reduces the likelihood of closed tear, chipping and rubbing formation, and shields against elements that cause foxing or dampstain. We have two types of dust jacket protectors here. The one on the left is in a roll. It needs to be cut to size, but is cheaper and can be used to protect leather books without dust jackets. The other type, on the right and below the weighing scale, is the pre-cutted version that is more convenient to use but slightly more expensive.

For additional protection, there is the box at the top. The box blocks sunlight that fades the dust jacket and darkens the paper, a phenomenon call sunning or tanning. Some valuable books are stored in custom-made solander (aka clamshell) boxes (see the beautiful Breakfast at Tiffany's one) that add to the aesthetics, but these boxes tend to be quite expensive. For most collectible books the affordable boxes from ikea work very well , but I line the interior with archival tissue or plastic because the boxes may not be acid-free.

Finally, there are the supplementary label printer (for clear catalogue) and weighing scale (I like to know how heavy the books are). The alcohol swap is used to remove minor stains like sticker residual. The hygrometer is used to monitor relative humidity and temperature.

On customized solander boxes, I recently had a very bad experience with Bella Forte, a Philadelphia-based bookbinder. Its website looks very professional and the reviews read well, and I reached out to them for 4 customized clamshell boxes in early Jan 2015. The firm was enthusiastic and promised to deliver the boxes by end Jan. After I made payment in mid Jan,  the initial enthusiasm disappeared and the firm became uncommunicative. The promised designs for my approval were delayed again and again and, when finally arrived, they look like kid's work. Until I threatened to cancel the order were the boxes made and delivered over early March and mid April. One of the boxes was of a totally different design than was agreed, and it smelled of cigarette smoke. The workmanship and material used for all the boxes were mediocre for the price charge. Bella Forte over-promises and under-delivers, and should be avoided at all costs.
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