Your valuable just-purchased book has a tattered dust jacket with tears, chips, rips, and parts missing. You’re tempted to throw it away, but after reading this article I hope you’ll do what I do and not discard any dust jacket, in any shape, if the book has a market.
What you’ll need is simple: a plastic book jacket cover, a bone folder or similar tool, and a good adhesive and/or tape. (See last month’s Making Money from Book Care article for advice in this area.)
Assemble all the pieces of the dust jacket on a flat surface and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. If part is folded over, uncrease it and rub the bone folder over it to smooth it. You can do this on any flat, hard surface. If part is torn then adhere it with tape or glue, obviously from the back of the dust jacket.
Now the dust jacket is probably dirty; not with dust, but with years of adhered grime. I usually use a cotton swab stick, or a soft white cloth, dipped in a non-water liquid of choice, to gently clean the fragments. The paper is usually fragile and I prefer liquids to solid cleaning agents like an art gum eraser, clean cover gel, or Absorene book cleaner.
Water is never to be used. I use Brodex, a multipurpose cleaner that I get from Brodart. It is inexpensive, but if I am feeling especially frugal I might risk using rubbing alcohol. The alcohol cleans and quickly evaporates and that is usually safe for dust jackets. I have noticed that it has a tendency to run colors, especially reds, and especially from books from the 1940s.
Some dealers use Windex or a similar glass cleaner, and it may well work, but I do not suggest experimenting on expensive books. It is true, however, that paper and inks vary from country to country and decade to decade, so it is impossible to generalize about the results.
Anyway, when I’ve gotten the dust jacket laid out and cleaned, I position it on an Open-Edge Adjustable Book Jacket Cover, since that is my personal favorite. I always use the Lo-Luster type because it cuts down on glare and hides minor imperfections. My partner compares it to make-up on an older person. These covers come in two weights, 1.5 or 2-mil, and I prefer the1.5-mil. 2-mil is best for books that will be heavily used. So for about fifteen cents in supplies, and 2-5 minutes time, you have potentially increased the value of your book from, let me guess, 20%-50%.
The dust jacket is more than a decoration; it protects the book from wear and is necessary. As far as I can find out it came into vogue, in the form we know it now, in the early 20th century. With a polyester cover added the book is additionally protected against dirt, water, moisture, spillage, and the fading effects of ultra-violet light. The logical conclusion is that all old books should have polyester protection, or at least the books you want to get a good price for.
Lastly, there is a definite feeling of satisfaction on gazing on a book whose appearance you have improved and this is, or should be, one of the rewards of being a bookseller.
Bern Marcowitz is co-owner of Dog Lovers Bookshop at at http://www.dogbooks.com/, is the co-author of Care and Feeding of Books Old and New: A Simple Repair Manual for Book Lovers, and is a consultant to the Supplies division of The Brodart Company. For supplies mentioned in this article Brodart has one large catalog that Bern calls “a Victoria’s Secret for book lovers’, and that catalog has spin-offs. For booksellers it is the 2005 Reseller Catalog: a 50 page catalog that has special reseller pricing. New in this issue: 3/4 page Book Care Tips and a full page on Protecting Your Inventory that examines the best covers for all kinds of books. For free copies call 1-888-820-4377 or visit http://www.shopbrodart.com/op.