Correct book storage has to be one of the most common questions asked here at Collectible Books. Depending where you are in the world, conditions can vary tremendously and where many people may be comfortable in very humid conditions, your books may not be quite as happy! The main problems associated with deterioration in old or antique books is excessive sunlight (ultra-violet exposure), and excessive humidity. But there are a host of other perhaps not too obvious problems too.
Where you live plays a very important part too. In generally cold climates like the UK, books stored against outside walls can deteriorate quite quickly by mold and mildew attack. So positioning is also a factor worth considering when thinking about book storage.
If your books are stored in an open bookshelf, make sure that your books are stood as upright as possible and that they are well supported. Books sometimes fall forward if not supported by book ends, and end up with pages that are curled up, which looks horrible.
Sunlight probably destroys books far more quickly than you would think. So keep your books stored well away from windows and natural light. Central heating radiators are also silent destroyers of books. So keep the bookshelf well away from radiators.
Some people like to wrap their books up, put them in boxes and put them in the roof space. The only problem with this is the huge temperature differences that occur. Eventually, even though they are wrapped, they will succumb to a degree of degradation that you couldn't imagine.
Any bookshelf that is made of natural wood should also be treated with caution. All wood contains natural oils that can seep out and into paper, giving the book an aged, brown look about it. So unless wood has an acid-free liner on the shelf, be cautious if you have anything of even moderate value.
Anything that really is valuable should be kept in special book boxes, (some have glass or plastic fronts so that the book can still be viewed). They may cost a little bit extra but you can at least be sure that any special book you have is being protected from any unnecessary wear and tear.
I am a collector of collectible prints as well as collectible books. The same methods of protection and storage apply, but because of their size there are specific measures that should be taken to protect these types of investments.
Prints and valuable paper documents should be set onto an acid-free backing card and then have a clear front cover the print or document. Being acid free will prevent leeching into the print and will stop discoloration. You may have seen this on old prints, a brown looking edging to the print, which is acid slowly bleeding onto the paper. Fake prints are often seen with this discoloration added by using tea. Today we know how to stop this discoloration, so we should.
Some very strong book storage don'ts:
Prints placed inside picture frames should not touch the glass or plastic. They should instead be displayed inside the protective coverings described above, which is then placed inside the frame, behind the glass. Glass is available that can reduce or even eliminate the damaging UV light that is the main culprit when it comes to fading of paper documents. You should definitely consider this type of glass if you are exhibiting your works anywhere near a source of natural light.