Friday, 4 October 2019

How to Handle Books – circa 1937 …




A very small exhibit at University of London’s Senate House Library drew my attention … the instructions are dated 27 September 1937 …

Senate House Library
looking up 


Having got waylaid with my ‘Heads in the City’, and now this small display case of instructions … I’ll get to the main reason for visiting the Library shortly!





Bumblebee carrying pollen -
its sweets ... 
I love the quote: 

“We should make the same use of a Book that the Bee does of a Flower; she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it.”


The instructions - sorry slightly
out of focus ... 



There were a few books in the display case – showing what happens when we mistreat our ‘tomes’ …


… while here are the instructions (1937) to library readers (which I hope you’ll also read fully from the photo) for ensuring a new book, or any book is not damaged:




First – how to open a new book … so the spine will not be damaged – i.e. will be bent evenly at all points; handle it gently, do not force it …


Spine damage



Second – on turning pages: do not wet fingers …



Third – suitable book marks are slips of paper: corners should not be turned down, nor should books be laid face down …





Fourth – if there are pages still bound together … use a thin paper knife working in a zig-zag motion.  Do not use fingers, pocket knife, or other unsuitable substitutes …


Antigone and Creon
(I can see what the Librarian thinks of this -
it's in the display!)

Fifth – books must not be disfigured by readers’ annotations or underscoring.  Also do not lay paper on book to write your notes.




Sixth – it is a reader’s duty to protect the books he uses: the next user will then also enjoy the clean, fresh copy.


Highlighting and thus
defacing McCarthyism

Then comes the quote – it’s a delight isn’t it … 


... while the instructions haven’t changed much, and still will apply to vintage or ancient books usually found in libraries, though some of us will have a few at home too –

Books with library's call numbers
on the spine



- protect our books, they are treasures of the mind, as well as for the future.


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

56 comments:

Terra said...

Even more recently than 1937, when I worked in a public library we carefully opened each new hard back book as per instructions. That is way old school.

Hels said...

Couldn't agree more with all the instructions, written originally in 1937. But to modernise the last line, I would say "protect our books; they are treasures of the mind, as well as for the future of those people who still read books". When I give books to my grandchildren for birthday, they are rarely pleased :(

Debbie D. said...

Still excellent advice, today! It's sad to think one day, book production will likely cease, replaced completely by electronic versions. All the more reason to preserve the ones that already exist.

retirementreflections said...

These instructions make sense to me. Paper books are quickly dwindling!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary! Your post would have fit well into the IWSG theme for the month - re people, especially writers, who don't read. Your quote is perfect:
“We should make the same use of a Book that the Bee does of a Flower; she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it.”
Oh, we're pretty much bees attracted to flowers re our attraction to books!

Pradeep Nair said...

Hi Hilary,
That quote on how a bee handles the flower is so nice. So true.
The third instruction in the list reminded me of what my English teacher told us students in the class -- never fold the corner of the page to indicate how far you have read the book, instead use a bookmark. I always remember that when I reach out for a bookmark.
We now have access to a much greater number of books than that to the computer and the internet.

Elephant's Child said...

Love the quote.
And the instructions - though some books I have picked up second hand have been enhanced by previous owners notes inside.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
...and the exhibit clearly demonstrates that rules are there to be broken! Seriously, though, this is basic care, taught in schools (or was when I was there). Yet, still, folk need reminding. I do love to annotate and underscore in textbooks - as long as I own them. If they are not mine, all markers are to be withheld! YAM xx

Keith's Ramblings said...

I love my well-worn books. They evoke memories such as when and where I read them. I highlight bits that I enjoy, write notes and leave bookmarks such as leaflets and train tickets inside. I've got beer-stained books and ones with faded covers after being left out in the tropical sunshine. I've photographed some in picturesque locations and taped the pictures inside the cover. I like my books to grow old disgracefully, like me!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Terra - how fascinating ... loved knowing this - I'd never thought about it in a library setting: so you've reminded us of 'old school ways' ...

@ Hels - it was a fun little display case to see ... I almost passed it by. The last lines were mine ... but your amendment makes total sense. Thankfully the people I know love books - not the kindle variety ... actually some work that way - but I prefer the actual book. I'm sure reference books will be read, rather than looked up ...

Pity about your grandchildren - perhaps they'll catch up and appreciate real books soon - hope so!

@ Debbie - yes, and I must remember to open new books this way ... never I realised 'there was a correct way' to open books.

Mass book production will cease at some stage - but creative books will still be produced and the special books of yester year will be protected by not being used so much ... exactly as you say ...

@ Donna - sadly paper books are being printed on cheaper paper etc ... but are still all around us for the moment. I was never taught these instructions in school - yes to look after books and treat them carefully ... but not how to open new bound books.

@ Denise - In this library ... people read and 're(a)d' - it was a simple display case ... but so appropriate.

I loved the quote on the Instruction sheet ... so sensible ... I think I must spend my life as a bee - as so many of us here (blogland, authors and readers) do ... that attraction to books - too much sometimes!: could it ever be - only when they don't get read.

@ Pradeep - it is such a brilliant quote and so applicable to so many of us.

I was taught not to fold the corner of a book, or to mark them ... and have always had bookmarks around - sometimes ending up with slips of paper - easier to find: corner of a newspaper I'm reading!

But yes - we do most definitely have access to more books more easily than we used to ... the internet has its advantages.

@ EC - I thought the quote was excellent ... so appropriate for us all. I've found notes in books - yet when I'm studying I find it difficult to mark them: albeit they're my books.

@ Yam - you're right ... the rules are definitely there to be broken by some ... how they could see what they were on about ... eg Antigone and Creon ... is beyond me - but their brain was probably more in gear than mine would be.

I struggle with annotating books, even if I own them ... but quite understand people doing it ...

@ Keith - what a great comment ... love the idea you've had of remembering where you've been with which books ... wonderful re-take on growing old disgracefully ...

Excellent fun comment you've given us to visualise a life through books on journeys and locally here ... thanks so much for this!

Thanks everyone so much ... I guessed this little display case would generate happy thoughts for us all ...

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Good morning Hilary: Books are akin to holy icons to me, but even they get a little the worse for wear at times, don't they, pilgrims kissing feet and so forth. I never, and I mean never, turn down the corner of a page. I am a bit obsessive when it comes to bookmarks and pick one up anywhere I see one. I do not underline or annotate in my books, other than for field guides, which are meant to be used in the field as part of the tool kit of field observation, and quickly become a little battered anyway. I do my best to keep my books in excellent condition, but I must confess that I have a few torn dust jackets, and some volumes bear the marks of repeated use, but I make no apologies for that. Who could live without books? Not I! And who does not enjoy one of life's most simple pleasures, a couple of hours spent rummaging through a second hand book store, sometimes to emerge with a treasure? When my limbs let me know that it is time to abandon field observation my books will be handsome compensation, a true companion, demanding nothing and giving much.

lostinimaginaryworlds.blogspot.com said...

Instructions from another world, another era, Hilary. They had moved on from the time when books had to be hand written, hadn't they, but not by much. Being born in the 30's my home was very unusual in that it contained books 🤗

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Use a thin paper knife to get bound paper apart - bet that was nerve-racking to do.

Joanne said...

even as a kid, I was taught that books are sacred. Library or my own personal books were handled with care. And books from friends were shared and given extra special treatment. It's true to this day. I'm very careful with what I read poolside, so as not to get pages wet or crinkled.
This is an excellent post and I do love that quote.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A lot of my non-fiction books have highlighting and notes on the pages. I'm in trouble. LOL

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

These are great instructions and a lovely quote!

I'm afraid I might have really abused some of my favorite books through the ages, ha. I'm fond of creating marginalia (I think it's the English major in me...we were sometimes graded on annotations). But I try to never break a book's spine, nor fold down corners.

Jo said...

I had a beloved book as a child in which I had used crayon on all the pictures plus writing all over the blank page. Somewhere that book disappeared, I would still treasure it if I had it.

I don't generally write on books as an adult and I would never write on a library book. I think I abide by all those rules.

Loved the bee quote.

Jacqui Murray said...

Wonderful advice. I'm not sure I've ever read a how-to on handling print books. RT.

bazza said...

Although I use my Kindle (which is also linked to my phone for use on the Tube), I still prefer to handle a proper book, especially a hardback one.
I once had to separate some pages on a new book: I used a Stanley knife.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s instantly intransigent Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ David - yes I know some of us respect our books ... and I certainly get worried about wear and tear. I can imagine you're a total book lover ... always there for the book - taking care of it ... making sure it can be passed on in a pristine condition.

Your tool kit is there to be used isn't it ... I love some of my reference books ... but I don't take them out to identify the birds in the countryside. We used to take Roberts with us - when we went out into the bush in South Africa.

I couldn't live without books ... but then I love them - have trouble reading them ... one day I'll get there. Probably like you when my limbs tell me I can't 'jump a train' I'll love my reading time.

Lovely to read your approach to books ... and as you say they are Pilgrimage Routes through our lives ... and if we look at what Keith says above - amazing way to remember one's life through books and travels.

Great comments ... both!

@ Carole - yes they are aren't they. We had books too and obviously both my parent's families had books around the home. Thankfully books aren't often handwritten any more ... and we're able to read - so much has happened in a human's development in the last 2,000 years ...

@ Alex - they'd have been well versed in how to separate the pages ... we were pretty useful at doing most things around the home - and my parents and their siblings were very capable ... so librarians would have taken this job in their stride. Though I know I've occasionally ripped a novel open, when I've found the pages haven't been separated - bad me ... but not 'books of value' ...

@ Joanne - yes we were too - and at the library at school. Certainly reading outside needs to be done with care ... and I'd never take a reference book outside. Though I know of friends' who've let their books slip into the bath!

Thanks re the quote ... such a true one for many of us ...

@ Diane - I know that people also encourage us as students to highlight areas in our book - if we are studying ... so I'm not surprised - as you are a specialist student ....

@ Elizabeth - the 'Instruction Sheet' is great to read and to remind us of the old days. Glad you didn't fold down corners ...

Gosh - how interesting to find you were graded on annotations ... love the thought though. Marginalia, over the years, have given us insight into people's thoughts - often commented on years or centuries later. Mandela did when in prison; as too Milton and Nicholas Rowe annotated Shakespeare ... I wouldn't trust my comments to be of value!

@ Jo - oh what a pity your book has gone AWOL ... I'm sorry about that - we feel our losses, though...

Yes I wouldn't expect you to deface books and you'd abide by the rules ...

@ Jacqui - I certainly had never seen an instruction sheet for a 'How to' handle books before ...

@ Bazza - I'd use my kindle for novels - but nothing serious. I still buy proper books - more often than I should! Occasionally I'll buy a hardback one ...

A Stanley knife or a paper cutter is what I'd reach for ... so agree with you there ...

Thanks so much for visiting and commenting - I know we all love books and probably treat them well ... but those instructions were interesting to read - let alone to see the books they displayed as examples of what not to do ... cheers Hilary

Anabel Marsh said...

Agree with most of those instructions! Turning down corners or lying a book face down is shocking to me.

D.G. Kaye said...

Hi Hilary. I think those are fantastic rules for a public library, but sadly, I break all those rules with books in my library, lol. :) x

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

These are just common sense

Botanist said...

I have to confess that in my younger days I often lay books face down to keep my place if I needed to put them down for a moment. I don't do that nowadays of course ... :)

Chatty Crone said...

"We should make the same use of a Book that the Bee does of a Flower; she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it.”

Love that quote. Everything you say I agree with. I think books are going to become more scarce - the more time passes. They are so precious.

Murees Dupè said...

Fantastic post, Hilary. I love the quote of using books the way bees use flowers. I sometimes wonder how remnants of food and drink end up in books. I once took one from the library that had flecks of food hardened on pages. It was disgusting! Hence why I prefer only reading my own copies of books, or that of a good friend. Now that I think about it, I sure hope it was food stuck to those pages🤨 Have a good weekend, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anabel - I'm sure you totally understand these instructions ... I guess we should be grateful people are reading books, even if corners are turned down.

@ Debby - our own library is slightly different to public library books ... but can see that you're using your own books to their full effect.

@ Jo-Anne - obvious isn't it - but how many times are they broken ...

@ Ian - I still do that occasionally ... though not with books from the library, or borrowed ones ... never with precious books though ...

@ Sandie - glad you like the quote - such a good one. Thankfully excess books get shipped out to areas, often Africa, where books are needed - to help children read and study.

@ Murees - good to see you and to know you enjoyed the quote. Oh gosh yes, and crumbs, and flies/bugs: yugh! - so I do agree with you ... it's easier to be reading a 'clean' copy ...

Thanks everyone - books are so important to us all ... and I just loved the little display case - and be able to show a bit of heritage - cheers Hilary

Mark Koopmans said...

Love that quote, too... it's so perfect in this instance!

I also love the rules - they are as apt today as they were in 1937, but I will shamefully say that I gladly dog-ear my books because I like to see that they've been used and not only stuck in a shelf. That's my little book reader rebel side :)

DMS said...

I love the quote and the book care instructions. I agree that most of these still apply today. :)
~Jess

mail4rosey said...

Agreed! I had a student say she wanted me to replicate a class project one of her other teachers had done years prior. I asked her what it was, and she said you tear the pages out of a book, and then...she lost me there. I honestly don't know what else she said. I told her it just wasn't in me to tear pages out of a book on purpose. She said, 'oh I have some old books I could bring in to do it.' Yee-ikes. I further clarified my stance and she looked extremely disappointed. Me? I was disappointed in her former teacher for if not instilling a love of books, at least not making them seem trivial in such a way. Those annotations in your photo are crazy. I've seen Bibles and textbooks marked up like that, but not many other types of books. I imagine it IS especially disconcerting for a librarian to see such a thing!

Susan Kane said...

I haven't treated my books nearly as careful as you have on the list above! I feel humble.

Sue Bursztynski said...

As a teacher librarian over the years, I've certainly made sure the library's books were treated well. The simplest way for me to encourage the kids not to dog ear books was to offer them bookmarks. You can get the commercial ones advertising new books at the average bookshop. I'd pick up a pile every time I went shopping. Then I kept them at the desk and offered them to borrowers, who thought I was doing them a favour. They simply loved choosing from the pretty bookmarks at the checkout desk!

Covering is pretty good if you can get hold of book covering outside the library system.

I always use bookmarks or scraps of paper if I can - if not, I remember what page I was on. I'm careful with opening - my spines are usually in pretty good nick.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mark - yes I can imagine you have a book reader rebel side! - but at least you're reading your own books. I'm afraid I'm like you ... if I can dodge around a rule I will ... sometimes one just needs to adhere!

Isn't the quote so appropriate ... I love it - so true.

@ DMS - the quote could be so useful in teaching kids lots of things ... as well as the care instructions of their precious books ...

@ Rosey - Your example reminds me of 'a vandal' in Kent, who has been tearing pages in half in the library and in one of the local charity shops - they haven't found the culprit: but I haven't heard more ... so hope it's stopped.

Your student and her former teacher - strange to say the least. What a dreadful example to set her student - goes against the grain in so many ways.

These defaced pages must have happened after the war - not sure when ... oh I see 'highlighters' came into production in the 1960s/70s ...

I'm sure librarians and any lovers of books would be horrified to get a book returned defaced in any way ...

@ Susan - if they're yours - I guess it's ok ... and tutors encourage us to mark up OUR OWN books if we're studying them ... it's always gone against my instinct - but that might be because someone else will see some irrelevant notation I've made = my pride!!

@ Sue - that sounds like a very sensible idea to have lots of book marks easily accessible: great way of obtaining them and advertising some new books to read. Fun idea - as kids do love ancillary items ... special bookmarks, etc ...

Yes, craft shops now, or paper providers will have book covering material ... if needed.

I use bookmarks and slips of paper - usually those if I'm travelling and want to mark a place. I hadn't thought about the spine opening aspect ... some books frighten me - the cheaper ones that aren't sewn into place.

Lovely to see your ideas and thoughts - and to know that we all respect our books ... cheers and happy reading - Hilary

Lenny Lee said...

The quote is cool. I never knew there are rule for how to treat a book so I learned something new. The rules are old but should still apply today especially with library books. I guess we can break the rule a little with the books we own. But, for sure no turned down corners. I use sticky notes or bookmarks. Thanks for another interesting post.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Good instructions. I often check books out of the library that have corners folded or pencil marks on some pages. Then there are the ones with food or drink marks. And people who lay books face down and break the spines! Barbarians.

Sandra Cox said...

They are serious about their books.

Vallypee said...

I so agree with this, Hilary! I hate it when people crease the spine and turn the corners of pages down. And that quote is just too precious. I hope you don't mind if I steal that myself? It's just like a sweet to me :)

Liz A. said...

"...books must not be disfigured by readers’ annotations or underscoring."

Uh oh. Don't tell that to kiddos today. Their English textbooks are actually made to be written in, annotated, underlined, and such.

Nilanjana Bose said...

I seriously dislike dog-eared pages - absolutely awful thing to do. I've been guilty of occasional annotations in my student days, yikes! but only on my personal copies, not borrowed library ones, can't imagine the horror of doing that kind of damage.

Have a great week, Hilary.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I think we should follow the bee quote on everything we use. I see a difference in the world today versus when I grew up. More throwaway. Less taking care of things. But it is what it is. I do love books the library rules. I'm such a fuddy duddy.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lenny - great to see you: and yes, the quote is cool, isn't it. We were taught how to treat books ... similar to these instructions ... but I'd never seen them written down before, nor in a display case - where the books have obviously been badly defaced or damaged!

I'm sure we all can do what we like with our own books ... as you say sticky notes - I expect many of us use them, and we all probably turned down the pages in our books when we were kids - but quickly learnt not to ...

@ Susan - I don't think the instructions have changed in the last 80 years ... but as you say - I suspect some people are less careful than they should be. I think I'd probably let the librarian know re food and drink marks - then it's up to them. Oh dear - I suspect I fall into your barbarian category!! I have noted for the future how to treat a book re its spine ...

@ Sandra - they're very serious ... they've around 3 million volumes - some very precious: so need to care.

@ Val - I was just bemused to see the little display case with these examples and the instruction sheet. I'm sure you can beg, borrow or steal the quote - they'd be delighted and happy you enjoy the connotation so much ... please steal away ...

@ Liz - sadly some people we can't control ... but it's the lack of respect from people who should know better that does it for me ... your kiddos fall into a slightly different category ... but if they have books they are allowed to write in - that's slightly different.

@ Nila - oh I so agree: dog-eared pages are foul. I still would like to annotate - but don't ... and definitely wouldn't, if the book was from the library.

Good to see you ...

@ Teresa - you're probably right ... we should follow the 'bee quote' for all things in life.

Yes - life has changed ... people aren't as respectful as they used to be ... or as considerate - yet at times people are as kind as ever.

I can imagine you like things 'just so' ... and that's for the good - sets examples for those around us ...

Cheers to you all - so pleased you enjoyed the quote, while appreciating 'the instructions' ... have good weeks - Hilary

Sandra Cox said...

They are treasurers of the mind indeed.

Lynda Dietz said...

I've always wondered what makes a person abuse a book, haha. I'm glad to know that there are standards still upheld! I don't have a problem writing in book margins if it's a paperback I'm studying or something, but I'd never write in or highlight a hardcover. And never, ever, ever an older book.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Great rules to protect books.
We also made brown paper covers for books to protect the outer covers.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sandra - books are treasures of the mind aren't they ...

@ Lynda - some abuse is abuse, others are study notes - but these are the instructional requests to Senate House library members to follow - and have been for over 80 years. Yes - if one is studying something - and the book is yours then fine ... but highlighting or writing on the cover and especially never an older book ...

@ Eddie - and to follow your first sentence I could add 'good rules protect books' ... I remember seeing children with brown paper around their books - but I never came across it in my school days ...

Fascinating - but just realised there's something none of us have mentioned ... when one gives a book as a present ... and we write a note in it, and date it ...

... also prize giving books when the school celebrates with an appropriate school sticky label with the recipient's name, date and which discipline the book was awarded for and why.

Cheers - thanks to everyone for coming by - Hilary

Nas said...

Excellent advice and book rules. We believe written word is sacred so we respect our books or any newspapers etc.

Powdered Toast Man said...

They forgot: Do not tear out Foreward or Appendix to throw out your chewing gum.

Found you through IWSG. New follower.

Elsie Amata said...

I drives me bananas when people highlight books or bend the corners. Bananas! I do have some exceptions in my house though. My recovery and healing books are written in, bent, have post-it notes shoved everywhere. Those bad boys are well worn. But I think they're supposed to be :) Have a great rest of the week!

Elsie

Patsy said...

Quite often library booksI borrow have pages turned down, writing in them, coffee stains etc. That seems selfish and rude.

There are sometimes also little pencil marks, usually right at the front or back, which I understand people leave to indicate they've read that book and therefore don't borrow it again. That's forgiveable I think, but I wonder what happens if there's more than one copy of that book.

Mark said...

What an awesome library...I love libraries (sigh) :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

That's a terrific quote. True, too! Books are treasures, and it's painful to see someone treat them badly. Or throw them away. (Which explains why our house is overflowing with books...)

Have a lovely weekend, dear lady. Cheers!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I've lent books only to receive them back with cracked spines, bent pages, soiled pages -- as if the person LIVED the story in those pages! Ouch. :-)

Haddock said...

Wow.... I hope all book readers read this. All the points are so valid, especially number three. I hate to get a book (from the library) which has page corners turned down.

Sherry Ellis said...

Good reminders! In today's digital age, it's good to know how to properly handle a book if one ever has to read one.

A Cuban In London said...

I love that quote at the beginning! :-)

Greetings from London.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nas – isn’t it … just great to see it displayed 80 years later. I would hope we all respect things – but we do need to be reminded, especially re books.

@ PTM – good to meet you … I think 80 years ago perhaps standards were a little different … we’re not so respectful now and some would no doubt misuse pages of books: very sadly.

@ Elsie – I know peoples’ care of others’ property or in general isn’t the best, is it. How interesting to note about the little pencil marks … I hadn’t come across that before … but I don’t tend to read library books, well am starting to use the library.

@ Mark – it’s brilliant isn’t it. I get to see a few in London and Oxford and they are special.

@ Susan – I thought the quote was wonderful … and books are treasures … people have spent hours in research, or writing, re-drafting and then taking the effort to get it into print – we need to look after them. Yes we’ve always had lots of books and now I’m trying to be practical and give a few away.

@ Roland – I know … I’ve lent books and never had them back – that’s worse I think. But perhaps if a person lived the story – that’s worth (perhaps!) the state of the returned book – depends I guess) if you’d written it, or someone else.

@ Haddock – it’s interesting the ‘instructional request’ has lasted 80 years and presumably was around for a few decades before that. I agree if I lend a book I like to get it back the way it went out …

@ Sherry – certainly good reminders … I’m sure we’ll all still read books and need to know how to look after them – at least for the foreseeable future (I hope!) …

@ ACIL – thanks the quote is quite delightful … good to see you …

Cheers to you all – and thanks for your visits … life ticks on today in little old UK … all the best Hilary