Foxing: Part One

My Adventures With…

Those dark spots on the page or across the fore edge (the opposite to the book’s spine) might make the book looked aged and interesting, but I hate them. I like my books to remain as close to a pristine condition as I can possibly keep them, and for the most part I succeed. A cracked spine will have me worrying for days and you should never fold the page corners. However if you have a collection of books it’s inevitable that you will come across foxing. The British Library describe foxing this way:

“Foxing is the term used for the brown spots and stains seen on affected paper which may be fungal in origin but may also be caused by chemical impurities in the paper.”

The word fungal is alarming!

Over the winter I started to read a novel (Doctor Who: Festival Of Death by Jonathan Morris if you’re interested) which, just because of the way of things, took a longer while to read than it normally should. I’d take it to and from work and read in my lunch break; one day I noticed it had started foxing.

This really worried me. I have never seen this before on the other BBC novels I have, and I own nearly all of them (and every Virgin!), so I hastily went and checked the rest of my collection. All but two of the BBC Doctor Who novels were clear, neither as bad as this one, and to my immense relief it was on none of the Virgin books, which are really important to me (there’s an entire blog coming folks). I immediately isolated the the affected ones and searched the rest of my other books. There were some that had marks on them but most seemed fine.

What worried me the most was Festival Of Death was only published recently, well in my head. It has since been republished in different editions because it’s a very good novel, but I’d been collecting from first release and as I had first editions of all the others when I started to look to fill in the gaps, of which this was one, I had to keep to the same format; look it up it’s not that cheap these days. Oh and it turns out that the “recent” publishing of the first edition of this novel was actually in the year 2000, longer ago than I remembered but I have books way older which are still pristine.

I tried to think back to when it had arrived in the post probably about a year previously. I would have noticed if it had been marked back then surely? I can only think that as it had been over the cold part of the year and as I’d sometimes leave it in the car during the working day this is what must have cause the foxing to happen, but I’d done that before to other books and I’d never seen this. Quite what caused this, specifically to this book, I needed to find out. But my main fear was to stop it from spreading.

Not one of my books

To be honest I’d never really gave it much thought before. I assumed that if I looked after them, all neat and tidy on a bookshelf in dry conditions, then they would not begin to show signs of damage like this. After having had a book collection for nearly all my life though as I get older so will the books.

The night I noticed it I did a search on the internet and there is some fairly confusing information out there, the British Library seemed to be the most qualified to advise, but that word “fungal” made me very uncomfortable.

I can be a bit dramatic at times, hey I’m a writer ok?, so I had visions of all my books turning to mould over night, a life time’s collection gone! What could I do? In moments of not so clear thinking I continued to search the internet for any solution. One place suggested I microwave the book to kill anything, stupidly I did this.

How long you cook the books for was not instructed so I decided I’d try a minute and see what happened. When I opened the door the book was damp and letting off an alarming amount of steam, the glue binding the pages together had melted and it looked sorrier than before I started, but just to be safe I put in back in for another thirty seconds.

I let it cool down, wafting the steam out of it and left it dry. Nearly half a year later no further foxing has occurred but I STRONGLY DO NOT recommend this as an option. I think it can probably cause more damage that way. It turned out it would be a while before I found out exactly what was happening to resolve the issue; in Part Two of this blog, coming later, you can see what happened next.

Incidentally the novel Festival Of Death is about a decaying spaceship, sort of, so it was kind of appropriate and it’s also well worth reading.

The Beautiful Death is the ultimate theme-park ride: a sightseeing tour of the afterlife. But something has gone wrong, and when the Fourth Doctor arrives in the aftermath of the disaster, he is congratulated for saving the population from destruction – something he hasn’t actually done yet. He has no choice but to travel back in time and discover how he became a hero. And then he finds out. He did it by sacrificing his life.
― Jonathan Morris, Doctor Who Festival Of Death

Buy Doctor Who: Festival Of Death by Jonathan Morris

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