Foxing: Part Two

My Adventures With…

James Herriot’s Yorkshire, fortunately the cow was well.

When I started writing the blog about foxing it ended up being a lot longer than I’d anticipated so I decided to split it in two parts. You can find Part One here and it discusses how I’d noticed that some of my books, which I aim to keep in as pristine condition as possible, had started to fox, that is have brown spots appear on the pages, and this was very nearly the end of the world for me.

The other weekend I was in the Yorkshire Dales. I’d gone because I needed to get away but decided I wanted to go where there were few people and also because I love James Herriot’s books. I also wanted to visit The Stid (nothing to do with writing but it’s interesting as it’s said to be the world’s most dangerous stretch of water – yes in Yorkshire! Google it and don’t fall in.)

Just as I was on my way back to the car park by Bolton Abbey I noticed an antique bookshop, Grove Rare Books. It occurred to me that they might have some literature they could sell me that would answer my questions of what to do, and they would have a clear authority on the subject of how to look after books. It turned out they didn’t sell literature about the actual upkeep of books, but the man who worked there was very helpful. He, of course, had his own collection of texts on how to look after his products and so spent some time helping me look up what I could do. To be honest I think he knew it anyway, he seemed the kind of person who knew very useful things, but he wanted to show the authority from the books – he obviously understood his customers well. We found the below in an older text book:

Advice from the old book

The book the man showed me was written a long time ago, I forget exactly when but many decades; it was in impressive condition and suggested a few options. Chloramine T seems to be a thing, I have no idea what it is, if it works, or even if it’s legal in the UK or other places so I’m not recommending it, I did discover it has a use for fish though. The other option was The Antifox Company in Guildford in Surrey as they had a liquid called Antifox (do not drink this! the book clearly warns) and a powder with which to treat the pages. “£5.00 + £1.00 for shipping by surface only”. Not that I was going to purchase it, but on googling the company it seems it no longer exists so maybe it doesn’t work, all you get is websites about actual foxes in Surrey, and from searching the address there is nothing of note there.

The man who worked there did reassure me that foxing doesn’t spread from book to book but is just a reaction to impurities in the paper, it’s not like mould. This is what the British Library’s guide said just without the fungal word (I almost just used the first letter but then thought better of it when I reread it), and to be fair the British Library guide is about mould and just happens to mention foxing as an aside so it’s not saying it is fungal.

The Strid

As someone who looks after a lot more books than I do, and which are worth far far more, I believe the man in the shop. He reassured me that it wasn’t a threat to the rest of my collection but I just have to live with it. A damp environment might contribute to the foxing. I had moved recently so my mind started panicking, was my current home damper than my previous ones? I don’t think so but it’s made me more careful to ensure in future I don’t store them in damp rooms.

I was also advised that if my collection was expensive there were services that I could investigate that would restore each page, but I have have a load of paperbacks not Gutenberg Bibles or Shakespeare First Folios (which are probably not the versions Radio 4 will give you on the desert island either).

I’m a lot more confident now and I’m beginning to return my foxed books to the their shelves. I’m far more aware of foxing and have noticed since January I carefully examine the book I’m reading, and any in detail before I buy them for marks, but I have to accept the fact that both myself and my books are getting older.

Oh and if you are ever near Bolton Abbey pop in to Grove Rare Books, they are good people.

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