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Is this stuff on my book mold?
October 28, 2011 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Is this stuff on the edge of this used book mold?

If so, should I do anything about it?

This is a used book I just bought on Amazon. It smells a little musty, but no more so than any other old book. The book is kind of hard to find copies of, for what it's worth.
posted by raf to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
 
It's fine. It happens on books. It's more likely old mildew. All of the books at out beach house acquire this from the damp. It is not, like Deadly Black Mold you need to be concerned about. It will not harm you, invade your home or contaminate your other books.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:36 PM on October 28, 2011


See foxing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:36 PM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you live somewhere sunny (and dry!), pop it outside in the sunlight for several hours tomorrow.
posted by phunniemee at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2011


If you live somewhere sunny (and dry!), pop it outside in the sunlight for several hours tomorrow.

Don't do that! It will have zero effect on the foxing and could seriously warp the covers of the book.

Foxing is something conservators can fix, although it wouldn't be cheap to get a whole book treated. If it's only showing up on the edges and if the book is something you've bought more for reading than displaying or as a "rare collector's item" you're best just ignoring it.
posted by yoink at 4:51 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Agreeing with everyone else: nope, that's just foxing, and it's nothing to worry about.

Books can suffer from mould or mildew, but in my experience, when that happens there's a distinctive catch-at-the-back-of-your-throat smell to go along with it.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:00 PM on October 28, 2011


By the way, if the foxing really troubles you, there are a few copies of the book available on abebooks.com for about $40, several described as being in "good" condition with no mention of foxing. You could write to the sellers for more info/photos. You've already got a nice dust jacket, from the looks of things, so you needn't worry about that.
posted by yoink at 5:03 PM on October 28, 2011


Interesting, thanks everyone. I had never heard of foxing. Anyway, yes, this copy is just for reading, so it sounds like it's no big deal.

yoink, this copy was in fact bought on abebooks.com for about $40! The description on the listing was: "Red topo stain as issued. Textblock is unmarked. Binding is tight. Previous owner's name on first free end page. Textblock side is dust-soiled. Dust jacket is not price-clipped. Jacket has little shelf wear."
posted by raf at 5:22 PM on October 28, 2011


It does just look like foxing. However, I used to be a grad assistant for a Rare Books curator. Whenever we got a book that was suspect, even if it didn't show any signs of insects or mold (an example of suspect books were some that had been found in an abandoned bldg). He would put them in double or triple freezer bags and pop them in the feezer for several weeks (can't remember the exact length of time but it was in the range of 3-6 weeks).
posted by kaybdc at 6:38 PM on October 28, 2011


If it really bothers you, you could take a solution of 1 part bleach and 2 parts water and use a cotton swab to brush it lightly onto the edges of your book. Of course, don't do this if the book is an antique that's actually worth something, but if it's just for reading, I think it'd be fine.
posted by katyggls at 8:32 PM on October 28, 2011


yoink, this copy was in fact bought on abebooks.com for about $40!

Here are the results from BookFinder. It looks like you did ok, the least expensive one there is $43.00 "and shows signs of wear" with possible "markings" inside.

The description on the listing was: "Red topo stain as issued. Textblock is unmarked. Binding is tight. Previous owner's name on first free end page. Textblock side is dust-soiled. Dust jacket is not price-clipped. Jacket has little shelf wear."

The correct way to describe it would have been "Fore-edge foxing" though describing it as "[the] Textblock side" was likely an honest mistake. Although foxing is the correct term for the condition of your book, "dust soiled" again strikes me as an honest representation, though imprecise.

A Simple Book Repair Manual: Parts of a Book by Dartmouth College is a helpful resource. Click on "Fore-edge" and "Text block" to see the difference.
posted by mlis at 1:22 PM on October 29, 2011


It's definitely foxing. The book is almost certainly printed on high-acid wood pulp paper and will fall apart within a few years. Given the amount of visible foxing, it's well on its way even now.

If you want to preserve and use it, it will need to be de-acidified, which is not cheap. Still, if it's a rare and valuable item, it could be worth the cost. There are DIY materials, but they're costly and need to be sprayed on a page at a time. I think a service would be easier.

Go to your local library and ask them what they do for deacidification. If you're a patron, you may be able to have them do it on their equipment or supply information on available one-off services. If you give to your university alumni association, they may be able to help.

Call your local newspaper or historical society and speak to the archives department. They will be fully familiar with preservation of acidic paper.
posted by KRS at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2011


For me the value of the book is for reading and research, not as a collectable, but it's one I'd like to keep around for more than a few years. I actually work at NYU; maybe I'll see if the libraries there can do anything. Thanks!
posted by raf at 8:13 PM on October 29, 2011


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