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I have an old Bible that was printed about 1821. The Bible belonged to my second great grandfather, Ephriam Benn. I want to preserve the Bible, and I want to share information about the Bible with other family members.

I am looking for tips and techniques to preserve this old book. I currently store it in a photo archival storage box. I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. In general, our climate is generally hot and very dry. The Bible is not yet falling apart, but I do not want to handle it often.

  • Is there something else I should do to prolong the life of this Bible?
  • If I want to take pictures of the Bible, what precautions should I take?
  • What types of pictures provide the most value to other genealogists?
  • Do you think your question could be improved by adding some information about where you live now, the general condition of the bible? – GeneJ Oct 9 '12 at 23:04
  • I live in Phoenix, Arizona. In general, our climate is generally hot and very dry. The bible is not yet falling apart, but I do not want to handle it often. – David Gleason Oct 9 '12 at 23:12
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    Consider editing your question to add those details. P.S. 1821 bible. Lucky you! – GeneJ Oct 9 '12 at 23:20
  • Because this question includes multiple questions in itself, different answers our answering different questions. It might be a little late, but this should possibly be split into at least two separate questions. – American Luke Oct 14 '12 at 17:39
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Digitize the important pages. Don't use a scanner, but use a digital camera. That will give you access to the data without ever needing the physical copy again.

Then put the bible into deep storage somewhere away from air and light and it will not deteriorate. There are many articles on how to do this, e.g. Preserving Family Bibles by Dear Myrtle

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  • Why not a scanner? I understand the concern about the bind, but there are many scanners for old books that can scan with the book only open at a 90 degree angle. – American Luke Oct 10 '12 at 1:05
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    @Luke - You're talking about a specialized machine that is expensive that few people have. If you want to spend money or make the effort to do the scanning professionally, that is fine, but if you want a free and easy and safe way, there's nothing like digital photography. – lkessler Oct 10 '12 at 1:45
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    There are lots of great ideas for using a digital camera for scanning books at diybookscanner.org – Peter Kaminski Oct 10 '12 at 3:38
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    This user is asking for tips and techniques. It would be better of include those tips here rather than sending them off to another site with a link. – Robert Cartaino Oct 10 '12 at 15:19
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    I, too, would like to see this answer improved by including a summary of the information from the links. – GeneJ Oct 13 '12 at 21:03
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  • Is there something else I should do to prolong the life of this Bible?

Preservation of your Bible should include, the use of non-abrasive gloves when handling the Bible (oil and/or perspiration will discolor the paper) "Cotton gloves". When working with your Bible, have a clean work space and utilize a book cradle for added support, no book being preserved should ever be inspected while being held in the preservers hands. Repair of torn pages can be accomplished using pressure sensitive mending tissue (no acidic adhesives or other tape should be used as it will become brittle, leave stains, and residue). A pressure sealed, waterproof, acid free, chemically inert, as well as a smooth surfaced, dust and mold resistant "enclosure," will provide a temporary, or permanent means of storage for your Bible. Keep the Bible out of direct light in a dark, cool place. For further reading, see "Care, Handling, and Storage of Books", The Library of Congress.

  • If I want to take pictures of the Bible, what precautions should I take?

As a rule no flash should be used as the light will damage the paper. A digital camera with the flash turned off should work well.

  • What types of pictures provide the most value to other genealogists?

    The ones with the Names and dates written on the back of the photograph works nicely for me. Any written information should be recorded as written, any grammar corrections should be documented as such.

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  • The Library of Congress link above did not work for me. – GeneJ Oct 13 '12 at 15:40
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    Thanks GeneJ, and my apologies for the broken link. The edited link should work nicely. – Ezri Rediker Oct 13 '12 at 20:30
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    +1 Links to resources are nice, but including a summary of the information is far better. This makes for answers that are more meaningful. – GeneJ Oct 13 '12 at 20:41
  • Sorry, I thought I did when I answered the first part of the question. – Ezri Rediker Oct 13 '12 at 22:18
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    OooO. You did. My comment was intended as a compliment. – GeneJ Oct 13 '12 at 22:24
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Reducing wear is a large part of conserving an object. Making images of the most used pages of the bible is a great way of limiting wear, as they can be accessed instead of the physical object. Even better, they can be shared with all members of the family into the future, instead of being squirrelled away in a single household.

Besides the family record pages from the bible, one should make images of the bible's title page and the reverse side of that title page, as this is important for determining when the family entries could have been made. It would also be nice to have a photo of the spine and cover of the bible, but that's not so necessary.

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    +1 Thank you. "Besides the family record pages from the bible, one should make images of the bible's title page and the reverse side of that title page, as this is important for determining when the family entries could have been made." Yes. Yes. Yes. – GeneJ Oct 13 '12 at 22:28
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What types of pictures provide the most value to other genealogists?

When you have created digital images (whether from a camera or a low-impact scanner), you should consider adding meta-data to the file in an appropriate format. Think of it as the modern equivalent to your grandparents jotting information on the back of a print.

Among the things that I might like to know if I acquired your images are:

  • page number in the bound volume of each image
  • whether a whole page or zoomed portion
  • orientation (recto or verso is not always consistent with page number in old books)
  • why you made that image (list of births, signature, marginal note of favourite verse etc)
  • place in a sequence (e.g., it appears opposite a list of christenings)
  • transcript of any handwritten material (particularly any dates)
  • highlight any corrections you think are needed and why (but include the original)
  • your best guess of who wrote what (and why you believe that)
  • the technical data probably generated by the camera (such as image size and resolution, date and time taken and perhaps geolocation).

You could also add a photograph of a sheet of notepaper explaining when and why you copied the book and stating that there is additional metadata available. Placed in a set just after the image of the cover or spine, this can alert a later user to the extra information that might otherwise be missed.

In addition, you could copy the images into a multi-page TIFF or PDF for ease of viewing or sharing, but DO NOT DISCARD the separate images.

It is probably beyond the needs of most family historians but there is a standard called ANSI/NISO Z39.87 - Data Dictionary - Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images to which you could refer.

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I liked your idea of preserving the ancient treasure for your kids and the generation to come. But if you want to preserve the book as such , you will need to do a proper covering for it using the transparent polythene plastic sheet and keep in safe in your shelves or in a mini storage unit. I'm a voracious reader and half of my book collection is stored at a professional self storage unit at Toronto.

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    I don't believe all 'transparent polythene plastic sheet' is suitable for archival preservation -- the Library of Congress at loc.gov/preservation/about/faqs/books.html#plastic say 'Polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyester (polyethylene terephthalate or PET) plastic zip bags, sleeves, or bins without any additional slip or coating agents are considered stable and inert plastics. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other unknown plastics.' – user104 Aug 25 '14 at 10:22
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    This is a very bad idea. The plasticisers in alkane-based polymers will degrade the cellulose fibres in paper. When you visit archives to do your genealogical research, how many old documents do you see wrapped in plastic? None! There is a very good reason for that. – Judith Aug 26 '14 at 17:36

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