Guest author, Amy from Pistilbooks
In the bookselling world, ex-library books are often maligned and scorned as being worthless or beneath the highfalutin standards of many antiquarian booksellers. While it’s true ex-library books are marked by the library (some would say defaced) – with stamps, stickers, bar codes, pockets, and the like, I find these very markings and institutional traces to be charming and sometimes beautiful.
I’m talking mostly about older, specially bound, library books in this regard. (Modern library books are often simply regular books straight from the publisher with the dust jacket encased or laminated in a plastic cover, taped to the boards, with stamps and a pocket for the due-date card added, though now even the pockets are obsolete and absent. These do not particularly appeal to me unless the dust jacket itself is a nice example of vintage dust jacket art.)
Many library books have been specially bound in a library binding of sturdy buckram cloth. These are the books that are often embellished with the binder’s metallic label inside the front or back cover. Buckram is a sturdy, shiny coated cotton or part-cotton cloth that is used for library bindings. The cloth can be a solid color or a multi-colored pattern and is easy to wipe clean after marred by borrowers’ dirty hands with a damp cloth. Often children’s library books previous to the seventies had an illustration printed on the buckram cover.
Some even older library books I’ve come across have cloth or leather spines and corners, but decorated paper covered boards – perhaps marbelized paper, or paper printed to look like wood.
Some of the library markings that have their own special appeal are the perforated stamp, spelling out the library name in tiny holes, the stickers from the maker of library bindings – often in a metallic paper, with cool names like “Bound to Stay Bound,” notices and warnings of fines to the library borrower, and instructions on the proper treatment of books.