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carelessness or want of thought in the attendant. A high temperature is very destructive to books. It warps their covers, so that volumes unprotected by their fellows, or by a book support, tend to curl up, and stay warped until they become a nuisance. It also injures the paper of the volumes by over-heating, and weakening the tenacity of the leaves held together by the glue on the back, besides drying to an extreme the leather, till it cracks or crumbles under the heat. The upper shelves or galleries of any library are most seriously affected by over-heating, because the natural law causes the heat to rise toward the ceiling. If you put your hand on some books occupying the highest places in some library rooms, in mid-winter, when the fires are kept at their maximum, the heat of the volume will almost burn your fingers. If these books were sentient beings, and could speak, would they not say—“our sufferings are intolerable?”
The remedy is of course a preventive one; never to suffer the library to become over-heated, and to have proper ventilation on every floor, communicating with the air outside. Seventy degrees Fahrenheit is a safe and proper maximum temperature for books and librarian.
The mischief arising from gas exhalations is another serious source of danger to books. In many well-lighted libraries, the heat itself from the numerous gas-burners is sufficient to injure them, and there is besides a sulphuric acid escaping from the coal-gas fluid, in combustion, which is most deleterious to bindings. The only remedy appears to be, where libraries are open evenings, to furnish them with electric lights. This improved mode of illumination is now so perfected, and so widely diffused, that it may be reckoned a positive boon to public libraries, in saving their books from one of their worst and most destructive enemies.
Another of the potent enemies of books is fire. I refer, not to over-heating the rooms they occupy, but to the risk they continually run, in most libraries, of total destruction. The chronicle of burned libraries would make a long and melancholy record, on which there is no space here to enter. Irreparable losses of manuscripts and early printed books, and precious volumes printed in small editions, have arisen from men's neglect of building our book-repositories fire-proof. In all libraries not provided with iron or steel shelves, there is perpetual danger. Books do not burn easily, unless surrounded with combustibles, but these are furnished in nearly all libraries, by surrounding the books on three sides with wooden shelves, which need only to be ignited at any point to put the whole collection in a blaze. Then follows the usual abortive endeavor to save the library by the aid of fire engines, which flood the building, until the water spoils nearly all which the fire does not consume. The incalculable lcsses which the cause of learning has sustained from the burning of public, university and ecclesiastical libraries are far greater than the cost which the provision of fire-proof repositories would have entailed.
Of late years, there has been a partial reform in library construction. Some have been built fire-proof throughout, with only stone, brick, concrete and iron material, even to the floors and window casings. Many more have had iron shelves and iron stacks to hold the shelves constructed, and there are now several competing manufacturers of these invaluable safeguards to books. The first library interior constructed wholly of iron was that of the Library of Congress at Washington, which had been twice consumed, first when the Capitol was burned by the British army in 1814, and again in 1851, through a defective flue, when only 20,000 volumes were saved from the flames, out of a total of 55,000. The example of iron construction has been slowly followed, until now the large cities have most of their newly-constructed libraries approximately fire-proof, although many are exposed to fire in parts, owing to a niggardly and false economy. The lesson that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well, and that every neglect of security brings sooner or later irreparable loss, is very slowly learned. Whole hecatombs of books have been sacrificed to the spirit of commercial greed, blind or short-sighted enough not to see that secure protection to public property, though costlier at first, is far cheaper in the end. You may speak of insurance against library losses by fire, but what insurance could restore the rare and costly Shakespearean treasures of the Birmingham Free Library, or the unique and priceless manuscripts that went up in flames in the city library of Strasburg, in 1870, or the many precious and irreplaceable manuscript archives of so many of our States, burned in the conflagration of their capitols?
One would think that the civilized world had had lessons enough, ever since that seventh century burning of the Alexandrian library by the Caliph Omar, with that famous but apocryphal rhetorical dilemma, put in his mouth perhaps by some nimble-witted reporter:"If these books agree with the Koran, they are useless, and should be burned: if not, they are pernicious, and must not be spared.” But the heedless world goes carelessly on, deaf to the voice of reason, and the lessons of history, amid the holocausts of literature and the wreck of blazing libraries, uttering loud newspaper wails at each new instance of destruction, forgotten in a week, then cheerfully renewing the business of building libraries that invite the flames.
Nothing here said should be interpreted as advice not to insure any library, in all cases where it is not provided with iron cases for the books, or a fire-proof building. On the contrary, the menaced destruction of books or manuscripts that cannot be replaced should lead to securing means in advance for replacing all the rest in case of loss by fire. And the experience of the past points the wisdom of locating every library in an isolated building, where risks of fire from other buildings are reduced to a minimum, instead of in a block whose buildings (as in most commercial structures) are lined with wood.
You will perhaps attach but small importance at first thought, to the next insidious foe to library books that I shall name—that is, wetting by rain. Yet most buildings leak at the roof, sometime, and some old buildings are subject to leaks all the time. Even under the roof of the Capitol at Washington, at every melting of a heavy snow-fall, and on occasion of violent and protracted rains, there have been leaks pouring down water into the libraries located in the old part of the building. Each of these saturated and injured its quota of books, some of which could only be restored to available use by re-binding, and even then the leaves were left water-stained in part. See to it that your library roof is water-tight, or the contents of your library will be constantly exposed to damage against which there is no insurance.
Another besetting danger to the books of our libraries arises from insects and vermin. These animated foes appear chiefly in the form of book-worms, cockroaches, and mice. The first-named is rare in American libraries, though its ravages have extended far and wide among the old European ones. This minute little insect, whose scientific name is the anobium paniceum, bores through the leaves of old volumes, making sometimes holes which deface and mutilate the text. All our public libraries, doubtless, have on their shelves old folios in vellum or leather bindings, which present upon opening the disagreeable vision of leaves eaten through (usually before they crossed the sea) by these pernicious little borers. It is comforting to add, that I have never known of any bookworm in the Congressional Library-except the human variety, which is frequently in evidence. Georgetown College library once sent me a specimen of the insect, which was found alive in one of its volumes, but the united testimony of librarians is that this pest is rare in the United States. As to remedies, the preventive one of sprinkling the shelves twice a year with a mixture of powdered camphor and snuff, or the vapor of benzine or carbolic acid, or other repellent chemicals, is resorted to abroad, but I have not heard of any similar practice in this country. I may remark in passing, that the term “book-worm" is a misnomer, since it is not a worm at all, but an insect. A more serious insect menace is the cockroach, a hungry, unclean little beast, which frequents a good many libraries, and devours bindings (especially fresh ones) to get at the paste or savory parts of the binding. The remedy for this evil, when once found to exist, is to scatter the most effective roach poison that can be found, which may arrest further ravages.
Another insect pest is the Croton bug, (Blatta Germanica) which eats into cloth bindings to get at the sizing or albumen. The late eminent entomologist, Dr. C. V. Riley, pronounced them the worst pest known in libraries, but observed that they do not attack books bound in leather, and confine their ravages to the outside of cloth-bound books, never troubling the leaves. The remedy prescribed is a powder in which pyrethrum is the chief ingredient, sprinkled about the shelves.
Among the rodents, mice are apt to be busy and mischievous infesters of libraries. They are extremely fond