Book Smart

You can recognize a true book-lover by the way he touches an old book. He notices the feel and smell of the leather, the softness of the pages, the embossing on the cover, the colors of the endpapers.

Dee Halverson, president of Heritage Associates, LLC, has always loved historical artifacts of every variety. When he first started collecting old books, he became familiar with the problems peculiar to them: loose hinges, torn linings and dust jackets, frayed spines, and other defects that begged to be fixed.

While studying historic preservation in York, England, Dee had the opportunity to apprentice with a world-renowned book binder (Peter Smith on Grape Lane) where he learned many tricks of the trade. Since then, as Dee acquires books, he examines, cleans, and, when necessary, gently repairs each addition to his library. His book repair kit is stashed in a closet, with supplies that have added life to favorite old books, from nursery rhyme collections to holy scriptures.

It is routine for Dee to investigate the volumes on some one's bookshelf and say, "Can I take this book home and fix it for you?"

He assembles pots of special adhesives, toothpicks, small artist's brushes, wax paper, alcohol, Vaseline, fine grain sandpaper, large soft erasers, clean cloths, elastics and heavy books to use as weights. Baking soda, solid air freshener and even leaves of tobacco can be used to "de-stink" moldy pages in a large suitcase or metal file-cabinet drawer.

The English bibliographer William Blades said, "An old book, whatever its subject, is truly a portion of history. We may imitate it or reprint it, but we can never exactly reproduce it; as an historical document it should be carefully preserved."

To Dee Halverson, every book is a personal friend.