Display Methods for Books – Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) Notes 11/8

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CCI Note 11/8 is part of CCI Notes Series 11 (Paper and Books)


When displaying books, consideration must be given to the physical support of their binding structures and to environmental factors that can lead to their deterioration.

Support Methods

Because of their weight or the condition of their bindings, books require an adequate support to prevent damage during handling or display. A few simple and inexpensive display techniques will provide support for a book and will help to prolong its life.


Supports can be made using a variety of materials. These include the following:

  • acid-free matboard (100% rag or highly purified wood pulp)
  • acrylic sheet, such as Plexiglas
  • lightweight inert plastic board, such as Coroplast (polypropylene twinwall plastic panel) or Hi-core (polycarbonate twinwall profile sheets)
  • wood sealed with acrylic latex paint and faced with acid-free matboard. A description of sealants appropriate for wood is included in Catherine Miles, "Wood Coatings for Display and Storage Cases," Studies in Conservation, 31/3 (): 114-124, which is available as a reprint from the CCI Library.

Suggested Supports for Books

Do not display volumes upright with their covers open because the weight of the bookblock can distort and damage the binding structure. Books displayed on an angle must be supported along the thickness of the bookblock by a ledge or a lip (Figure 1).

Closed book on stand.
Figure 1. Stand for displaying closed books.

Books opened to the title page or to the first or last section of text require a support under the front or back cover to prevent the endpaper and binding material from splitting along the joint (Figure 2).

Support for an open book, holding the front cover.
Figure 2. Box support holding front cover.

Strips of thin-gauge (3 mil) Mylar transparent polyester film placed around the bookblock will hold the pages and will prevent them from fanning open. This Mylar band can be joined using a small piece of double-sided tape (3M #415). Take care that the tape does not come into contact with the book. The strips should be wide enough for the size and thickness of the book and should not be fastened too tightly around the pages.

Books that are to be displayed open or that do not open easily are better supported by a wide, V-shaped form made of stronger, rigid materials like Plexiglas (acrylic plastic sheet), wood that has been painted and faced with acid-free matboard, or Hi-core (Figure 3).

Book supported by V-shape form.
Figure 3. V-shaped support for open books.


Ideally, books should be displayed in a specially constructed display case that protects them from dust and from extreme fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. Do not display volumes near a heat source, such as a hot air vent, or in direct incandescent or natural light.

Do not display books with sensitive images (e.g., inks, watercolours, charcoal, pencil, etc.) in direct light. The pigments are extremely sensitive to light, and permanent display under high light levels will cause the ink and pigments to fade. To control the amount of light to which books are exposed, keep display lights on only when required and set the lights to the lowest intensity possible. If the volumes are to be displayed for long periods of time, turn the pages frequently.


Matboard (4-ply or 8-ply, acid-free), 3M #415 double-sided tape, Mylar polyester film:

Art and archival suppliers, such as

  • Bury Media and Supplies Ltd.
    4255 Arbutus Street, B-5
    Vancouver, B.C.
    V6J 4R1
    Telephone: 604-731-3439
    FAX: 604-736-7492
  • Carr McLean Co.
    461 Horner Avenue
    Toronto, Ontario
    M8W 4X2
    Telephone: 416-252-3371
  • Norcal Reproductions () Ltd.
    1180 Winnipeg Street
    Regina, Saskatchewan
    S4R 1J6
    Telephone: 306-757-5693
  • University Products of Canada
    6535 Millcreek Drive, Unit 8
    Mississauga, Ontario
    L5N 2M2
    Telephone: 416-858-7888
    Toll-free: 1-800-667-2632
    FAX: 416-858-8586
  • Woolfitt's Art Enterprises Inc. Footnote 1
    390 Dupont Street
    Toronto, Ontario
    M5R 1V9
    Telephone: 416-922-3017

Acrylic sheet (3 mm or 6 mm):

  • plastic, building, and art suppliers

Plexiglas (acrylic plastic sheet):

Manufactured by Rohm and Haas Canada Inc., Westhill, Ontario.
Distributed by

  • E.M. Plastic and Electric Products Ltd.
    430 Norfinch Drive
    Downsview, Ontario
    M3N 1Y4
    Telephone: 416-665-6111
    Toll-free: 1-800-268-1252
    Branches in Dartmouth, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver

Corrugated plastic board:

Coroplast polypropylene twinwall plastic panel:

Manufactured by Coroplast Ltd., Granby, Quebec.
Distributed by E.M. Plastic and Electrical Products Ltd. (address and telephone numbers given above)

Hi-core polycarbonate twinwall profile sheets:

Manufactured by

  • Matra Plast Inc.,
    Schomberg, Ontario
    Telephone: 416-939-2154

Further Reading

  1. Canadian Conservation Institute. Protective Enclosures for Books and Paper Artifacts. CCI Notes 11/1. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, .

  2. Greenfield, Jane. The Care of Fine Books. New York: Nick Lyon Books, .

  3. Rohm and Haas. Fabrication Manual. Plexiglas Acrylic Sheet product information booklet PLA-21. Philadelphia, PA: Rohm and Haas, .

  4. Rohm and Haas. General Information and Physical Properties. Plexiglas Acrylic Sheet product information booklet PLA-22. Philadelphia, PA: Rohm and Haas, .

Copies are also available in French.
Texte également publié en version française.

© Government of Canada,
Cat. Nº NM95-57/11-8-1987E
ISSN 0714-6221

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