Shoot That Book: Foxing

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

Last week the blog was pretty quiet because I flew home to Manila, this week I haven’t been able to blog because work has been so busy (overtime and late night calls). I want to post a review but I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and write one. I still don’t have the energy to write a review but I thought it would be nice to put up a Shoot That Book post since I haven’t posted one in the past few weeks.

I’ve talked about how I find it frustrating that I don’t have all of my books with me, where I’m currently based. What makes things worse is coming home to find that more of my books have started turning yellow with age and have spots called foxing. Don’t know what foxing is? Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

Foxing is a term describing the age-related spots and browning seen on vintage paper documents such as books, postage stamps, certificates, and so forth. The name may derive from the fox-like reddish-brown color of the stains, or the rust chemical ferric oxide which may be involved. Paper so affected is said to be “foxed.”

I grabbed my copies of Elizabeth Wein’s Lion Hunters series from my bookshelf in Manila and here are some pictures (with no Instagram filters) to show what foxing looks like:

Foxing

Foxing Telemakos

Foxing The Sunbird

This is another topic that I’ve also discussed in the blog before (here and here) but I haven’t been able to find a solution. I’ve tried covering books in plastic, storing them in bookshelves with glass covers, placing closet dehumidifiers in the shelves, etc. It just makes me sad to see books in this state because I feel like they would only last a couple of years before breaking apart completely. I need to keep reminding myself to be more mindful in buying physical books, I should probably buy more ebooks because they’re easier to keep. I’ve bought and ordered used books from the States and even though they’re older than some of my books in Manila, they’re in much better condition. So I’m assuming that the heat and humidity causes books to have this very vintage look. My books here in Singapore haven’t started foxing because I’ve only been here for a little over a year and I turn on the aircon every night. I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts happening eventually.

Do you worry about your books aging like this? Do you get foxing in your books or is it a problem on in hot and humid areas?

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20 thoughts on “Shoot That Book: Foxing

  1. I’m not sure about foxing, but I know page tanning (where the pages turn that lovely yellow-brown color and become brittle) can be curtailed with the use of acid-free paper. Most publishers in the States print books on this type of paper, but I’m not sure if that’s the case with publishers located abroad.

    • Hi Jenn, I know about tanning as well. I should have mentioned that! I also should have mentioned that most of the books that I own are US or UK editions and only a handful were printed in the Philippines. So most of my books are probably published on acid-free paper as well but they still get foxed. That’s why I think the weather and climate have something to do with it.

    • Lucky you, you don’t have to worry about this problem! You mean friends don’t give back your books that you’ve let them borrow or is it the other way around, you don’t get to give back books that you borrowed from them? 🙂

  2. When I lived in Sri Lanka, we had issues where mold would grow on VHS eventually and make tapes go bad, but not this issue with books. Maybe try.. a desiccant like silica gel packets around your books to remove humidity? :\ That’s all I got. We used to save silica gel from food packaging, take it out of the packets, and then heat it up so that it would turn from saturated (from the moisture) and reuse them (mom would make sachets of them with scrap fabric). Apparently a lot of cat litter uses silica gel so so that might be a way to get it cheap. Or google “desiccants” and see if there’s something else that can be used.
    Or I guess … a dehumidifier? I don’t know how easy it is to buy one of those in Manila though. I never heard of them till I came to the U.S.

    • Hmm I can’t remember if we had issues with VHS tapes. I never kept a lot of those so I didn’t notice. I’ve always had books and some of my oldest ones have been given away because they’ve turned yellow with age and it’s not like I’ll be able to reread them. I haven’t tried those silica packets but that has been suggested before so maybe I should give them a try.

      Yep, I’ve tried closet dehumidifiers. They get filled up with water pretty quickly and have to be changed on a regular basis. So now that I’m away from Manila, I don’t leave a dehumidifier there because it will just become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

    • Really, no foxing? So maybe the yellowing is a normal thing then. It’s just the foxing that’s more unusual. Thanks, I’ll do my best. 🙂 I really should make more of an effort to get ebooks and maybe just keep signed paperbacks and hardcovers. I should pass on some of my other books so people can enjoy and appreciate them before they get damaged by heat and humidity.

  3. Hey, it’s my first time commenting here 🙂

    Some of my books have been sitting in my bookcase for over 10 years and they are still in good condition. No signs of yellowing or foxing. Only the edges turned yellow but it’s more likely due to my sweaty hands. I’m from Canada so the house is either heated or air-conditioned. It is very possible the weather in Manila has something to do with foxing. Good luck taking care of your books

    • Hi Vanessa, thanks for dropping by to comment! I appreciate it. 🙂 I’m jealous that you don’t have to worry about your books turning yellow or getting foxing! I’ve never been to Canada but it probably has a similar climate to the States, where the air is very dry? That’s so different from the tropical weather here in Singapore (and also in Manila). It really makes me sad that I have to worry about the condition of my books as they get older.

  4. I definitely think it has something to do with the heat and humidity in the Philippines! The books I have over here in the good ol’ US of A haven’t deteriorated in quality at all, even if I store them at room temperatures. This is why it’s my goal one day to store my books in a library that’s constantly got air conditioning on (if I can afford it), because I’d like them to remain in good condition for my future children! But I can totally relate to this problem because a lot of my childhood books have experienced foxing 😦

  5. Oh, they have a word for the yellow spots. Cool. I have lots of “foxed” books. But it’s strange why some have considerable number of spots while others have less, and some, hardly any, at all. And I keep all of them on the same area and thus are exposed to the same conditions. My friend says sealing the book in plastic or cling wrap, in all areas, without anything exposed, works. But I am too lazy to do that. And since I sometimes like to revisit some chapters or passages in a book. I don’t want to be opening and resealing them every time I do so. 🙂

    • Yep, I found out the word for it a few years ago when I started worrying about my books getting these spots. I know exactly what you mean – the aging is different for each of my books even though they’re all kept in the same bookshelf. I think it also depends on the paper quality and maybe how exposed the books are to the humid air (whether there are glass covers, etc.) The cling wrap idea will work, I guess. That’s why when I buy books and they’re still wrapped in plastic, I don’t remove the plastic sheet until I’m about to read the book. I recently read a book that I bought in 2007 and it was in excellent condition because of the cling wrap. But yeah, I wouldn’t really be able to do that for books that I’ve read and would want to reread.

  6. I have the same problem and very scare that my foxed older books will effect my newer books since i only have one book shelve. Is foxing contagious?

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