Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Jan 1, 2009 08:17 AM

Do you protect your cookbooks--& how?

I have some old gems that are starting to get damaged by exposure to sunlight, heavy use, etc. I've always stored them in a portable bookcase near or in the kitchen, and the glued bindings are coming loose and the tops of the sewn bindings are tearing, where I pull them with my fingertip. I'm hoping paper covers will help save them so I can pass on the best ones.

I'm thinking of covering them (like we used to do with our high school textbooks) to protect them from further damage.

Do you cover/protect your cookbooks? How and Why, please.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Oh I'm so glad you asked this question Toodie Jane! I've been searching for archival plastic covers such as libraries use but haven't decided what to buy yet. I have several old cookbooks in the same condition as yours and new ones with paper covers that are getting stained. I didn't think I was That sloppy....I have been temporarily covering a few in plastic wrap (Saran) doesn't last long, tho.

    I want the plastic covers because I like the colors of the original jackets.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      You can get plastic library covers from Gaylord: I think these come lined but you have to buy archival quality tape separately. This doesn't protect the pages. If you are really serious about that, keep the books on the shelf, make photocopies of the recipes you use most often and cook off those. That's what I do. All of my most common used recipes are on separate pieces of paper in plastic sleeves in a big three-ring binder. I only go to the books for new recipes. This also allows you to organize recipes from different books by category (soups, deserts, fish, etc.). I'm sure many other people do this.

      1. re: taos

        I agree with taos and I like the idea of using archival library covers to store the books. My cook books are shelves inside an enclosed cupboard. They rarely see daylight. I use my scanner to scan and file my recipes in a computer file and back them up on CDs. I print them onto 3x5 cards for my hard copy recipe file as I need them. I don't scan the entire book, just the recipes I use (or believe I might use) so I don't have to go into the book(s) repeatedly. One of my favorite cook books (The Prudence Penny Regional Cook Book, copyright 1939) is still in excellent condition.
        For the cook books that suffer from failed bindings and which I believe are worth preserving, I use a local book binding service. The remove the old binding and remount the book into a new binding using the original covers. Works great.

        1. re: todao

          lol--my hubs gave me the "you can put these all on the comcputer and print them out onto file cards" mantra today as I was hand-copying a recipe from my file box to trade with someone.

          I explained that I would never want to do that, as looking at my recipe cards, I can see the progression in my handwriting skills from neat and tidy at 20 (and so terribly ernest!) to scribbly and uneven at (cough!). I can recall where I got the recipe, who I served it to, what it the kitchen looked like (the house in the redwoods, the 2nd story corner kitchen with a city view, the adobe in the mountains) etc. So much tied up in one little unassuming recipe card.

          Same goes for cookbooks. And while I do treasure all the spots and chocolate smears (ah--the midnight munchies fondue) I do want to preserve the 'gems' for my nieces, in the hopes that they will treasure the old books that Aunt Sue cooks from, much the way I treasure my mom's 1935 Boston Cooking School Cookbook, even if I don't cook from it much.

          I think I will try some paper covers for the hardbounds to protect the spines, and the paperbacks will just have to fend for themselves. Thanks for the bookbinding service rec., though I'm sure we don't have anything like that here on the California Central Coast. Can you rec one? Fannie Farmer needs it badly.

          1. re: toodie jane

            I've done the same re-binding thing with my old books, even those with recipes I never use anymore, like my copy of the Moosewood Cookbook from my old vegetarian hippie college days when we made lentil stew and ratatouille for every meal.

      2. re: Gio

        The cookbooks that I use a lot are a mess. Gotta tell you that I AM the sloppiest cook on earth. Glad my fiance is a neat-nik! That said, I've recently come up with a remedy to "SAVE" my favorite recipes. I copy them and laminate them and put them into a binder. This way I can take the recipe out, and after I totally destroy it, I can then wipe it clean:)

      3. i have quite a few books and have been collecting them since the early 70's. i would never dream of covering them up. the stains, the pages falling open to familiar recipes, the notes that have been added.... they are all reminders of some of the best memories that i have. covering up cook books is like having slip covers on nice furniture - another concept that i do not care for. so to each his own!

        1 Reply
        1. re: justanotherpenguin

          I feel the same way. My Hazan book and my paperback Fannie Farmer are now in several pieces, but I seem to just live with them that way.

        2. I love the splatters etc on the most used and loved cook books. I especially love looking at my SO's mothers books. She has a wonderful 1st edition of mastering the art of french cooking that is literally held in a rubber band and it is stuffed with cuttings from newspapers and magazines of recipes she wanted to keep and marked up with notes that she made beside various recipes. I love looking at them, and recently a card fell out that said "I Love you Mommy" that SO had made for his mother years ago. I loved seeing it and I loved reading all the notes of someone who was working through this cookbook when french cooking was very new to the US. It is filled with memories.

          1. I have lots of great cookbooks. I don't want any of them covered up with anything. There are many I have used for 30 years or so and they are are splattered, stained and some are falling apart (oh well). I just replaced one (Madhur Jaffreys, An Invitation to Indian Cooking) because my original was in many, many pieces. I write in all of my cookbooks any time I make an addition or change anything. Julia's the Art of French Cooking has lots and lots of notes written in it. You would love my pate` recipe. Use your cookbooks and enjoy them--they are not coffee table books, but working things, just like cookware.

            1. My cookbooks fall into two categories: ones I cook from and ones I just read. I have a lot I just read, for inspiration, and only a handful I cook from (I do 90% of my cooking without looking at recipes). The ones I cook from are kind of messy, but I don't really care. If I want to cook out of a "nice" book, I'll usually prop the book up somewhere away from where I am cooking and refer to it as I go.