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Saving an Old Bible

Updated on October 14, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

Eclectic is a good word for the many interests of retired librarian, Virginia Allain. Crafts, gardening, genealogy, travel, and more...

This is the title page in a very old Bible.
This is the title page in a very old Bible. | Source

Preserving an Old Family Bible

If you are lucky enough to have a family Bible that has passed down through generations, you'll want to take good care of it. Time and much handling over the years may mean the Bible is about to fall apart. What can be done to save it? How should it be stored? These questions came up over and over when I was a librarian. People want to save their fragile and precious family Bible, but don't know where to start.

Graphic from Zazzle: Front page Old Luther Bible by aapshop

I'll share with you what I learned on this topic and hope you can keep that Bible safe to pass along to future generations in your family.

Why Save an Old Bible?

Why Not Just Buy a New One?

An old Bible may have been in the family for generations. Perhaps you remember your grandfather reading aloud each evening from that Bible. Maybe it has pages with important family dates like weddings and births recorded in it.

Bibles Have Special Meaning to Their Owners

This pocket Bible was displayed at the Bryant house museum in Lexington, Kentucky. It's probably from the Civil War era and was carried by a soldier during the war.
This pocket Bible was displayed at the Bryant house museum in Lexington, Kentucky. It's probably from the Civil War era and was carried by a soldier during the war. | Source
This Bible belonged to my sister who died suddenly in her forties. Her daughter chose to carry it with her wedding flowers a few years ago. Really special.
This Bible belonged to my sister who died suddenly in her forties. Her daughter chose to carry it with her wedding flowers a few years ago. Really special. | Source
This is my great-aunt, Bertha McGhee. She's reading from the Bible in the church she started in Hope, Alaska. I'm working on a book about her life and her missionary efforts.
This is my great-aunt, Bertha McGhee. She's reading from the Bible in the church she started in Hope, Alaska. I'm working on a book about her life and her missionary efforts. | Source

Tips for What to Do with an Old Bible

I've learned a lot about this topic from an online group I belong to (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness). I'll distill those here for your convenience.

  • The DAR has a committee that preserves your family info from an old Bible. Copy the info and send it to them and they will put it in a book so future generations can have your information. The Bible never leaves your hands.
  • One lady bought some archival boxes for her husbands' family Bibles, since they were sitting on the shelf and she didn't want them getting moved around and possibly damaged. They were from the mid 1800's and not in the best of shape to start. Now they are safe from wear and tear.
  • Put the family information from the Bible onto an online site like Family Search or Ancestry to make it available for future generations.
  • Paper has acid and can turn yellow. Spray important pages with archival mist to help them last longer.

Protect a Bible by Storing It in a Special Box

This craftsman creates boxes with nonscratch pads in the bottom. He will even create a custom one for you.
This craftsman creates boxes with nonscratch pads in the bottom. He will even create a custom one for you. | Source

See the Steps in Rebinding an Old Bible - Video Tutorial

Book Repair and Binding - on DVD and books

BOOKBINDING DVD SERIES - RESTORING THE FAMILY BIBLE DVD
BOOKBINDING DVD SERIES - RESTORING THE FAMILY BIBLE DVD

Learning the craft of bookbinding is much easier when you have visual instruction like this DVD.

 

My Childhood Bible

My sister recently gave me a small white Bible. The fragile book was in danger of losing its cover as the spine had dried out.

It surprised me that she had it and had saved it for me. Inside it was incribed with my name and "from Grandpa and Grandma McGhee, Christmas 1955." The little Bible is 59 years old.

I'm not going to attempt repairing it, since it won't be in use. I'll get a small box to keep it safe and dry inside.

Save the Art if the Bible Is Damaged Beyond Repair

You can frame some of the decorative pages from the Bible and hang them on the wall.

Book Repair How-To and Supplies

Practice some of the techniques first on some other less important books before attempting to repair a family Bible. It takes some practice to know how much glue to apply and get a feel for the repair techniques.

PH Neutral Adhesive for Bookbinding

Books By Hand pH Neutral PVA Adhesive, 8oz (BBHM217)
Books By Hand pH Neutral PVA Adhesive, 8oz (BBHM217)

Acid is an enemy to old paper. This PH neutral adhesive helps fix the old Bible without damaging it further with the wrong kind of glue.

 

What Were You Hoping to Find Here?

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Protect a Bible with a Bible Cover

Embassy? Italian Stone? Design Genuine Lambskin Leather Bible Purse
Embassy? Italian Stone? Design Genuine Lambskin Leather Bible Purse

The original cover may be shabby, but this protects it and allows continued use of that vintage Bible.

 

More Vintage Bibles That Need Preserving

Bryan House Bible in Kentucky
Bryan House Bible in Kentucky | Source
Bible on display at the Bryan House in Lexington, KY.
Bible on display at the Bryan House in Lexington, KY. | Source

© 2011 Virginia Allain

Tell Me about the Bible You Want to Preserve

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    • rdcbizz profile image

      rdcbizz 

      5 years ago

      I love the Bible and Read The Bible Daily. Nice lens.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 

      5 years ago from Maryland

      Incredibly interesting lens...my grandfather collected Bibles and has some pretty old ones in his collection. This page will be very useful to anyone looking to preserve their old books...Bibles and others!

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 

      5 years ago

      I don't have a bible I want to preserve. I was interested in reading this because it relates to our bookclub book (People of the Book) in which book preservation and curators are a key theme.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 

      5 years ago

      No Bible unfortunately. This however might be applied to old and loved books, too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Hello!

      I just received some old Bibles no one wanted. One is very moldy smelling. I cleaned the outside with vinegar water to kill the mold. Now I'm trying to let it air out. I like your idea about taking out the artwork. This particular old Bible has some wonderful pictures throughout. Thanks for a great lens!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 

      6 years ago

      Great lens from someone who obviously loves books. I have repaired many of my friends' study Bibles. I will not, however, even offer to "fix" a family heirloom. There are professional companies that can do that so much better than I. My goal in the repairs that I make, is to make a book use-able again. So far, my friends have been delighted.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 

      6 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      This is just what I needed. I have two old family Bibles that are falling apart. Between you and Mickie_G., I should be able to fix these -- I hope.

    • niicki profile image

      niicki 

      6 years ago

      This is great - my father collects old bibles, and has several from different countries in different states of care. When he's ready, I'll definitely point him here to see if they're repairable, and how he ought to go about it!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 

      7 years ago

      Many come to my Book Care and Repair page here on Squidoo wanting to repair or preserve an old Bible. I am so glad I found your page. I have put a permanent link to you in my "related lenses" and Blessed you for sharing this priceless knowledge.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 

      7 years ago

      I have my Mom's Bible that I treasure. Fortunately it's in good condition though. I certainly can see people wanting to preserve family Bibles.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      We have a few very old Bibles, but they are actually in great condition. As book lover it is a habit of mine to take very good care of all books especially my Bibles. Great lens!

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