University Library Taking Precautions Handling Victorian-Era Book Cloth

In light of recent research showing the possible presence of heavy metals in 19th Century book cloth, the University of Illinois Library is advising all staff and patrons to use caution when handling books in original cloth covers dating from 1800-1899. Monographs published between 1800-1899 will be temporarily inaccessible while we assess the scope and potential risk, but we will be working as quickly as possible to make items available for checkout. Many of these titles are available digitally through HathiTrust and are linked within our online catalog. If an item you need is not available digitally, it may be available via I-Share (linked within the catalog record) or through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). If the item is not available through I-Share or ILL, please use the Public Domain Digitization Request Form to request digitization. Digital Reformatting staff will assess the condition of the item to determine whether it can be scanned. 

Until we know more about which items may pose a health risk, please:  

  • Wear disposable nitrile gloves if you may come in contact with 19th Century materials in original cloth bindings 
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling materials 
  • Do not rub your eyes, nose, or touch your face while handling materials  
  • Wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling materials 

Visit the Heavy Metals in Book Cloth webpage for guidance on identifying original publisher cloth bindings and to learn more about this project. 

Please also see “University Library taking precautions with Victorian-era books that may have heavy metal-based pigments” from the News Bureau.

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