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Movable Books:
In the Context of History

The Smithsonian Lectures
Washington, DC 2010-11

A Timeline History of
Movable Books

Video History of Harlequinades
from c1650 by Werner Nekes

A History of Paper Devices

Glossary of
Pop-Up Terms

A History of Flip Books

The Bigger the Better (2002)

Anatomical Flap Books
at Duke University

Obituaries-They've laid their scissors down

care and repair

Step Right Up!
Step Right Up!
Removing Marks from books

Here, Kitty, Kitty
Deodorizing a Book

Repair tips from the
Baldwin Library
Univ. of Florida

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Making Pop-up Books with
Bruce Foster & Chuck Fischer

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Step Right Up! Step Right Up!
Removing marks from books

by Ellen G.K. Rubin
(reprinted by Movable Stationery, December 1997; vol.5,no.4)
Revised July 28, 2008

Have you ever bought a book with a price tag that won’t come off? Have you gingerly tried to scratch it off with your fingernail? Has the sticker lifted taking part of the cover with it, ruining the book? Has a gooey residue remained despite the use of nail polish remover or lighter fluid? Do you feel me winding up for the pitch?

There is an answer to our prayers. It is a magic marker-type pen that easily removes most gummed labels. TidyPen, by Micro Care of Bristol, Ct. will revolutionize our book cleaning. It was my partner in ‘book crimes’, Myrna Shinbaum, who had seen the TidyPen demonstrated on QVC, a home shopping TV channel. The product was being offered as a method of removing labels from glassware, toys, etc. Myrna suggested we try it on books.

Now an avid book collector, I was once a scientific researcher. I experimented with the TidyPen using books from my collection. (Am I crazy? No, just devoted.) The TidyPen worked best on glazed-board covers. After saturating the label with the solvent by pressing the pen’s nib against it, the label came off in pieces with a slight scrape of my fingernail . Patience is definitely a virtue in these matters. With older books, such as Sound Alikes", a 1967 Random House book, with the nostalgic price tag of $1.95!, the surface paper peeled off first, leaving the dried and cracked gum. An additional application of the pen removed the rest of the gum. Using the TidyPen, the label scars from prior unsuccessful attempts cleaned off easily.

Removing stickers from paper and paper covers, such as those of the Blue Ribbon series, was an entirely different matter. At first I thought I had sacrificed my Dick Tracy on the alter of research by leaving an oily stain on the cover. But after a short while, the solvent evaporated without a smudge. Again, by working slowly, saturating the sticker and removing it in stages, the label came off cleanly leaving no stain or scar.

Although it is not listed in the brochure, Michael Jones of Micro Care told me the pen would erase crayon. I found that not to be the case. Smearing the crayon mark is a definite hazard. The brochure also claims the solvent will remove the residue from cellophane and masking tapes. I did not try this. The TidyPen’s nib often became blackened, and I worried that the grime would transfer to the cover or page. It didn’t. The nibs may be cut or extra ones purchased separately. The solvent is derived from the by-products of orange juice and has a pleasant fruity odor. A handy pocket clip on the cap makes the pen ideal for carrying around at book fairs, flea markets, or tag sales. The brochure boasts several other uses for the TidyPen, among them the removal of chewing gum from carpeting and scuff marks from floors.

As long as a book’s condition is a key element in its desirability, the need to remove labels and detracting marks will be of paramount importance. The Tidypen, as I have found it, may help in improving a book’s condition. Please, however, do not hold me responsible for your experiences with the TidyPen. And, by the way, if you are saying, "Big Deal! I’ve known about this product for a long time," then shame on you for keeping it to yourself!

[Look here to buy the TidyPen.]