The author considers the need for a survey of modern printed book collections, in the context of the embrittlement of book papers. The extent and severity of the problem have often not been quantified. A random sample of both monograph and periodical book‐stack areas of the British Library resulted in an estimated 2,486,000 issues being covered by the survey. Fold‐testing took place on all books supplied which were published in 1850 or after. The results from fold‐testing suggest that 327,842 books contain paper which would break on three double folds or less. Given the size of the problem and its immediacy, some practical choices available to librarians are discussed.
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