The care and feeding of old books

The typical grimoire has been around for a very long time, and may have eldritch powers looking after it. Even so, any potential collector is going to have to take great care of their finds, lest they crumble to dust like the hands of the dying fiend they were ripped from.


Mold is any one of a large number of fungi that infests books that are kept in damp or humid environments. Many fungi contain colored substances, such as melanin, which stain paper, cloth, or leather, obscuring passages and ruining illustrations.

Worse still, there are several varieties of mold which are toxic, and others which are sensitizers, which can lead the unwary to develop severe allergic reactions to substances that would otherwise leave them untouched.

Mold needs food, damp, dark, and ideally the right temperature to grow. Good air circulation stops them growing as quickly, but it helps them spread to other books. By controlling all these factors, the risks of mold can be reduced. Getting rid of mold can be achieved with chemical treatments, UV/gamma-ray bombardment, reduced oxygen atmospheres, sucking it off with a very fine vacuum aspirator (a nozzle on a compressor).


Obviously tomes kept in wet cellars or dropped by fleeing villains are going to become damp. There are many ways to recover damp books:

  • Air drying: Space/labor intensive and often distorts books.
  • Dehumidification: Dehumidifiers are introduced to the environment, slow but easy.
  • Freezer drying: Very slow drying on flash-frozen books, may cause pages to stick together
  • Vacuum thermal drying: Books are kept warm in a near-vacuum. Causes extreme distortion and paper sticks together.
  • Vacuum freeze drying: Books are frozen, placed in a vacuum and then heat introduced. Ice crystals sublimate directly to a vapour, without becoming liquid in between. Not used on leather or vellum.

In most cases, the pages will need to be separated for complete drying. Paper towels or polyethylene film stops them sticking together.

Scenario hooks

One of the tomes has a large patch of mold on the inside of the binding (a favourite food for many molds). Just what is it? Toxic, hallucinogenic, staining, harmless? A dormant Mi-go nano-machine swarm?

That vitally important tome/sheaf of hard-copy records that the agents have been chasing has fallen out of the dying hands of that head-shot cultist and into a pond. Just how are they going to recover it, remove the human tissue from the outside, and then clean/dry it without the contents becoming known. Is it time to court a new friendly? Can the PCs discover who that person really is, and stop him from cleaning up the rest of that tome before he spreads something really dangerous?


Originally produced for Emerald Hammer, author unknown.

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