If you find an actual family Bible, rather than a digitized or transcribed copy, open it carefully!
If you find an actual family Bible, rather than a digitized or transcribed copy, open it carefully! Some Bibles may be in serious need of repair and require mending and special handling. The covers may be missing, the spine broken, pages torn or leather covers dried out and flaking.
It's best to handle any historical artifact with white cotton gloves, but if you don't have any on hand (no pun intended), make sure your hands have just been washed and are free from oils and lotions. As soon as possible, photocopy, scan or digitally photograph the family pages from the Bible and work with those rather than handling the original. But be careful! If you can't make a copy because the Bible is too fragile, then hand copy the entries before you send it off for repair.
If the Bible is in need of repair, there are bookbinders who specialize in repairing old Bibles. But never relinquish your family Bible without first checking out the repair shop, seeing some examples of its work and asking for references. Several advertise on the Internet, such as The BookMenders. The oldest Bible this company has repaired was bound in possum hide and printed in 1725, with entries written in berry juice!
When you find a family Bible, check through all of the pages. You may find prayer cards, funeral cards, newspaper clippings and obituaries, letters, postcards, dried flowers or notations by meaningful passages. Before you remove any items, note where they were located in the Bible, between what pages and by which passages. If the Bible comes to you from another relative and it hasn't been touched in ages, then these hidden trivia may point to clues or offer insights into the owner's personality and feelings.