Frequently Asked Questions

Orders, Accounts & Shipping

Do you have an open shop?

Sadly not, although visits can be arranged by appointment.

Can I place an order over the phone?

Yes, of course. Please call us on +44 (0)1732 887252. If you’re calling outside our usual business hours of 9am to 5.30pm, please leave your contact details on the answerphone and we will get back to you as soon as possible. It is also possible to purchase items directly from my website.

Can I return an item?

Yes, you can. All our books are understood to be sent on approval and can be returned if found unsatisfactory for any reason within 14 days. Please see our T&Cs page for more information on returning items.

When you send books, how are they packed?

Every book is wrapped in tissue paper, encased in plenty of bubble wrap and other packing material, and enclosed in a sturdy cardboard box. The environment is important to us, and so we try and make use of as much recycled material whenever possible. The need for overseas parcels, in particular, to be water-tight is vital and so the use of some plastic at the moment seems unavoidable, but we try and re-use as much bubble wrap as possible, or purchase recycled rolls and bubble wrap bags.

 Do you ship books outside the UK?

Yes, we do. We offer a variety of shipping options to suit your needs, and will discuss options with you at the time.

Is there any additional sales tax to pay?

No, there isn’t. Printed books and maps are zero-rated for VAT (Value Added Tax), so there are no additional sales taxes to be paid (or refunded) on printed books or maps. Our prices for prints include VAT, which is refundable for sales outside the EC. Our VAT registration number is GB 885 357869.

Orders for international delivery may be subject to import duties and taxes which are applied when the delivery reaches its destination. Please note that we have no control over these charges and we cannot predict their amount.

The customer is responsible for payment of any such import duties and taxes. Please contact your local customs office for further information before placing your order.

Are your shipments fully insured?

Yes, they are.

Is my personal information kept private?

Yes. Your details will only be used by Deborah Coltham Rare Books to send your orders by post, send requested catalogues or send requested email newsletters. If for any reason you would like us to change or remove your details form our system, you can write to Please see our Data Policy for further information

Selling items to us

Do you buy books as well as sell them?

Yes, we do. If you have something to sell relating to science and medicine, please feel free to contact us. To help us with an initial appraisal, it would be helpful if you could include some brief details of author, title as it appears on the printed title-page (inside the book, not on the front cover), date, edition statement if mentioned, place of publication, and details of the binding and any major defects. We may then ask for more detailed lists and will require images before any final offer is made. Before making any formal offer of purchase, we will ask you to sign a form confirming that you have full legal title to sell the books and we’ll need some form of photographic ID. You can then send it to us by post. Our insurance policy covers valuable items sent to us; you will need to keep proof of posting. We will not pay for books until we have examined them and confirmed that they are complete.

How will you pay me?

We pay either by check, or direct bank transfer to an account in the owner’s name.

Do you offer a valuation service?

It is not standard practice for us to undertake valuation services for large collections of books. We are happy to offer informal appraisals and give advice however on individual titles.

Are all rare books valuable?

Rare books are only valuable if people are still interested in reading and collecting them, and if they are in good condition. A book can be both old and rare, but if no one cares about its content, it won’t have any significant value. Similarly, a sought-after book in poor or incomplete condition will be of less interest and value.

Do you attend book fairs?

We regularly exhibit at fairs internationally and are always happy to meet new and existing customers in person. If we’re exhibiting in your area and there’s any particular items you would like us to bring, do get in touch.

How should you handle rare books, maps, ephemera, and other fragile material?

Most of the books in our stock tend to be either leather-bound or in vellum. Earlier books were printed using hand-made laid papers, which tend to be more robust, and which used less chemicals than 19th century and modern papers, and which can become fragile. There are some basic habits which one can adopt, however, to help you ensure that your rare books remain in fine condition for many years to come.

  • Be gentle when removing books from shelves. Do not pull them from the top of the spine as this can cause damage to the headband.
  • Most books are not designed to open flat, and so require some support during use. Foam book braces, or book pillows can provide support while limiting the opening angle. Pay attention to the spine area in particular, as this can split and weaken the binding structure. Some binding styles can appear more robust than they actually are.
  • Wash and dry your hands before and after handling books, works of art on paper, and scientific instruments.
  • Try not to keep paper items in books, such as newspaper clippings, greeting cards, post-it notes or bookmarks. They can leave permanent marks in books and cause offsetting to pages. Archival acid free sleeves/envelopes can be useful to keep historic ‘keepsakes’ safe, such as leaves, flowers, photographs etc, as they form part of the history of the book – though some items found, such as human tissue – are less desirable!
  • Store books in a location that maintains a relatively steady temperature of around 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit). Too much humidity can lead to mould and foxing of pages; too little can leave the leaves and binding dry and brittle. Do everything possible to keep books out of direct sunlight as it will fade the binding.
  • Larger works, such as atlases, may benefit from horizontal storage as heavy book blocks can cause stress to the binding when stored vertically. Try to avoid books leaning against each other or against the sides of the shelves. Bookends can help to secure books upright, or fill the shelves so books are snug but not tight.
  • You may wish to apply a leather dressing to some calf bindings. Leather dressings such as Marney’s Conservation Leather Dressing can add some moisture back. It should be applied sparingly with a soft cloth or a bare hand. Apply lightly at first, testing an inconspicuous area of the book first. Never use on sheep or reverse calf.
  • When handling folded and rolled items, try to pay attention to their format and condition, and remember the order and direction of folds or roll when you unpack the works, so that you can repack them in the same manner. Tightly bound, folded images, can be particularly awkward and fragile. Have some light paper weights to hand, and enough space to unfold the items.
  • We do not recommend wearing white gloves when handling books or works of art on paper. This is what the British Library has to say on the subject:

‘The British Library has published advice on the use of white gloves. Essentially, we recommend that it is preferable to handle manuscripts with clean dry hands. Wearing cotton gloves to hold or turn the pages of a book or manuscript actually reduces manual dexterity, and increases the likelihood of causing damage. Gloves also have a tendency to transfer dirt to the object being consulted, and to dislodge pigments or inks from the surface of pages’.