THERE is a sort of busy worm
That will the fairest books deform,
By gnawing holes throughout them;
Alike, through every leaf they go,
Yet of its merits naught they know,
Nor care they aught about them.
Their tasteless tooth will tear and taint
The Poet, Patriot, Sage or Saint,
Not sparing wit nor learning.
Now, if you'd know the reason why,
The best of reasons I'll supply;
'Tis bread to the poor vermin.
Of pepper, snuff, or 'bacca smoke,
And Russia-calf they make a joke.
Yet, why should sons of science
These puny rankling reptiles dread?
'Tis but to let their books be read,
And bid the worms defiance.
- Insects which most commonly cause damage in libraries and archives in Oxford are silverfish, book-lice and beetles.
- They feed on organic substances such as paper, pastes, glues, gelatine sizing, leather, and bookcloth; birds nests are also a major source of food for insects, and bird droppings are corrosive.
- They prefer warm, dark, damp, dirty, and poorly ventilated conditions.
- Their damage is usually irreversible text and images lost by insects eating and boring through paper and photographs cannot be replaced.
- Termites can devastate buildings and collections.
- Rodents such as rats and mice can devastate collections.
- They will destroy books in order to obtain paper for their nests.
- They can cause fires by gnawing through electrical insulation.
- They will pare their teeth on library furniture and fittings.
- Their droppings are corrosive and can leave permanent stains.