Book breaking, a practice which is the bane of bibliophiles, is when a person or institution (usually a dealer but on rare occasions even a library will do it) will remove the binding of a book or tear out individual pages. This was done because maps and illustrations in old books could be sold as individual pieces, often for many times the value of the intact book. This has been happening for centuries, but it reached a fever pitch in recent decades as interest in these pieces (and thus prices) increased and free spending nouveau riche needed something to spend their money on. Antiquaries dealer Graham Arader is often reviled as the scapegoat for this practice, and in the 1970s and 80s he probably did it more than anyone else.

In recent years, the practice has decreased dramatically as the value of intact books has caught up with the value of the maps and plates and the supply of complete books has dwindled. Nowadays, usually only already incomplete books are broken.

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