Old Books and their Addictive Smell

smelly_bookHave you ever found yourself in an old-fashion book store, hiding in the corner and looking like a creep who’s trying to do something weird with some book? Well, I have. But honestly, I was not trying to look possessed or anything – I was just enjoying the smell of that book. Now, tell me you’ve never done it!!

I was inspired to write this blog post after reading an article on The Guardian about the smell of old books and how it evolves.

“A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness,” writes an international team of chemists from University College London (UCL) and the University of Ljubljana (UL) in Slovenia in their scientific paper (doi:10.1021/ac9016049).

Basically, a book is made of organic materials — a variety of different papers and inks, as well as glues and fibers used to bind the book together. These organic components react to heat, light and moisture in the environment and with the chemicals used to make the book itself. Specific odours are the result of the particular blend of volatile compounds released by the sum total of the book’s organic materials. These odours also include those contributed by outside influences encountered by the book during its life — influences that impart the familiar stench of old cigarettes or cigars that is often associated with old books, for example.

Can you imagine stepping into Silente’s office at Hogwarts? Or into Belle’s (from The Beauty and the Beast) library at the castle? These are probably be two of my favorite unrealistic dreams.  Although I’m really looking forward to smell old books while watching these two movies, as it will definitely add a completely new and immersive dimension to the experience.








Written by: Carlotta Zorzi


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