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I've always known I'm not alone in my book-sniffing habit - when I worked at Waterstones, I caught several of my colleagues sticking their heads into freshly opened boxes to breathe in deeply that glorious fresh, woody, inky scent - but I hadn't realised how many people take bibliosmia even more seriously than I do. For publishers and booksellers (and also for the author receiving their first box of their own book) the scent of newly printed books is intoxicating, but for true bibliophiles there's nothing quite like the fragrance of old books. 

Researchers at UCL's Institute for Sustainable Heritage have been working to identify and classify the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) released by old books, partly to preserve the smell so that it can be recreated for future generations (not much going on with screen-based digital content by way of fragrance) and partly to help identify when there's a problem, and the book is at risk of perishing.  

It's difficult to describe smells other than by reference to other, similar smells. In this study chocolate and coffee keep coming up as comparisons - which makes me wonder if there's some sort of memory being triggered of long days of revision with the nose in a book and those two classic brain fuels close at hand. I always think old books smell faintly of smoke and wood, like a good single malt. (There may be a more literal association there too, of course. 

You can read more about this fascinating research here: http://www.popsci.com/old-book-smell


This entry was posted on 09 April 2017 at 21:43 and is filed under books. You can leave a response here.

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1 response to 'Biblieau-de-cologne'

hilary hunter says

Have always loved books but never really thought about their smell, more their feel! Thank you for making me pause for thought and scent ;)

Added on 10 April 2017 at 11:59

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