The Smell of Books

Old Books 1

In addition to new donations, our Library has many old books on its shelves. Books from every decade that it has been in existence for the past 89 years and some even older. Some people, when they enter the Library for the first time, make a comment on the unmistakable smell of books. When I have been away from the Library overnight, I can detect the scent as well, even though I’ve grown used to it, having lived in the building for 22 years. Recently, I discovered there is a reason why we love the smell of old books. Below is some interesting information from

“Five years ago, a team of researchers tested over 70 books. The smell is a mix of hundreds of ingredients, so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper. Some of the compounds were common to all the tested books: acetic acid, benzaldehyde, butanol, furfural, or methoxyphenyl oxime, to name a few.

To describe it in a more accessible way, the study’s lead researcher, Matija Strlic said:

    A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.

There is something more about the book smell than just a balanced blend of pleasing scents. It’s memories. Blame the nose for that. The nose is more sensitive than you think and is tied right into the limbic system responsible for our emotions.  It is one of the strongest ways to trigger memories. Your favorite smell is probably tied to a memory, most likely from your childhood. The smell of books is tied to the celebration of reading and can bring back happy moments.

You’ll be surprised to discover how many home and beauty products recreate the book smell in its finest glory. Perfumes, sprays, and candles collected below can’t replace the sensation of reading a real book. What they can do, however, is to invite the book smell into a home library, a bedroom, or just anywhere we go.”



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