The Book Smell

Whether old or new, we’ve all probably smelled a book at some point or another… I mean, who can help themselves when they just smell so darn good? book smell

And I do mean all books, despite the fact that they’re all quite distinct in their scent – whether it be an old book, new book, library book or textbook (and you cannot tell me that textbooks don’t have a particular scent of their own, they do, and often I associate it with long, long, depressing hours spent pouring over them the night before exams) people seem to have different opinions over which smell they prefer.

And then there are the people who are adamant that books either smell of nothing or don’t smell good at all… and I guess it’s a free world and they’re welcome to have that opinion. But I think that we can agree that products such as the Book scent by Commodity and the Paper Passion perfume just wouldn’t exist and people wouldn’t spend exuberant amounts to smell of a mixture of paper and ink if there wasn’t something enticing about the smell.  Of course, if you want to smell of book but don’t want to spend such amounts on a bottle of liquid – there are more affordable scents such as this one by The Library of Fragrance which do the job just as well.

And of course being the overly curious nerd that I am, I have actually researched the reason behind one of my favourite smells to find that the difference in smells is caused by the varying chemicals given off by books as they age, older books tend to have more lignin (a chemical which reinforces the structure of the tree) which produces the slightly vanilla-like smell that accompanies the muskiness that we relate to old novels. New books differ more in their scents as the development in book printing has meant a greater range of chemicals can potentially be used – meaning that not all new books will have the same smell.

The science aside though, the scent of books can also be changed by the people they have been in contact with – library books being a great example of that, and I think it’s almost like they carry a part of their owners in themselves which is a quite nice notion really.

Do you have a favourite book smell? Or do books not smell like anything to you, or maybe, just maybe you haven’t lived and smelled a book before? Is there a book scent that you do not like?

Tell me in the comments below 🙂

“I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.” 

– The Angels Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon