Chemists Reveal What Makes Old Books Smell the Way they Do
The aroma of old books is unmistakable, especially to a book lover. So what creates that heady, specific aroma that bibliophiles love so? Online bookseller AbeBooks posted an interesting video that explains recent findings by research chemists in England.
Richard explains that books
are made up of organic matter which reacts
with heat, light and moisture and --
most importantly of all -- the chemicals
used in its production. It is this reaction which
causes the unique used books smell.
Chemists at University College, London's The Bartlett Centre for Sustainable Heritage conducted
research into the chemical cause of the old book odor. They
concluded that old books release hundreds
of volatile compounds into the air. The lead
chemist described the smell as
"combination of grassy notes with a tang
of acids and a hint of vanilla over an
Acid is what makes books decay, which is
why books created with paper with a lot
of acid in it (most of the 19th and 20th century
works) are decaying rapidly.
Some books have lasted 500 years, because
of the purity and quality of the paper used.
The best way to store your books is in
a smoke-free, cool, dry environment away from
direct sunlight. Oh -- and never put a newspaper clipping in a book.
The acid in the cheap newspaper accelerates decay. Take a look: