Smell and aroma of a good book

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smell and aroma of a good book

‘what do old books smell like?’ - preserving smells as important cultural heritage

Among them, of course, was an old book. Without knowing what they were smelling, participants overwhelmingly described the smell of books as being like chocolate. The second most common scent was coffee. According to the researchers, aging paper has some of the same chemical compounds A. VOCs as chocolate and coffee. And now a British Chemistry Teacher has created an infographic to explain how and why the scent of antique and new books differ.
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Why Do Old Books Smell So Good?

The Quest to Better Describe the Scent of Old Books

As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both. Add to this the fact that there are literally hundreds of compounds involved, and it becomes clearer why it evades attribution to a small selection of chemicals. The manufacture of paper requires the use of chemicals at several stages. The fibres are then bleached with a number of other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide; then, they are mixed with large amounts of water. Many other chemicals are also used — this is just a very rough overview. The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. An aroma that has had much more research carried out around it, however, is that of old books.

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Old spines – why we love the smell of secondhand books

Scent carries significant psychological meaning. We actively enjoy recreating certain scents in our environment, not just experiencing them when they arise. This is because scent carries significant psychological meaning and purpose. Anyone who has ever conjured long-ago family vacations from incidental smells like suntan lotion or Christmas wreaths, or former relationships from perfume or cologne knows this instinctively. Scientists have attempted to quantify to what extent scent affects our perception of a place. One experiment exposed participants to scents and scenes, and then told them to create stories in response and recall details.

In a separate experiment, the researchers presented visitors to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery with an unlabelled historic book smell — sampled from a book they obtained from a second-hand bookshop in London — and collected the terms used to describe the smell. The role of smells in how we perceive heritage has not been systematically explored until now. Attempting to answer the question of whether certain smells could be considered part of our cultural heritage and if so how they could be identified, protected and conserved, the researchers also conducted a chemical analysis of volatile organic compounds VOCs which they sampled from books in the library. VOCs are chemicals that evaporate at low temperatures, many of which can be perceived as scents or odors. The authors suggest that, in addition to its use for the identification and conservation of smells, the Historic Book Odour Wheel could potentially be used to recreate smells and aid the design of olfactory experiences in museums, allowing visitors to form a personal connection with exhibits by allowing them to understand what the past smelled like. Before this can be done, further research is needed to build on the preliminary findings in this study to allow them to inform and benefit heritage management, conservation, visitor experience design and heritage policy making.

Dust could shimmer in the light; silence fills your ears. Describing that smell, however, is a challenge. Now, that task may have just gotten easier thanks to a tool called the Historic Book Odor Wheel. To do this, they used one of the most recognizable smells of the past: old books. In the lab, the team, did a chemical analysis of the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, emitted by books. Since paper is made of wood and is constantly decomposing , it releases chemical compounds into the air that mix together to form a unique scent. They captured those compounds and used a mass spectrometer to analyze its chemical signature.

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