Study Shows Why Old Books Actually Smell Like Chocolates And Coffee [VIDEO]By Mark Spencer
A newly printed book might smell of paper and ink, old books like wine have that unmistakable aroma that wafts through a bookworm's nostrils and lingers. Walking into a library or into a used bookshop, one would encounter the smell or unique aroma of aging books. Some love the smell of these old books, some don't but where do they come from? How do these old books acquire such an aroma?
A study by chemists at the University College London's (UCL) Institute for Sustainable Heritage has shown that old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) from the paper into the air. Once our noses encounter these chemical signatures, or brain identifies them as smells. Apparently, many people are reminded of chocolates and coffee when they smell old books.
When chemist Matija Strlič noticed paper conservators were stopping to get a whiff of the pages books they were working on, all they can say is that they can list down the type of materials used to make the book simply by its smell, said the conservators. Intrigued, Strlič, looked for a way to quantify the odors.
Collaborating with heritage scientist Cecilia Bembibre to not only identify the chemical traces of the books and, see how people are affected by smelling the books. The majority of the 79 test subjects identified the books smelling like chocolates, which was no surprise to the researchers, according to Popular Science.
A 'Historic Book Odour Wheel' has been developed to record and archive the aroma associated with old books and it is not just for fun either. The work can actually help conservators to identify if a book is in danger of deteriorating.
Unfortunately, for those who love the smell of old books, it might soon disappear. Simply because paper use in the making of books today contain lesser amounts of lignin, a plant polymer that is responsible for causing the paper to turn yellow with age.