What do old books smell like?
August 27, 2019 11:28 AM Subscribe
Chocolate, cocoa, chocolatey, coffee, old, wood or burnt (The Guardian)? Musty, mossy or mushroomy (Science History)? Coal fire, old inn, fish market or dirty linen (Heritage Science Journal)?
Old books actually smell like chocolate and coffee (Popular Science): In a study published [April 2017] in Heritage Science, researchers at the University College London's Institute for Sustainable Heritage examined the smell of books and libraries, putting together a classification scheme that could help characterize the scents of the past—and maybe even diagnose deteriorating books before damage gets out of control.[...]Previously: "A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness"; I Love the Smell of Books in the Morning. Smells Like... Literacy.
[The authors of the paper] partnered with the U.K.’s leading conservation organization, the National Trust, to set up an experiment where visitors to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery were participated in a test of unlabeled (and concealed) smells. This is where the vast majority of the 79 people interviewed identified old books as smelling kind of like chocolate.
"You tend to use familiar associations to describe smells when they are unlabelled," Bembibre says. "And also, the [volatile organic compounds] of chocolate and coffee seem to be very similar to that of books. But it was still surprising to see that reference come up again and again."
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