Why Do Old Books Smell So Good?

Originally published here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/why-do-old-books-smell-so-good

E-readers might be convenient, but they’ll never have that comforting old book smell. It turns out that the smell of old books is due to the organic materials in books (like cellulose from wood pulp) reacting with light, heat and water, and over time releasing volatile organic compounds or VOCs. What VOCs are released depends on how the book was made and stored, but common scents are toluene or ethylbenzene, which smell sweet, benzaldehyde or furfural, which smell almond-like, or vanillin, which smells like- you guessed it- vanilla. Book VOCs are even being used to date old books, as the rate at which they break down can be used to determine the age of some old tomes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s