Why We Love the Aroma of Old Books?

Why We Love the Aroma of Old Books?

Why we love the aroma of old books?

How many of us love to walk into a public library or an old book shop and get the instant impression of throw back sensations or maybe the feelings associated with the scent of old books that have been sitting on our shelf at home? The smell is not colourful, not bright, not full bodied, not loud in any way. It’s linear, flat, matt, quiet but airy.  A wonderful creation of yellowing pages.

Some generations that literary grew up  “with books” they would recognise that smell immediately. The books are everywhere around us, just like their aroma. Used and abused, loved and not so loved but for all those years the scent has lived in our memorise as the smells re-ignite memories both good and bad. So sometimes it can be brought up and appreciated over and over again.

Neurologists think that smells trigger memories because the olfactory nerve, which carries messages from the nostrils to the brain, and is located very close to the amygdala and hippocampus, the areas of the brain connected to our emotional memory.

Dr John McGann, author of the paper published in the journal Science, suggested the results will transform the way neurologists think about smell. He said scientists had previously assumed that sensory organs, including the eyes, nose and ears, are simply detectors, and that the brain works out what the messages mean. In the old model the eye is like a camera, the ear like a microphone, the nose like a chemistry lab, and the job of the brain is to analyse all this information,’ Dr McGann said.

The new research, however, suggests that smell sensors work independently of the brain.

Back to the “Why We Love the smell of old books”. A very interesting and successful collaboration connecting perfumer Geza Schoen and the famous fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, has been established. It has resulted in a new fragrance ideal for fans of books! The new and unique perfume Paper Passion was created with the intention to reinterpret the characteristic scent of freshly printed books while accentuating passion for paper and combining several arts – literature, design and perfumery.

The perfumer succeeds with the help of four or five ingredients including ethyl linoleate and woody components to accentuate dry wood chord in the composition. Geza Schoen manages with this particular fragrance to place his vision of simplicity!

Collaboration on the creation of the “scent of fresh books” fragrance as spiced successfully by designer Karl Lagerfeld who created the outer carton and named it PAPER PASSION. Lagerfeld also came up with the idea for the outer packaging that is book-shaped and it opens like a book.

The scent of Paper Passion is an oddly subtle yet distinct scent. Congrats to the Geza and Karl but how about old books or odour of a musty-dusty library?  Or maybe cocoa, wood, rusks – every book has own distinctive smell. And each smell says something about how and when it was made, and where it has been. I have no words to describe this but I am sure it is an old factory treat. And somehow it’s comforting to know that, as long as there are books, especially musty ex-library books, this smell will linger on. So, what’s your smell?

“Engraved” by Anna Howcroft, founder of Hellobooks.

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