From The Guardian:
Chemists will analyse the complex mix of gases released by books at Cambridge University’s library, helping them to gauge which titles are most at risk of decaying. The research is designed to help conservators at libraries to spot which books are most in need of preservation.
When books start to decompose, the decaying pages release chemicals, including volatile acids, which make the books decay even faster. “The same emissions cause the musty smell beloved of habitual ‘book sniffers’,” a university spokeswoman said.
The scientists will analyse air samples from different parts of the library to work out how different storage conditions affect the speed at which books decay. The project will help identify the best environments for regularly used books and how best to store rarer reference tomes.
I love the smell of old Penguin paperbacks, and sometimes, when I’m holding one, I can’t resist putting it up to my nose. Does that make me a “habitual book sniffer”? I suppose it does. But I think I’ve got my habit under control, and at least I’ve admitted it to myself, and to you. That’s the first step to recovery…