I’m an habitual book sniffer

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…

2 thoughts on “I’m an habitual book sniffer

  1. A fascinating, albeit trivial, phenomenon finally explained!!It’s good to know I am part of a support group. I always thought I was some kind of odd ball in this respect. ):

    Seriously, I often wonder why and to what degree the odor of a particular book versus another in a large bookstore or library versus another influences my choice of book. I mean, between two books both of which I’m about equally interested in about, say philosophy of science, I honestly suspect that odor and color and other such factors may be a final, unconscious deciding factor. Anyway, something to think about.

  2. You know those Life books published in the 50s? The educational ones, usually on some medical topic? Those smell the best. I was surrounded by them in elementry school (a Montessori school) and I still LOVE the smell of 50’s hardcovers. Oooooooooohhh.

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