Infographic Explains the Science Behind "Old Book Smell"

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Book lovers insist there’s nothing quite like the smell of an old book, and it turns out there’s a scientific explanation behind it.

Andy Brunning, a British chemistry teacher, runs a blog where he posts infographics on the science behind everyday chemical reactions. He recently released one explaining what causes that “weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores.”

Brunning writes on his blog that “new book smell” can be attributed to the scents from the paper itself, the newly-printed ink and the still-fresh adhesives from the book-binding process. His explanation of the science behind what causes the smell to change over time gets into nitty-gritty technicalities, but the general idea is that oxidation reactions cause chemical compounds in the paper and the ink to break down over time. This causes the pages to yellow and the book to develop a particular mix of aromas that we’ve come to identify as “old book smell.” Check out Brunning’s full explanation below:


Apparently, love for the old book smell is so universal that you can buy it in perfume form. Brunning links to this website, where you can purchase the aroma of your favorite, tattered novel.

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