Where does the smell of old books come from?

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Who doesn’t love the smell of old books?  Apparently all you need is benzaldehyde, vanillin and 2-ethyl hexanol!  Should be easy enough…


Where Does The Smell of Old Books Come From? | IFLScience.

Old books have a distinctive smell that can make any book lover’s heart melt. Matija Strlic of University College London described it to The Telegraph as “a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.”

The secret to the scent is within the hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that make up the book’s paper pages, ink, and adhesive. Over time, the VOCs break down, releasing the chemicals into the air that are picked up by our noses. New books also have a trademark aroma, but it isn’t quite as developed as their older counterparts. Additionally, different materials used in manufacturing the book will alter the VOC profile.

Compound Chemistry reports that hints of almond are created by benzaldehyde, while vanillin emits notes of vanilla. Sweet smells come from toluene and ethyl benzene, and 2-ethyl hexanol produces a light floral fragrance. Additionally, the book can also retain some odors it has been exposed to during its history, such as smoke, water damage, or pressed flowers between the pages.

– from iflscience!


 

 

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