Most long-time genealogists know the smell of old books. Now a new study in the journal Heritage Science, claims that the odors of the past are part of our “cultural heritage.”
Old books (specifically the historic paper and other materials used) give off unique moldy or sweetly musty scents that readers and history buffs know intimately and find pleasurable.
Reading a digital image of an old book on Google Books just isn’t the same!
Bembibre and Strlič, both researchers at the University College London’s (UCL) Institute for Sustainable Heritage, have been analyzing the chemical signature of many old items, including books. One benefit of the study could be to help preserve old books, which emit different odors based on where they’ve been (whether they circulated widely or sat on a shelf), and when and how they were printed. Understanding a book’s individual smell profile could help conservators more accurately diagnose various deterioration problems.