The scent of a book is always so comforting. So, what is it that we are inhaling, every time we sniff onto those pages. I did a bit of digging-in and here’s what I found.

I don’t know why the scent of a book is so comforting. Is it because it transports me to a different world or is it because it reminds me of old stories. What it is about the fragrance that enthrals my olfactory senses as I flip through the pages of my constant companion.

I have heard people say that a book activates all your senses but for the sense of smell. I think they don’t take the fragrance of those pages into consideration? Won’t it be right to say that books activate the sense of smell too? Yes, yes… In a different way, off course.

So, what do books smell like?

I think books smell like serenity…, they smell like uh… comfort, they smell like uh…huh… home.

Do you know that the smell of the book has a name too?

Yes, its “bibliosmia.”

Bibliosmia (n.) the smell or aroma of a good book.

Did you know that? Well, I didn’t until yesterday.  


Science behind the Scent

So that day when I was looking for an answer. I was stuck in a web of information on this world wide web. Various articles flooded and threw some scientific words at me. Terms like chemicals, VOC’s, acidic, PH balance and what not. I couldn’t understand that in much detail but here’s what I got from my limited understanding.

To sum it up, I will say books are made up of certain chemicals along with paper, cardboards, adhesives and many more things. All these, when react with each other and the atmosphere, undergo a chemical reaction. This in turn causes the distinct fragrance of a book. Along with the change in its look and feel.

History of the Scent

A very long time ago, that is in the early19th century paper was made of mainly cotton and linen rags. Then in the late 19th century it started being manufactured by wood pulp. That’s why there’s a difference in the fragrance of books of different generations. Nowadays paper is made by using wood and chemicals like sodium hydroxide.

There’s much more to it. I came to know that scholars have been trying to study the age of a book by its smell. Never knew that the sniff I took for granted was serious business. Fascinating, right?

What are we Inhaling

Experts say that books have different fragrances like woody, misty, chocolaty, earthy, sweet and more.  Along with what goes into the making of a book, how a book is stored also contributes to its essence. Books kept at different places feel different to our olfactory senses.  A book surrounded by wood will have a distinct scent as compared to a book stored in a humid atmosphere.

No two books have the exact same smell. As each book ages in its own way as per its atmosphere. Somewhat like humans, right? Sounds perfect? But there is some bad news, scientists say sniffing onto the books may not be good for your health. As it makes us inhale moulds and harmful growths on it. But I still can’t stop loving that smell.

My perception

So, when we are inhaling the essence of a book, we are actually smelling the book’s chemical reaction in respect to its atmosphere. Or let me put it this way when we are sniffing a book, we are breathing in its history, the geographical distances the book has covered, the years the book has seen. Also, the hands the book have been in. What if the previous owner spilled some tea on it. Yes, books remember everything. Well, I will go with my interpretation, it sounds poetic 😊

PS: So, as it’s not good for health do you think we should stop sniffing onto our companion? Will you?

I won’t.

To be precise I can’t.

Come on it’s a book I am sniffing onto not marijuana.