Monday, May 14, 2012

The Aroma of Old Books

Peter Sieruta of has a public Facebook presence (be his friend!), where today he posted this lovely passage:

I am currently cataloging a collection of books published in the mid-twentieth century and I can't stop sniffing them! Every time I open one of these volumes, I'm enveloped by the spicy scent of old paper, the sharp tang of ink, and just the faintest whiff of mildew and dust.
Granted, mildew isn't anyone's favorite aroma (when was the last time you saw Mildew Perfume at the fragrance counter?) but just a trace of it -- mixed with old paper and ink and cracked leather and dried glue -- puts me in mind of dusty used bookstores...a forgotten corner of a library...or boxes of old children's books stored away in an attic or basement waiting for the grandkids to discover.
Today, every time I opened one of these volumes, I found myself sticking my face down into the inside margins -- known as the gutter -- and breathing deep. And I was struck again by how perfectly shaped books are. No matter how wide your cheeks, or how narrow your nose, everyone's face fits perfectly with the pages of an open book. All you have to do is adjust the covers a bit.
Try sticking your head in a Kindle.
I love the smell of old books, too, even the whiff of mildew, and this brought it all back. Thanks, Peter!


Ms Sparrow said...

Years ago, back in my small hometown, they tore down the old Carnegie Library and built a brand new one. I was struck by that very fact. The pristine new building with its metal shelves did not smell like a library. I remember writing a piece at the time bemoaning the loss of ambiance.

AnneB said...

lovely. everything about old books makes me happy. it's like comfort food. or the smell of coffee in the morning.

Walter H. said...

Try sticking your head in a Kindle - or iPad for that matter. Though I honestly do read more now that I have an iPad, it truly isn't the same...