A Scientific Explanation for Your Urge to Sniff Old Books

What gives old books their distinct smell? It seems to lie within their composition, specifically how the substances within the paper decompose. After a shift towards manufacturing cheaper paper from wood pulp fibres, the ‘new’ paper had more lignin, a substance that breaks down into acid when it oxidises. These acids eat away at the paper, turning it yellow and producing volatile organic compounds that make up the iconic smell of old books. Read full article here


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