That Old Book Smell Explained

October 29, 2021 | 1 book mentioned

Lit Hub spotlights Jude Stewart’s illuminating new book, Revelations in Air, which reveals why we are all so drawn to that “old book smell” and breaks down the chemical reactions involved in producing the scent.

“The smell of old books stems from their slow chemical decomposition,” Stewart says, “Books are largely paper, and paper is largely plants. But the materials from which books are made have shifted over the centuries—and those shifts, in turn, have influenced how different generations of books, smell.”

She also provides readers with a scientific explanation of how a book’s scent adapts to and blends with both the scent of the room in which it is placed and the people who occupy it.

is an assistant editor at The Millions. She is a graduate of the Inkluded Academy 2021, a summer publishing course for graduates from BIPOC communities, and works as a freelance writer and uploading specialist.

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