Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, June 19

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« Revolving and Evolving: Poetry, Performance and Community Bookmarks »

Book Club Fri Apr 20 2012

That Old Book Smell Explained...By Science!

It's never occurred to me to ask why old books smell like old books. I associate that lovely, musty, and somewhat addictive smell with age and therefore seek little more explanation. The logic stands; they're old, so they smell. Apparently, however, there is a deeply scientific explanation for the scent, and it has to do with the reactions that take place amongst the many chemicals used in the book making process.

This article from the Atlantic , which includes an informative video, brought to us by AbeBooks, explains the reactions with some (fairly goofy) pop-up graphics.

I suspect that Anthony Grafton, covered in Book Club last week, might have something to say about the powerful sensory reaction that the scent of an old book, or an entire shop full of them, can conjure. The E-book surely has some appeal, but pleasantly olfactive it is not.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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