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Books And The Five Senses - Smell

Part 4

· Senses,Reading,Fine Books,Collecting,Smell

Books and the Sense of Smell

Today, I will start with the good, followed by the bad and then the unreal.

There is nothing like walking into a room dedicated to books or to opening a bookcase that has not been opened for a while. Aroma is too strong a word but there is a scent of leather, cloth, paper, glue, ink that is worth stopping in your tracks and taking a deep breath. A bookish scent bar none. The older the books and more leather the better. The bookcases themselves add to the experience if they contain the more exotic walnuts and mahoganies.

Glenda fondly remembers the first day of school back in gradeschool when she was given her books for the new schoolyear. She would open each book and enjoy the scent of each one - new or used. When she mentioned that to me, I immediately recalled those events - but I much preferred the smell of a fresh, never opened before schoolbook. No names, no doodlings and no mustaches drawn on historical figures.

Each book will have its own traces of scent however faint. You might notice it as you move from one book to another. I find that paperbacks from the 50's and 60's have a distinct scent - probably driven by the high acidic papers used in their manufacture. Not unpleasant but distinctive.

I remember a few years ago when the local Chronicle Herald changed their inks! It was a nasal invasion. Distinctive taken to a higher degree!

Now for the bad! Have you ever opened a book, or even a box of books, that have sat in a damp basement for a prolonged period of time? Musty, mildewy and, frankly, even gagging to the adventurous person going where no one has gone for a long, long time. It is decidedly unpleasant, and I have stopped buying such volumes. I have bought them in the past and used Lysol spray and other chemicals to fight the decay. It is a losing battle. Prevention is worth its weight in value of great books that have been allowed to decay. Happens all the time! I have declined books that otherwise would be very saleable due to adverse conditions such as odour.

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Now for the unreal - volumes that are deliberately made to smell! The infamous "scratch and sniff" books and magazines that have been produced for decades. I remember back when I used to read books every evening to Adrienne and Gregory prior to bedtime and lights outs. In the rotation was a scratch and sniff book that was mostly gross except for the wonderful scent of orange when one scratched, at least twice, the micro-encapsulated particles resting on the picture of a yummy looking orange.

And do you remember (for the older readers) those fashion magazines for both men and women back in the latter part of the twentieth century full of infused perfumes and colognes? All you had to do was open the magazine and you were engulfed. And magazines that had advertisements for Febreeze and Airwick.

For sure - the sense of smell plays a role in the world of books.

Next week - Books and the Sense of Hearing.