A detailed color wheel breaks down the old book smell

Word cloud of old book smell descriptors
Word cloud of book smell descriptors collected from visitors to the Birmingham Museum / Image: Heritage Science

Where does the scent of old and new books come from? We rounded up the facts about book smell some time ago, but the recently published research article gives new light (or we should rather say “flavor”) to the chemistry of the most addictive scent in the world.

A group of scientists at Institute for Sustainable Heritage (University College London) conducted an experiment to find and analyze the words used to describe the smell of the aged book.

The researchers asked 79 visitors of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to name the unlabelled smells that were presented to them. One of the eight tested odors was a “historic book smell.”

The word cloud you see above collects the most common descriptions of the book smell. The word “chocolate” was picked by a majority of respondents. It’s followed by “coffee,” and “old.” As you see, the descriptions are quite far from the “official” book smell descriptors: vanilla and newly cut grass.

An outcome of the research is Historic Paper Odour Wheel, a novel tool that can help an untrained nose identify an aroma and associate it with the chemical causing it.

The wheel contains eight main categories – they are placed inside the inner circle. The descriptors are grouped on the middle lever. The outer circle is reserved for the likely chemical compound causing the smell.

Click or tap the image to see it enlarged.

Color wheel of old book odours

Via Mental Floss.

More to explore:

Tips and tricks

Grab image text in Google Keep

Use Google Keep to collect and digitize quotes from print books

In this short post you’ll learn how to grab text from print books and make it editable using a free Google Keep app.

The 2017 Apple iPad 9.7-inch

The 2017 iPad models – tech specs, comparisons, reviews, and more

Tech specs, reviews, comparisons, and pictures of the mid-range iPad 9.7 released in 2017. We’ll still have to wait for the 2017 iPad Pro 10.5.

Gift ideas

Best Harry Potter gifts and accessories - full size

27 magical Harry Potter gifts and accessories

Check out the list of the most magical Harry Potter gifts – from jewelry to personal items, to posters and wall art, to scented candles, to clothing.

Best book gifts from Amazon Handmade

12 best book gift ideas from Amazon Handmade

Amazon Handmade is an Etsy-like store with unique handcrafted goods. In this list you’ll see the best gifts for book lovers.

Best 50

Best iPad cases sleeves and accessories

50 best iPad cases and accessories to buy in 2017

An updated overview of the best iPad cases and accessories from around the web. Cases for iPad 9.7 (2017), iPad Mini, and iPad Pro, as well as older iPad models.

Best Kobo cases and accessories

50 best Kobo cases, sleeves, and accessories for 2017

An updated list of the best Kobo case covers, sleeves, and accessories. Kobo Aura One, Aura Edition 2, Aura H2O, Mini, Glo HD, Touch 2.0.

Let's connect

Share a comment

If you want to discuss the topic or ask a question, please share this post on social media. Make sure to mention us!

You can also contact us directly. Find more details here.

Get free updates via email

Powered by MailChimp
You'll receive email digests on Fridays at 2pm GMT / 10am EST.