What causes the smell of old and new books?

Release time:2022-03-09 15:39:53    



Anyone who loves to read loves a library. The sight of thousands of books organized on shelves; the smell of old books mixed with new ones; the sound of a librarian silencing a noisy visitor—are all part of a book-lover’s dream.

Everyone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores. Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.As far as the smell of new books goes, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint specific compounds, for a number of reasons.


It’s likely that the bulk of ‘new book smell’ can be put down to three main sources: the paper itself (and the chemicals used in its manufacture), the inks used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the book-binding process.

Many other chemicals are also used – this is just a very rough overview. The upshot of this is that some of these chemicals can contribute, through their reactions or otherwise, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, the odours of which we can detect. The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. A number of different adhesives are used for book-binding, many of which are based on organic ‘co-polymers’ – large numbers of smaller molecules chemically chained together.As stated, differences in paper, adhesives, and inks used will influence the ‘new book smell’, so not all new books will smell the same – perhaps the reason why no research has yet attempted to definitively define the aroma.(

An aroma that has had much more research carried out around it, however, is that of old books. There’s a reason for this, as it’s been investigated as a potential method for assessing the condition of old books, by monitoring the concentrations of different organic compounds that they give off.Generally, it is the chemical breakdown of compounds within paper that leads to the production of ‘old book smell’.Paper contains, amongst other chemicals, cellulose, and smaller amounts of lignin – much less in more modern books than in books from more than one hundred years’s also responsible for old paper’s yellowing with age, as oxidation reactions cause it to break down into acids, which then help break down cellulose.

‘Old book smell’ is derived from this chemical degradation. Modern, high quality papers will undergo chemical processing to remove lignin, but breakdown of cellulose in the paper can still occur (albeit at a much slower rate) due to the presence of acids in the surroundings. These reactions, referred to generally as ‘acid hydrolysis’, produce a wide range of volatile organic compounds, many of which are likely to contribute to the smell of old books.

Other compounds given off have been marked as useful for determining the extent of degradation of old books. Furfural is one of these compounds,and its emission generally increasing with publication year relative to older books composed of cotton or linen paper.(

So, in conclusion, as with many aromas, we can’t point to one specific compound, or family of compounds, and categorically state that it’s the cause of the scent. However, we can identify potential contributors.

 In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. The Ministry of Environment reports that people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health from exposure to indoor air pollution may be greater than risks from outdoor pollution. People exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods are often those most susceptible to their effects.  

Numerous forms of indoor air pollution are possible in  public libraryhospitalschool, etc.

     In addition,book worms dwelling on books will shorten books' lifetime and result in skin troubles for people.Chemicals such as ammonia, formaldehyde, or xylene which are produced during book fabrication are well known as fatal material causing cancer.

For your health, LIVA Air sterilizer& deodorizer will be your best choice, which can eliminate the smell of old and new books,And chemicals such as ammonia, formaldehyde, or xylene. 

3 high-efficient filters :Remove dust,particles (PM2.5)Four sterilization modules (UV-A led 20 ea, TiO2 8 ea): Sterilize and deodorize the air flow for up to 6 times; UV-C lamps: Enhancing the sterilizing effects, and the pathogenic microorganisms cannot escape from this path; Deodorization: Create a comfortable environment by eliminating the unbearable odors.

1.Three steps of  filteration .Medium filter: Eliminates large particles, like dust, hair, pollen, etc.

Activated carbon filter: Removes harmful chemical pollutants and absorbs odor.

HEPA filter (H13): Traps microscopic dust(down to 0.3 microns)

Medium filter/Activated carbon filter/ HEPA filter (H13)

2.The high reactive hydroxyl radicals (-OH) is formed after the titanium dioxide(TiO2) photocatalyst is irradiated by the UV-A light. 

The high reactive hydroxyl radicals (-OH) initiates redox processes leading to the degradation/mineralization of adsorbed organic and inorganic compounds. 

Meanwhile, the reactive species will cause deleterious alterations in cellular structure, microbial inactivation and possible destruction. 

Polluted air(mixed with bacteria& odors)/Formation of -OH/ React with the cell wall/ Destroy the cell wall and form harmless water

3.The functions of the high reactive hydroxyl radicals (-OH): Sterilization& Deodorization

Fitted with four sterilization modules, the air flow will be sterilized and deodorized for as many as six times.

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