A smell of books, a book of smells
It starts off as a book; a few matte, grainy pages. A poem, some short essays.
Scents – Günter Grass
The moment I open one of those books
I read so avidly
as a boy still finding myself,
the smell of old paper still captures me;
for just as a dog leaves his scent
to mark the boundaries
of his territory,
securing his wide-spread realm,
so I am surrounded by books
to which odours cling;
to read is to absorb scents.
(trans. Breon Mitchell)
How did Geza Schoen translate the smell of paper into a perfume?
“Think of the million of pages turned so far in your life, from newspapers, books, magazines, and catalogues. What attributes come to mind to describe the olfactory sensation of this basic material? How about: dry, fatty, pungent, chemical and linoleum. Now, turn it all into a perfume.”
And then the bottle. In the book. Like a secret. A scent to be read. Pages to be smelled.
The smell of a book isn’t limited to one paper scent, of course.
Remember Rachel Morrison, senior library assistant at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art Library: readinginterrupted.com/nosyreaders. She is categorizing all different books smells from “very smoky, campfire, fireplace” to “antique store, old wooden furniture” to “cloves, cigar.”
…. Open your book, close your eyes, inhale….