… open your book, close your eyes, inhale….

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….

68 thoughts on “… open your book, close your eyes, inhale….

  1. Che bello! Today I am moving to Berlin to a fantastic perfume lab! A book, Berlin guide with me. Smells… Lonely planet!! Wish u a lovely weekend xxx

  2. I love this special blog of yours….. The perfume of books evokes so many memories in each of us…. This text of Gunter Grass is very special indeed! And I didn’t know they made a perfume called Paper Passion….I wonder how it smells on the skin! I also like the words of
    Lagarfeld “the silent smell of paper”
    Great piece!

  3. I love the smell of paper, too, and the whiff that comes when you open a book – old or new – for the first time. I like the concept of this, but since I’m still completely tied to paper books, don’t feel the need to have the scent bottled up.

    • I know, it’s so delightful to open that book and inhale that smell, isn’t it? For some reason, I didn’t see the perfume as restricting the scent but as capturing the moment so you could take it with you, liberating it in a way so you could have the moment of opening the book for the first time with you all day (I’m going to try it today and see what if that’s the experience!).

  4. This is why I like old book stores or used books. I find once a book hits my own shelves it loses its characteristic scent from whence it came. Either that or I am losing my olfactory sense. Great post, Letizia. Love the title.

    • Thank you, Lynne!
      You’re right, now that I think about it, the odor of the store where the book came from often gets lost somehow. But the book itself, the pages often retain an individual smell, depending on the type of book. how interesting – I had never thought of that. There are many layers to this!

  5. What a great idea, Letizia! I love the smell of books. I see from a previous comment you received this as a gift – I might get one for my daughter for Christmas 😀

  6. You find the coolest stuff about books! I’m always amazed how in sync we are with our bookish sentiments. Technology may provide ease in reading, but it can never capture the scent. Nicely done!

  7. Gorgeous evocative post Letizia… I never know which I love best… the smell of libraries, or the smell of a stationery shop with all that gorgeous blank paper and dozens of different pens and pencils waiting to be used….but that’s another story !!!

    • Thank you, Valerie! And it’s so true, the smell of a stationary store is so delightful as well! One can spend hours in a stationary store, right? One of my favorite scents is a sharpened pencil…..

    • Thanks!

      And there are so many different paper smells, as everyone is pointing out- the musty bookstore, the library paper paste, the newer books, etc.

  8. ‘To read is to absorb scents’! How wonderful. Where can I find this perfume?
    This also makes me realise that I’ve been reading on my ipad recently, and my next read has to be the real thing, otherwise I shall lose my sense of smell!

    • Isn’t that a great line? I love it too.

      Yes, read some paperbacks or just go to your local library and inhale deeply to get a whole mix of paperback scents!

    • I know how much you love a secondhand book. They have such a unique smell about them, don’t they? Plus, it’s such fun to imagine the life they’ve led before… who the various owners were, etc. Perhaps some of the Greek beach smells will become a part of this one!

  9. That is awesome! Fragrances in books…always brings to mind Jean-Baptiste of serial killer fame in Perfume. You have a good eye for awesome things…you have me in a book sniffing mood now!

  10. I love this post, Letizia. There is an erotic and exotic smell, for me, about a library or book store or even Amazon, because I know that I can enter any world of my choosing just by opening the pages,

    • The physicality of reading is definitely sensual and, you’re so right, even Amazon and an e-reader can be seductive as we lose ourselves in the world of reading – so well put, Dannie.

    • Thank you so much for thinking of me – you are so sweet! I don’t write about awards anymore, but I am very very touched and can’t wait to check out the other nominated blogs!

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