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Author Topic: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?  (Read 8268 times)

paul.fr

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having recently finished reading and old copy of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, not only was i again impressed at how great the Chronicles are, i noticed that the book had a musky smell.

I have noticed this before with old books, what is the smell and what causes it?

NB: if you have not read the Chronicles i would highly reccomed them.
« Last Edit: 04/03/2008 23:41:30 by chris »


 

Offline JimBob

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Re: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #1 on: 26/03/2007 06:32:52 »
Good Morning Paul,

I agree with you about the Chronicles - Just completed a re-read myself after 15 or so years from the first. Haven't got a clue as to the musty smell but then I read these this time in e-book format. It is may be due to the breakdown of the acid paper used. The Family Bible that was printed on non-acid paper over 100 years ago didn't have that smell.

(Why the heck are you up so darned early? I know it is light there because the higher latitude but this is still a ridiculous hour for anyone to rise. I can't do it, honestly. I am a total night person. Your uncivilized!)
 

paul.fr

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Re: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #2 on: 26/03/2007 06:49:30 »
Good Morning Paul,

I agree with you about the Chronicles - Just completed a re-read myself after 15 or so years from the first. Haven't got a clue as to the musty smell but then I read these this time in e-book format. It is may be due to the breakdown of the acid paper used. The Family Bible that was printed on non-acid paper over 100 years ago didn't have that smell.

(Why the heck are you up so darned early? I know it is light there because the higher latitude but this is still a ridiculous hour for anyone to rise. I can't do it, honestly. I am a total night person. Your uncivilized!)


Morning, Jimbob.

I never thought about the breakdown of acid. i was thinking some sort of mould!

e-book format, eh. i may have to get that version and read it on my phone.
 

Offline eric l

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Re: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #3 on: 26/03/2007 09:04:25 »
Actually it is not the acid that is broken down (the acid used was - and is - aluminiumsulphate, also known as "paper maker's alum) but the lignin and some of the resin that are slowly broken down by the acid.
Alum is used for fixating the resin (it is the Al-ion that performs the trick), and the resin is used to make paper more waterresistant.  At one stage, alumiumsulphate was replaced by alumiumtriformiate for making "neutral" paper, but this switch is rather expensive.
The use of alum and resin became standard in around the middle of the 19th century.  Before that, water resistance was obtained by using animal glue (from bones).  Both the "rags and bones" that were collected were mainly for the paper industry.
 

Offline Karen W.

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Re: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #4 on: 26/03/2007 09:14:10 »
My mother always layered newspapers between the pages and packed the book in a box with wadded up newspaper under the book and on top of the book and sealed the box for a few weeks then she would remove the book and discard the paper and if the odor was not gone she would do it again. she did this with old luggage that had that musty old book old paper smell! It worked for the most part, I do not know why. she said it had to do with the ink! Who knows, but you might try it and see if it helps!
« Last Edit: 17/02/2008 23:48:59 by Karen W. »
 

Offline that mad man

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Re: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #5 on: 19/04/2007 16:06:37 »
Time to get the books out and have a re read of the Chronicles.

I thought that it may be that smoking was very popular several years ago, having a fag while reading maybe?

Bee
 

paul.fr

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Re: What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #6 on: 16/02/2008 15:55:55 »
Time to get the books out and have a re read of the Chronicles.

I thought that it may be that smoking was very popular several years ago, having a fag while reading maybe?

Bee


Bee,

the second book of the third and final Chronicles came out a month or so ago...well worth reading.
 

lyner

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #7 on: 13/05/2008 14:46:04 »
I took up the recommendation to read the Covenant books; I have read the first trilogy and then the following three (god are there more?)
Didn't think a lot of the first three - a bit too derivative for me and TC was too self obsessed to be a sympathetic character. But the very human bit about the rape and other adult matters makes the story better than the Tolkein books - it's a wonder any of his Middle Earth races survived. The second volume of three was much improved by the introduction of a very convincing woman character who made it all come together very well. I was very chuffed to have predicted the character Vain's part in it.
The Author certainly gets ten out of ten for use of thesaurus.

The books were new from Amazon and didn't smell! In fact the paper was particularly good quality compared with what you normally get in paperbacks.
 

paul.fr

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #8 on: 13/05/2008 15:15:59 »
I took up the recommendation to read the Covenant books; I have read the first trilogy and then the following three (god are there more?)
Didn't think a lot of the first three - a bit too derivative for me and TC was too self obsessed to be a sympathetic character. But the very human bit about the rape and other adult matters makes the story better than the Tolkein books - it's a wonder any of his Middle Earth races survived. The second volume of three was much improved by the introduction of a very convincing woman character who made it all come together very well. I was very chuffed to have predicted the character Vain's part in it.
The Author certainly gets ten out of ten for use of thesaurus.

The books were new from Amazon and didn't smell! In fact the paper was particularly good quality compared with what you normally get in paperbacks.

There is one last, and final trilogy. Although "we" are still waiting for the last book to be written.

I think the first trilogy was not intended to make TC a heroic figure you could trust, believe in or actually be to bothered about. But i found the story gripping, and wnated to know how he would deal with the situations that confrunted him.

I also thought the second trilogy was superior to the first, but wait for it...the third is even better.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #9 on: 13/05/2008 20:00:56 »
Yes yes, all very good, but what did it smell like?
 

lyner

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #10 on: 14/05/2008 23:35:14 »
Quote
I also thought the second trilogy was superior to the first, but wait for it...the third is even better.
As they say, these days, in politics; "Bring it on".
(Smell or no smell).
 

Offline NobodySavedMe

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #11 on: 16/05/2008 22:05:20 »
having recently finished reading and old copy of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, not only was i again impressed at how great the Chronicles are, i noticed that the book had a musky smell.

I have noticed this before with old books, what is the smell and what causes it?

NB: if you have not read the Chronicles i would highly reccomed them.

That is one of the worst series ever and unreadable.The books furthermore are printed on a particularly disgusting version of paper which stinks even when new.

A horrible stench which makes you queasy just holding the book.

I could not get past even 8 pages of this authors turgid prose.It was so horrible.Glancing through the book made me ill and nauseaus.


I have read numerous other books but this author's books and prose is dreadfull and is the worst ever in my opinion.The cheap paper makes me sick.
 

paul.fr

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #12 on: 16/05/2008 22:23:01 »
was page 8 when he started using 'big words'?

did mummy struggle to read it to you at bedtime? maybe you should stick to books for your age, the cat in the hat, perhaps
 

lyner

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #13 on: 17/05/2008 10:22:17 »
Be fair, NSM has a point. Donaldson never uses a common word if he can find an alternative. That is a weakness rather than a strength of a lot of his writing. I found that it actually spoiled some of the narrative. It seemed like showing off.
My books don't smell, actually.
 

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What causes the characteristic smell of old books?
« Reply #13 on: 17/05/2008 10:22:17 »

 

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