Book Love

These Perfumes Smell Just like Old Books

You’re in a used bookstore and uncover a dusty novel. You crack it open and lean in, inhaling deeply. Ahhh…that book smell. It’s intoxicating. Now what if I told you that you could wear it as a scent, or mist it on your clothes? Yep, that’s right—there are perfumes that mimic the smell of old books.

One of them is called Dead Writers: developed by Sweet Tea Apothecary, the scent is a blend of black tea, vetiver, clove, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, and tobacco. Sweet Tea Apothecary also carries other unique scents, including their Historical Gents and Historical Ladies lines. The perfumes are inspired by famous figures of times past, like Beatrix Potter, Marie Antoinette, King Henry VIII and Archibald Menzies.

Dead Writers Perfume

via Sweet Tea Apothecary

Another scent is Paperback by Demeter, a fragrance company known for their unconventional, highly specific scents. The cologne spray is described as “sweet and lovely with just a touch of the musty smell of aged paper…with a sprinkling of violets and a dash of tasteful potpourri.”

Demeter's Paperback

via Demeter

There’s also Book by Commodity Goods, an “exciting mixture of Spicy Cucumber and Torchwood that tips its hat to the fellow Hemingways and Fitzgeralds of the world.” They also have one called Paper, a lighter scent that is described as an “invisible chameleon.”

Book Perfume

via Commodity Goods

And then there’s In The Library by CB I Hate Perfume, which gets into the nitty gritty of bookish smells—it even aims to capture the glues and leathers of different bindings.

The story behind the scent tells it best: “…to an avid reader and collector like myself, these smells are as magical as the bouquet of a great wine is to a connoisseur—a sort of literary terroir. These scents mean Excitement, Adventure, Discovery, Enlightenment and Knowledge. Of course my deep love of reading is exactly what lead me in the first place to begin capturing the scent of books and of the libraries where they live. That’s what this perfume is all about.”

In The Library

via CB I Hate Perfume

So why exactly do books take on that unmistakable scent over time? It all comes down to the chemical—the cellulose and lignin in paper gradually breaks down, releasing certain volatile compounds like toluene, vanillin, and benzaldehyde, which just so happen to smell amazing. This graphic from Compound Image explains it all:

The Aroma of Books

So, would you buy any of these perfumes? Or are you happy just knowing they exist?

Featured image by @irenekly via Instagram

Jenna Homen

Content and Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found painting, cooking, camping, or petting her dog Harley. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
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7 Comments

  • Meg May 17, 2016 at 11:38 am

    You missed Paper Passion.

    Reply

  • Judy H. May 20, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    While there is nothing I love more than devouring the shelves of an old bookstore; breathing deeply the scent of old pages, pipe tobacco, old glue, the inside of an old cabinet perhaps an old trunk in an attic – I do not wish to fragrance myself with those smells, odors or scents.
    How shameful would I be if a man nuzzled my neck, pulled away quickly, looked at me curiously and said, “you smell of an old bookstore”.

    Reply

  • Sarah Melling May 22, 2016 at 7:59 am

    As a lover of “real” books (I’ve even done drawings of stacks of my faves) this makes me wonder if the scent is the real reason some of us can’t get attached to e-books. Maybe they’ll need to work THAT into the design of the next generation of e-readers.

    Reply

  • Jackie Benefraim May 23, 2016 at 9:03 am

    You left out Paper Passion by Steidl for *Wallpaper.

    Reply

  • Arin April 29, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    I just tried Book from Sephora. DO NOT DO IT. I don’t smell like books I smell like burnt fruit and old lady house.

    Reply

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