"I don’t like reading ebooks because I just love the way old books smell." If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one, Emily Books would be a lot closer to its goal of eventually publishing all our editions in physical as well as ebook format! Alas, no nickels. But I do have some solutions for people who fetishize the smell of old libraries, so they can contentedly sniff their wrists as they read our latest pick on their phones, iPads, nooks or kindles.
Via my favorite book of all time, Perfumes: The Guide, I learned that old books smell like vanilla because lignin, which is in wood and paper, is closely related to vanillin. Old books smell like the light cold inedible aspect of vanilla, plus dustiness, sourness of glue in their bindings, maybe leather, maybe whatever other smells are present in the bookstore/library (stale cigs, recirculated air, cat, etc.) If you have a few bucks you can purchase the first part (just lignin). If you’re really loaded, you can smell like the basement of the Strand!
1. Love&Toast “Paper Flower" perfume ($28) and hand creme ($9)
“Waterlily, Dewberry, Rose, Ylang ylang” are the notes this perfume claims to contain but I only smell a big dose of papery vanilla, maybe slight ylang but in a wilted, decomposing way that adds to the rotting-paper impression. In other words: GREAT and also a bargain.
2. Atelier Cologne Vanille Incensée (30ml, $75)
I was deceived by this faux ami — “incensée” means “crazy” (colloquially, in positive sense, like “that’s so CRAZY!”) and not, as I’d thought, “vanilla incense.” Good, though, because vanilla incense smells like a cab. This scent is not crazy at all unless you find the stacks of a library conducive to wildness.
To me it smells exactly like the Pratt stacks in over-air-conditioned summertime. I.e. perfect.
3. CB I Hate Perfume “In The Library,” $17/2ml, $120 15ml
This perfume is serious about all the other things in an old book besides paper; it even has some of the sourness of glue and the mustiness of old leather. It smells like a book you find inside of a purse you bought at a thriftstore. I have the same problem with it I have with a lot of CB smells which is that you smell them and you’re like “yup.” and then have no desire to continue smelling them. But for evoking an old book most straightforwardly, this is the clear winner. Perhaps a 2ml of it should be mailed to each of our subscribers.