What I am going to talk about today is something that I find very therapeutic. And I am sure many people who love reading will identify with this, while many others may find it weird.
Have you ever visited an old book store or a library and immediately felt a sense of calmness come over you? At bookstores, do you subconsciously smell a book as you read the synopsis while you make a decision if it is the right one for you? Do you spend extra time just lingering near the bookshelves?
If your answer is sheepish “yes”, don’t worry – I am guilty of all these too. And it seems that we are not alone! Many bookworms across the world love the smell of old books and there appears to be a term for this.
Bibliosmia – “it is the smell and aroma of good and old books”.
Scientifically, as books age, they begin to break down as a normal reaction. The ink, wood, glue, etc., react with each other as they age and the smell evolves over time. That is why new books smell different from old ones.
However, my bookworm self would like to believe that one becomes a Bibliosmiac because of a soul-connect with books.
From the age of 6 years or so, I used to accompany my father or my cousin as they went to pick up books from the local library. While they chose their books, I would sit on some cushions and devour whatever comics were available. In school, I spent much of the break time in the library, and ‘library period’ was something I eagerly looked forward to where I could get a good 45 mins with the books. And because I grew up within the beautiful IISc campus, I also had access to the most wonderfully stocked JRD Tata Memorial Library and spent hours there, sometimes even taking my homework there to complete. As responsibilities of work and married life increased, I continued to read every day though my visits to the library decreased. I started collecting books and dedicated a nook at home to start a collection of my own. This became my happy space. Immaterial of whatever stress I had during the day and how foul my mood was, once I entered my book nook I felt a sense of peace and that everything would be all right in my world.
In fact, when I moved to an apartment, I had more than 1000 books of my own. The limited space in the apartment gave me an idea to start a community library. I quickly hired the space that was available within the clubhouse and put my books to good use. And I went on one of the best shopping sprees of my life stocking up the library!
Because there was a lack of space to house the large number of books properly at home, my husband gifted me Kindle. I reluctantly started reading on the Kindle. Though I sorely missed the smell and feel of books, I slowly made the transition because of the convenience it brought. I could read in bed without disturbing my dog and my husband with the nightlight. I could store multiple books and access them whenever I wanted. And it was convenient to carry around as I am rarely without a book when I go out and know I will have some time on my hands.
So now I still have a bookshelf with a few volumes that I love to read often and gifts that receive from friends. I have stored the books that I know I would not part with ever (and may actually bequeath them in my will when I die) safely in a box. From time to time, I visit these to touch and feel them, to read parts that I love, to remember my journey with each of them, and to just smell them and feel euphoric. I have this very goofy smile on my face whenever I open the box because I know I am feeding my soul and will be rejuvenated.
Are you a Bibliosmiac like me and love the smell of books? What memories does this evoke in you? Or do you hate the smell or are your just indifferent to it?