It is a fact universally acknowledged that the reading of books does not involve the eyes alone, nor just the brain, though both are of extreme importance. There are other sensory experiences available that many modern readers are not aware of, especially with the advent of that abominable device known as the “e-reader.” In reading, the nose is also a very important and underrated organ—one of supreme value.
It is a little-known fact that books are like wines: they get better with age. Not only are the bad ones weeded out, but the good ones have time to mature. Physically they have time to mature. The covers become worn, matured, and more dignified looking. The pages take on a color that like the grey hair of a man promotes respect. And of course, the aging of books allows for olfactory involvement and pleasure.
They take on their own distinctive, though related smells. The musty smell of the volume long buried in the corner of some dungeon, and only just being rediscovered and brought to the light: it is the smell of a prisoner that has undergone many long trials coming out of the grave and into life again. There is the volume in the second-hand book shop, mixed among its varied brethren, that has a story to tell besides that printed in its pages—the volume that can tell one something about its previous possessor—that has that delightful smell of a mature book, one that has been dug into many times before; it is a smell of eminency, of emeritus. There is the huge tome that has a full-bodied smell, and the little volume of poetry that has a sharp, sweet scent.
The scents of books are to be enjoyed and savored like the words printed on the pages. They tell of character. They tell a story. They whisper it, or shout it, in a dozen different smells, for the attentive nose to take in and interpret and cherish.