Saturday, July 7, 2018

Aromatherapy with Books

We attend very little to smell.  Common wisdom holds that smell is the least important sense for our species. On the other hand, smell is the only sense that affects the memory and emotion part of the brain.

Each morning when I walk into our little office, I smell paper.  I would like to have the adjectives to describe the odour.   I will have to be satisfied with the comparison of old and new books.  An Old Book Odour wheel has been developed.

What is said about new book paper is this:  "There are certain chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), that are added to the paper to diminish its acidity and swelling of the fibres of the wood pulp used in the paper."

And about old books:  "Old books have a sweet smell with notes of vanilla flowers and almonds, which is caused by the breakdown of chemical compounds in the paper, while new books smell like they do because of the carious chemicals used when they are manufactured".
The Old Book Smell project is described in the  "With the help of visitors to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in England and a panel of library smellers at the historic Wren Library at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the team conducted a sensory analysis. They presented museumgoers with eight smells—one of which was an (unlabeled) historic book scent and seven were decidedly non-bookish, such as eau de fish market and coffee. The researchers then had participants answer a questionnaire, including a question asking descriptors of of the historic book smell.

When museum sniffers described the book smell, they most frequently used words like “chocolate,” “coffee,” and “old.” Library smellers, however, selected words like “woody,” “smoky” and “earthy” from the list, and described the smell’s intensity and perceived pleasantness. Next, the team used all of the information they collected to create the Historic Book Odour Wheel, a descriptive wheel kind of like tools used to characterize the flavors of coffee or wine".

The Grimsby Farmers' Market takes place on the Main Street of town - its name is Main Street.  This week's delights included the last of the strawberries and the first of the raspberries.  And the green and yellow beans are here.

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