I once asked my creative writing students to bring an object to class for its smell – we passed them around to sniff and try to describe their scents. One student brought a book, because this particular children’s book had a smell she loved as a child. A book would not have been my obvious choice for an olfactory exercise, and yet, she had a point: Books do smell, and they don’t all smell the same.
I was reminded of this when I recently read in Brigitte, the German women’s magazine I subscribe to, that master perfumeur Geza Schoen had been commissioned by the British lifestyle magazine Wallpaper to create a perfume that captures the scent of books, inspired by German fashion czar and book lover Karl Lagerfeld, who purportedly said, “The smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world.”
I’m not sure I agree that a freshly printed book has the best smell, or even the best book smell. I prefer the mustier and dustier smell of the old yellowed books that already graced my grandmother’s shelves, rather than the inky smell of a new one.
In any case, the result of Schoen’s efforts is the perfume Paper Passion, to be released later this month, packaged in a hard cover book with a cut-out compartment inside that was designed by Lagerfeld and produced by his publisher Gerhard Steidl. Odd idea, this perfume, and yet it makes so much sense, doesn’t it?
I’m not sure I’d want to run around smelling like a book, but having the smell of books ready to be sniffed is an intriguing idea. But it also has me wondering whether this is the harbinger of books becoming endangered species that need to be distilled and bottled in order to be preserved?