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‘Sniff test’ to help preserve old books

A new ‘sniff test’ has been developed that can help libraries and museums preserve old documents and books.

The test is based on detecting the levels of volatile organic compounds.

These are released by paper as it ages and produce the familiar “old book smell”.

The international research team, led by Matija Strlic from University College London’s Centre for Sustainable Heritage, describes that smell as “a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness”.

“This unmistakable smell is as much part of the book as its contents,” they wrote in the journal article.

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