Have you ever wondered why old books smell? Well wonder no more, as your answer has arrived.
Chemicals are found in the wood pulp that makes paper, and also in the ink for text and illustrations. From a chemist’s point of view, the biggest reason for a book’s decay is acidity — and paper with too much acidity is common in books printed in the 19th and 20th centuries, hence their rapid deterioration and the smell.
Books can absorb strong smells from the environment and this is commonly seen with tobacco smoke. The best way to store your books is in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight.