Tuesday, 1 June 2010

In the Library

I always thought it would be cool to open a bar called 'The Library'. It would improve the quality of many people's lives. Frequent imbibers could pass themselves off as the studious types, and nerds could appear slightly cool and social when in fact they were headed to...the library. But this is actually real. Here is how the website describes its fragrance:

The Scent

In the Library is a warm blend of English Novel*, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish

*The main note in this scent was copied from one of my favorite novels originally published in 1927. I happened to find a signed first edition in pristine condition many years ago in London. I was more than a little excited because there were only ever a hundred of these in the first place. It had a marvelous warm woody slightly sweet smell and I set about immediately to bottle it.

I think it's a fair assumption that Ron Burgundy was the inspiration for this fragrance. It seems preferable to his colleague Champ Kind's Sex Panther.

The Story

I have always loved books. I am told this was the case even before I could read for myself. When I was very small, I loved the bedtime story and being read to by my mother. As a child, books provided a fantastic escape from boredom and a rather dreary daily life. As I grew older, I began to read voraciously and spent as much time as possible in the school library. I borrowed books with wild abandon and I read every one.

As an adult in New York, my reading increased further and I began to cover a much wider group of topics - possibly a rather strange group but fascinating to me nonetheless. Now I can say that reading has been perhaps the most important element of my life. So much of who I am, what I've discovered and what I know began with a book. Indeed even becoming a perfumer started in the main reading room of the New York Public Library.

In my time, I've acquired an enormous number of books. When I was very young, my parents subscribed me to a book club and they came every month in the mail. I got books regularly as birthday presents and Christmas gifts. When I was about thirteen and earning a bit of money of my own, I began to buy them for myself. One of the first was a collection of James Thurber stories, which I have to this day. I have spent countless hours of my life in bookshops large and small perusing titles carefully and hunting for the interesting. I have bought books like groceries and for much the same purpose - except instead of food for the body, books are nourishment for the spirit.

Now collecting books is one of my greatest passions. Many years ago I began hunting first editions of my favorite authors. I have learned that these can be found in the oddest places and I find few things more thrilling that stumbling across an unexpected treasure. I cannot pass a second hand bookshop and rarely come away without at least one additional volume. I now have quite a collection...

Whenever I read, the start of the journey is always opening the book and breathing deeply. There are few things more wonderful than the smell of a much-loved book. Newly printed books certainly smell very different from older ones. Their ink is so crisp though the odor of their paper is so faint. Older books smell riper and often sweeter. Illustrated books have a very different odor from those with straight text and this smell often speaks of their quality. I've also noticed that books from different countries and different periods have very individual scents too. These speak not only of their origin, but of their history to this moment. I can distinguish books that were well cared for from those that were neglected. I can often tell books that lived in libraries where pipes or cigars were regularly smoked. Occasionally I run across one that I am certain belonged to an older woman fond of powdery scent. Books from California smell very different from those I buy in New York, London or Paris. I can tell books that have come from humid places - these have a musty richness in the scent of their pages.

And then of course there are the scents of different bindings: the glues, the leathers, the cloths and boards, even the paperbacks all have very unique characteristics and, to my mind, add an extra dash of personality to an otherwise mundane object. And yes, sometimes if a book has had the misfortune of being very poorly kept, I can detect a faint whiff of mildew. This doesn't bother me in the least. It means this book has survived.

To many of course, these various bookish odors mean nothing. But to an avid reader and collector like myself, these smells are as magical as the bouquet of a great wine is to a connoisseur - a sort of literary terroir. These scents mean Excitement, Adventure, Discovery, Enlightenment and Knowledge. Of course my deep love of reading is exactly what lead me in the first place to begin capturing the scent of books and of the libraries where they live. That's what this perfume is all about.

Now, whenever I have the chance, I read aloud to my nieces and nephews. I am delighted they so enjoy this and are so eager to listen. I love sharing with them some of my own childhood favorites. There have been some very interesting discussions afterward about some of these...

But before I begin to read to the children, I always take a moment to open the book and encourage them to take a whiff. I hope for them, as it has been for me, this smell will mark the beginning of a long and wondrous journey.


  1. great post. so how do you feel about kindle and iBooks?


  2. Haha, hi, TK. I actually could not get through that whole description that i pasted. It was a bit much. The whole e-ink technology seems so cool (which is a big reason that Apple is a bit deceptive in marketing the iPad as an e-reader). I don't know if/where they sell that here in Israel, so i haven't been able to take any of these devices for a test-drive. Have you? Have you got one? Can you annotate on those things?