Old Book Smell

I am simply ravished by old books. I love them. Maybe more than I love most people. Shhh. Don’t tell.

I love the smell of them and the look if them. They make me happy, like seeing an old friend after a long time apart. Everything about them invites me in as though I was made to read their crumbly pages.

I love how they double as great reading and great decoration.

And did I mention they smell incredible?

I love opening up a newly acquired antique book and finding an inscription from the giver to the receiver…

For Pat, on her 23rd. With Love, Shel.

Phoebe R. Rosenberg, October '45


or old notes…

Barbara Briggs, 2369 First Avenue, N.Y. 10035 6E

or slip of paper, a long-forgotten, make-shift book mark.

Sometimes there are underlined passages, but no notations.

What about the passage spoke to this ghost reader?

I want to know: who has held this book? Was it a student, or just a good, old-fashioned book nerd? Did they love it? Hate it? Read it on assignment? Was it a gift they never really cared for but kept out of duty to the loved one who selected it for them? Where has this book traveled? How did it come to this shabby little book store or garage sale or library cart of dime and quarter cast offs?

When I hold one of these old treasures, it’s like I’m holding a whole life in my hands. The paper is brown and wrinkled, sometimes creased with long-suffering and experience. You can keep your perfectly cared-for collectors tomes, I want the books with a little dirt on their binding, with a few turned down corers, and lots of that intoxicating old book smell.

Cambria loves old book smell too.

This is my oldest and best-smelling book. It was printed in 1908.

So now, whenever I’m reading a good book, or any book really, I make my mark. I underline the passages and write out my thoughts. Maybe someday my grandchildren or great-grand children will discover these notations long after I’m gone and learn something about the world they never knew, or see a familiar passage in a whole new light, or somehow feel a little closer to me across the times that divide us.

Maybe my offspring won’t keep all of my ninety-nine thousand books and some other book lover will pick up a few of the volumes from my library in a shabby little book store or garage sale or library cart of dime and quarter cast offs, and they will inhale the old book smell, and decipher the scribbles in the margins, and the cycle will continue.

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