On Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is this town's incarnation of the storied Parisian bookseller, Shakespeare & Co. While walking past the shop last evening I saw in its windows a winsome quote.

It addressed the chemical underpinnings of the pleasing fragrance of erudition associated with old volumes:

Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good-quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us…

from the article "How to Smell Like a Used Book"

It seems that time-honored books have had more up their respective sleeves than meets the eye.


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