The key to preserving the old, degrading paper of treasured, ageing books is contained in the smell of their pages, say scientists. Researchers report in the journal Analytical Chemistry that a new "sniff test" can measure degradation of old books and historical documents. The test picks up and identifies the chemicals that the pages release as they degrade. This could help libraries and museums preserve a range of precious 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 research tem, 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 - BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8355888.stm