There's nothing quite as pungent as walking into a book store specializing in old tomes. But why do they produce such a strong and unique smell as they age? Basically every book is an organic chemical reaction just waiting to happen.
Books printed in the 19th and 20th centuries are particularly prone to breaking down because of the chemicals used in the paper pulp and the acidic inks on the pages. As soon as they come off the printing press the various chemicals start to react, giving off potent vapors, and the process is expedited when books are exposed to light and moisture. Oddly enough the manuscripts created by the earliest-known printers will survive even longer than the books printed today since the paper they used contained far fewer chemicals. So maybe Harper Collins can still learn something from old Gutenberg? [YouTube via Explore via Coudal]