Nose in a Book: “In the Library” by CB I Hate Perfume and “Paper Passion” by Geza Schoen

German designer Karl Lagerfeld poses in his studio rue de Lille in Paris, France on November 12, 2008. His collection is said to contain 300,000 volumes. [Photo by Eric Dessons/JDD/ABACAPRESS.COM
My collecting habits are becoming a big problem.  Like most New Yorkers, I live in a tiny apartment.  I don’t have enough wall space to hang the art I have, bottles of perfume overflow from my dresser to my bathroom, and my books cram shelves and sit in stacks on tables and on the floor.  Indeed, my passion for books goes hand in hand with my passion for perfumes.  I stubbornly and irrationally refuse to part with the Marguerite Duras novel I read in high school French class, the worn copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to Vietnam I used for a trip 8 years ago, Janson’s The History of Art, a textbook used in every Art History 101 class that inspired me to love art.  All of these still sit on my shelves, reminders of the experiences I had that make me into the person I am today.

CB I Hate Perfume’s “In the Library”

On my last trip to CB I Hate Perfume in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I encountered “In the Library,” and I thought I had found a kindred spirit in the line’s creator, Christopher Brosius.  Brosius, well known for his avant garde take on traditional perfumery, makes scents like “Soaked Earth” that smells like wet dirt and mushrooms in a forest after a long rain.  On his website, he writes about the huge impact books have made on his life, and when he reads to his nieces and nephews, he asks them to smell the book first in the hopes this will spark a life-long love for books.  “In the Library” has notes of “English Novel (one of CB’s premium accords), 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. (1)

You can imagine my excitement when Wallpaper* Handmade announced at the Salone Internzaionale del Mobile in Milan this past week that a book containing a perfume by Geza Schoen (Escentric Molecules, biehl perfumekunstwerke), will be released this May by German publisher, Steidl.   Paper Passion was commissioned by Wallpaper* magazine for the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition and they brought all the various contributors together to create this unique perfume.  Gerhard Steidl, who began his career publishing editions and books for the famous Conceptual artist, Joseph Beuys, became interested in the smell of books when Karl Lagerfeld, himself a bibliophile, asked Steidl in 1997 to create a book of his own photography for the press launch of his new perfume, “Jako.”

Here is an excerpt from the catalog copy for “Paper Passion” about the experience:

“As the books were placed on the seats, I realised they smelt very strongly of fresh ink on paper, and it didn’t strike me as the ideal situation for a perfume launch,” recounts Steidl. “I told Karl that I didn’t think we should put out the books, but he simply replied, ‘Rubbish! The smell of a freshly printed book is the best perfume in the world.’” Convinced that Lagerfeld would think his books stank, he discovered the exact opposite to be true. “That was the moment when I realised that books should smell,” he continues. “It took away a barrier, and I started making sure my books always smelt good….With experience you get to know how each ink smells on each paper,” he explains. “There are hundreds of ink types: fast drying, which have extra drying agents; high gloss, which have lacquers inside; or shiny, with metallic pigments. All have a basic primer and then various different chemicals added on top. Today, very glossy lacquers are fashionable, but they’re full of plastic materials that just smell really cheap. I only use inks based on vegetable oils, and I know exactly how to compose a smell with them on paper.” (2)

Steidl asked master perfumer Geza Schoen to create a unique scent based on the smells present in his studio and printing facilities in Germany.  Schoen is the creator of such unusual perfumes such as Escentric 01 that uses a very high concentration of the woody Iso E molecule that supposedly mixes with one’s pheromones so it smells differently on everyone.

Paper Passion will be released to the public on May 30, 2012.  Looking forward to it!

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