Wallpaper/Steidl Paper Passion & CB I Hate Perfume In The Library: Perfumes for Booklovers ~ fragrance reviews

Before wearing Paper Passion1 I sniffed a lot of books and paper. I sat in front of my bookshelves and wedged my nostrils between many pages. I don’t think contemporary paper has much scent; what I did smell on occasion (especially in art books) was a mild chemical odor (inks?) I did get a definite aroma from watercolor papers — the scent of wet animal fur. Finally, I sniffed a falling-apart edition of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time that was printed in the 1980s (I’m saving the wreck because the pages might make a neat lampshade or “collage” screen); the rough pages were not printed on archival paper (they’ve yellowed and become brittle). Sniffing the Proust and other “old” books I realized that cheap, wood pulp paper smelled the best — vanillic, woody-acidic.

Paper Passion opens with a quick touch of osmanthus “bud” (neither too fruity nor floral) and balsam of copaiba (woody but with a cool “bite”). The musk in Paper Passion’s base is super-light and almost undetectable but complements the overall vanilla-wood character of the perfume. I do smell “old books” as I sniff Paper Passion — there’s a definite musty vibe. The longer you wear the fragrance, the more you’ll smell like your granny’s huge, disintegrating 100-year-old family Bible, or bungalow-sized (silverfish-infested) volume of The Complete Shakespeare. Paper Passion is a well-blended fragrance, and it smells one-dimensional: all ingredients play their part to create the overriding “book accord.”

Wallpaper Steidl Paper Passion

Paper Passion is unisex and has excellent sillage and lasting power. Paper Passion has no “character development” to speak of — it smells, almost from the beginning, like the extreme dry-down of a sweet-ish wood fragrance; in 10 minutes it presents itself as if it’s been on skin for hours. The almost non-changing nature of the fragrance makes it “tedious” to wear (for me).

I would categorize Paper Passion as a “collector’s scent”…a novelty perfume in interesting packaging. Paper Passion’s literal/“literary” qualities don’t appeal to me at all. Now, if Paper Passion scented a candle I might be tempted.

After I reviewed Paper Passion, a friend2 suggested I compare it to another “literary” fragrance: In The Library by CB I Hate Perfume.

In The Library by CB I Hate Perfume

In the Library is described in CB I Hate Perfume PR as “a warm blend of English Novel, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish.” Perfumer Christopher Brosius was inspired to create In The Library after smelling a rare book printed in 1927; he appreciated the “warm woody slightly sweet smell” emanating from its pages.

In The Library opens with a sweet accord — an accord that brings to mind vanilla-tonka bean-beeswax; there is no acidic “edge” or hint of decay/disintegration as there is in Paper Passion. Floating beneath In The Library’s sweet opening notes are glimmers of wood, maybe some light tobacco?, and the aforementioned leather (incredibly light) and “wood polish” (a mild, resinous/honeyed note with a hint of what smells like clove). Paper Passion is a more realistic take on books/paper, but I find In The Library more enjoyable to wear — “cozy” and more natural smelling. Compared to Paper Passion, In The Library is restrained: the lasting power is good and the fragrance stays close to the body.

Paper Passion comes in 50 ml Eau de Parfum ($98) and is currently available at Luckyscent and Aedes in the U.S.

CB I Hate Perfume In the Library is available in perfume absolute, 2 ml-15 ml ($12-$90) or in water perfume, 100 ml, $75. For buying information see the listing for CB I Hate Perfume under Perfume Houses.

1. Paper Passion was developed by perfumer Geza Schoen in collaboration with publisher Gerhard Steidl and Wallpaper magazine; the notes include osmanthus, copaiba balsam, amber accord, air accord, paper accord and musk accord.

2. Robin here at NST.

Note: top image [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Merlin says:

    Would love to try these just for fun, but I really wish someone would just use space-head technology to capture the smell of my old Enid Blyton books…and give me a room spray of it.

  2. Kevin says:

    Merlin: like you, I’d prefer such a scent on the air…not on me.

  3. Erin says:

    I was in NYC last weekend and met CB – what a truly lovely man. I’ve always liked In the Library and was thinking of getting a bottle, but I almost seemed to have an anosmia to it when I was in the Williamsburg shop – it smelled very, very faint in comparison to some beasts like “Beast” (ha), Wild Hunt and CBMusk. I ended up getting In the Summer Kitchen and Violet Empire, so I’m very happy, but your review does sort of make me wonder whether I should have grabbed some Library, too.

    • Kevin says:

      Erin: geez, just your list makes me realize how far behind I am in sniffing CBIHP scents.

  4. ladymurasaki says:

    Thanks for the reviews, Kevin.

    I love the CB I hate Perfume concept and some of the scents I’ve tried, but none has any lasting power on me. It’s a shame because I would love to wear Just Breathe, A Room With a View or Russian Caravan if they lasted a few hours on my skin. Though In the Library sounds interesting and I love the smell of old books, I don’t want to smell like one, since I’m constantly buried in musty smelling old stuff, including antiquarian books in my line of work.

    • Kevin says:

      Lady M: of all things, the water perfumes last longest on me…even the Russian Caravan lasts a half day. It would be terrible to smell like an old book if you are surrounded by old papers every day!

  5. Bela says:

    Books printed in the 1980s qualify as ‘old’? As far as I am concerned, that was just yesterday.

    • Kevin says:

      HA! But I know you remember, in the US at least, almost all books were printed on crappy paper “way back then.” Just 30 years ago.

  6. nozknoz says:

    “The longer you wear the fragrance, the more you’ll smell like your granny’s huge, disintegrating 100-year-old family Bible” – I LIVE for “old lady” perfume, but I draw the line at smelling like an old lady’s Bible! :-)

    • Kevin says:

      Noz: haha! The opposite of sexy…or the ultimate vintage!

    • Ariel says:

      I don’t know…my grandmother presses flowers in her family Bible, so there is often a faint scent of roses and lilacs wafting from it. Could be an interesting take on the idea.

      • Kevin says:

        Ariel: my grandmother used her Bible as a flower press too…thus: stained illegible pages.

    • As a seminary student who spent the past two days in the library researching an 18th century leader, I love the imagery!

      However, the image of the silverfish coming out of the book may give me nightmares. Those bugs creep me out more than anything else!

      • Kevin says:

        M: they are freaky little things

  7. Kathryn says:

    Having worked in many libraries and archives and having collected too many books of my own, it drives me crazy that the smell of books is so often equated with the smell of mold and mildew. That’s the smell of decay, not the smell of books that have been properly stored. A parallel would be wanting to smell the acetone that has developed in a bottle of spoiled perfume rather than the original perfume itself. Of the two perfumes you’ve reviewed, Christopher Brosius’ In the Library is the one that has got it right. Everything that man does is pure genius.

    • Kevin says:

      Kathryn: I agree completely…In The Library is pleasant…Paper Passion has that musty note that I’ve not smelled in well-kept old books…even ones from the 1700s.

  8. bluepinegrove says:

    I tried a sample of Paper Passion and detested it. Eau de Printing Press, to my nose, and I was once a Printer’s Devil. Ink, acetone, rubber, peeeuw. I much prefer In the Library, even though I am a librarian grappling with what libraries are becoming, not what they’ve been. Robber baron libraries of centuries past smell a lot different than my scrappy library!

    • Kevin says:

      BluePineGrove: I wish I could have detected some ink in Paper Passion…it could have “refreshed” the formula.

  9. littlemoron says:

    I have tried neither of these (though In The Library might be added to a new sample order), but I had an “old book” experience with slumberhouse Rume. It reminded me of ancient, kind of rotted books, and the smell of my favourite English professor’s office. Sweet, musty, woody, with a bit of skank.

    Also, I’m currently dealing with a silverfish infestation (*shudder*), and I will be damned if those little f**kers get within ten feet of my Shakespeare collection!

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