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The idea was that the card in the catalog would have a scent, and then the book on the shelf would have a matching scent. So you could find your books by smell. There were about 60 scents in total, including apple, chocolate, garlic, lemon, roses, root beer, leather, pizza, orange, strawberry, candles, pine, cheddar cheese, clover, and smoke.
I was curious what became of the scented catalog, so I emailed the library and asked. The reply came just a few minutes later:
Unfortunately, the UA Library no longer has this catalog, and has not had a physical card catalog since around August 1989. We aren't sure what exactly happened to the scented catalog, but we guess that the cards eventually lost their scent over time, but remained part of the catalog until it was decommissioned.
And they also emailed me a news clipping about the catalog (in extended, below) from the local Upper Arlington paper.
Transparency in sophistication, just a trace of jasmine mingled with the so far neglected smell of a cigarette. Jasmin et Cigarette is the twilight zone, the banned, the addiction. She is an icon, the longed-for woman.
The juxtaposition of the grossly physical with the structurally normative produces a profound effect: Norms and values become saturated with emotion while emotions are ennobled through contact with values. The monolithic (or rather, ithyphallic) print ad for Macho cologne run by Faberge several years ago, effectively condensing referents to male sexuality, aggression, wealth, and ethnic stereotyping in its rhetorical and iconographic symbolism, nicely illustrates this principle. Thus, symbols function as both storehouse and powerhouse, encoding information which is ultimately authoritative.
Update: Thanks to Brian for drawing our attention to Pierre Cardin Man's cologne, which also featured a suggestively shaped bottle.
And I just noticed that the Father's Day ad features both Macho cologne and Pierre Cardin Man's cologne. So if you gave your dad both, what message would you be sending him?
Noting that "the role of smells in how we perceive heritage has not been systematically explored until now," researchers at University College London have developed a "Historic Book Odour Wheel."
They tested it on visitors to St Paul's Cathedral's Dean and Chapter library in London, who characterized the smell of the library as 'woody,' 'smoky,' 'earthy,' and 'vanilla.'
The researchers say, "the Historic Book Odour Wheel could potentially be used to recreate smells and aid the design of olfactory experiences in museums, allowing visitors to form a personal connection with exhibits by allowing them to understand what the past smelled like."
If a pregnant rodent is exposed to the scent of an unfamiliar male, she will often spontaneously abort. This is known as the Bruce Effect, after researcher Hilda Bruce who discovered the phenomenon while working at London's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the 1950s.
It's thought that the female rodent does this in order to make herself ready for mating with the new male — because the new male would probably kill the children of the other father once they were born, so why bother carrying them to term. The trick doesn't work with the scent of a castrated male.
The history of the NIMR (pdf - page 208) offers some interesting details about Bruce's research. The Parkes mentioned was Alan Parkes, her boss:
The Bruce Effect implied that every male mouse smells different to every other male mouse, at least to female mice, and that he produces a spectrum of odours that vary slightly between individuals of the same strain and differ markedly between individuals of different strains. With lateral thinking on how to prove their theory, Bruce and Parkes turned to Boake, a world famous perfumery.
Knowing how skilful perfumers must be in distinguishing between thousands of different odours, they persuaded some Boake representatives to visit NIMR for the purpose of smelling the mice. They invited them to sniff at pieces of cloth that had each been exposed to different cages of various mouse strains. The perfumers had no difficulty in distinguishing the different strains as all had a unique aroma; they even commented that four of the strains were quite similar – all of which had been bred from one original colony at Hampstead. They also noted that the CBA mouse strain, which was fairly new to NIMR, had a wonderful and pleasantly musky smell that could be of commercial interest in perfume manufacture!
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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