Two Influential Early Perfume Books
Early perfume books are hard to come by – sometimes not even making it to local bookstores or libraries in Eugene OR. Most perfumers worked with scents and substances too occupied to write a book. At best, they left notes and passed on the information to their successors or fellow perfumers.
As a result, available works from early periods are usually written by others involved in some aspect of the profession. Two such works, written centuries apart are readily available. They concern Odors by Greek botanist Theophrastus (c. 371–287 BCE) and The Art of Perfumery, and Method of Obtaining the Odors of Plants by G. W. Septimus Piesse (1820-1882).
Theophrastus wrote on harvesting, distilling and general utilization of plants and other materials to create perfume. He details not only the properties of various substances employed in making perfumes but also the method required to do so.
Concerning Odors was a treatise of a larger work. Despite its original intent and Theophrastus’ profession as a philosopher/botanist, it remains a critical work. One of very few early perfume books.
The Art of Perfumery
This book is more than a treatise on the spices and plant parts. It goes beyond cataloging properties and treatment. Pieces relates the scent/odor of plants to medicinal and sound characteristics when used as perfumes. He provides a wider vision of the use of perfumes – one that is used today by aromatherapists and natural perfumers alike. Like modern perfume books, you can access this one online.
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