December 3, 2008

Perfumery and Kindred Arts

Many classics in the public domain have been scanned by Google, and they are now available online. The 1877, 398 page Perfumery and Kindred Arts, a Comprehensive Treatise on Perfume -- A History of Perfumes, with Practical Instructions by R.S. Christiani is a pleasure to browse through. One of the best things about it, or most excellent and fine (in the style of the book) is the incredible number of recipes. They can be followed for their ingredient lists and basic proportions in making, for example, Hungary Water. There are recipes for every other kind of floral water imaginable, too, and also what are called "bouquets" for handkerchiefs, and scented soaps. There are chapters on the culture of flowers for fragrance, and an explanation of the materials used in perfumery. The index reads like a prose poem. It is out of print but you can still get an original copy on Amazon for about $250. Or follow the link above, and read it online for free.

Many of the ingredients can be obtained in NYC, in small storefronts that sell dried herbs, spices and essential oils and other materials used in the book's recipes. Enchantments on East 9th Street and Enfleurage on Bleecker Street are good sources. Stepping into those places is like being transported into another time; one diametrically opposed to multitasking or speeding along in any way.

Here is a quote from page 26 about the use of perfume in the Middle East, that speaks of living in a fragrance induced state of dreamy languor:

"The oriental ladies use great quantities of costly 
perfumes and cosmetics, and the duties of the toilet
are their most important occupation, no doubt tend-
ing to preserve their personal charms. Living in an
atmosphere of fragrance, they are kept in a state of
dreamy languor, which to them may be the nearest
approach to happiness. They are noted for their
skill in retaining their charms by these various means.

Above Odalisque by Adolphe Weiz


Warrior said...

I had a look at the book. It's not readable I am afraid, pity, I would have loved some of those recipies

Lucy said...


You can still dip into the recipes, and here and there in the history. When you take it in pieces it is very different than trying to read it from beginning to end. That is how I found some passages that I really liked.


ScentScelf said...

Hey, Lucy...
This is a cool lead--thanks for the tip. I'll have fun poking in and out of there, seeing what I find.

Elena said...

Dear indieperfumes author,

We are glad to inform you that your site is nominated for the best fragrance blog in the competition Fragrantica Blog Awards that organizes Fragranica community.

More about competition you can read here:

We wish you a good luck and in case that you win the competition, please, provide us with your email, where we can send the notification and gift certificate from the sponsor of competition

Best regards,

Elena Knezevic editor

Lucy said...

Thank you Elena,
how fun!

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Lucy! I'm not surprised. Such a well-written and thought out blog. I've always enjoyed reading your pages on my favorite subject. I get a little bit of science, a bit of history, and always more insight. I've always come away having learned more. Thanks.


Jeannemarie : )