Originally written in French, of course, we picked up this
book in a hurry one day because of the fanciful photo of rose
petals littering a warehouse floor. Like many coffee table books,
the pictures in this book are a work of art. The full page
picture of a lavender field deserves to be framed. Scent rises
from the pages with enthusiasm and reality (we thought perhaps
the book had been lightly perfumed). More than just a
pretty face though, The Book of Perfume is brimming with aromatic
stories of perfumery throughout history. It emphasizes that all
perfume started with scented plants. Scented plants that we can
grow in our gardens and revel in daily.
It is hard to believe that one of the original primary
functions of perfume at its inception in the late 1500's was to
mask the odor of tanned skins used for the large glove making
industry in, where else, Provence, France.
A most compelling chapter of perfume history takes place in
this country, in 1946. At that time 85 percent of all fragrances
sold in America were French. Even more astounding was that the
major purchasers were men. It was considered a gift men gave to
women and not a purchase women made for themselves. It was the
insight of Estee Lauder that gave women the right to purchase.
She didn't create a perfume at first, because she knew that would
defeat her purpose; she created perfumed bath oil. It was called
Youth Dew and it was a sensation. She waited another 15 years to
introduce an actual perfume.
From the flower to the bottle this book is rich in information
about fragrances. It has very unique information like a section
on classifying name brand perfumes by the seven fragrance
families, citrus, floral, fougere, (a combination of lavender and
moss), chypre, (a combination of bergamot and moss), woody,
amber, and leather. And, an extensive chapter on the history of
perfume bottles and perfume ephemera. Laced with photos of
glamorous stars, serious scientists at work and fields of
luxurious flowering plants, this book grips the interest with the
turn of each page. Estee Lauder once remarked "Perfume is
like love, you can never get enough of it." Reading
this book is a little like that.