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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Books about Perfumes and Perfumery

There are quite a lot of books about on the subject of perfumes, perfumery and the making of perfumes and many of them are not all that helpful, so I’ve tried to gather together here some recommendations for books I’ve found to be particularly helpful or interesting.

Some books from the Pell Wall Perfumes bookshelf

First of all if you have not read  Patrick Süskind’s Perfume: the story of a murder you really should: besides offering a wonderful insight into the early days of perfume making it’s a fantastic (in both senses of the word) story of murder and obsession that keeps you turning the pages long after you should have gone to sleep.

While we’re on the early days of perfume, The Art of Perfumery by G.W. Septimus Piesse, first published in 1857 is well worth reading if you are interested in how perfumes were made in the 19th century: the book covers production methods and gives formulae as well as anecdotes and trenchant opinions that together make for a fun read: elements of it are still useful to the modern perfumer too.

One hundred years on and we get Steffen Arctander writing Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin - his work is unmatched and still qualifies as the standard work on the odour of raw materials throughout the industry.  I also have his Perfume and Flavor Chemicals Volumes 1&2 in CD form and although the range of synthetics in use has increased enormously since this was published in the 1960s it still provides a very useful insight into the majority of synthetic ingredients in use in modern perfumery.

Of similar vintage, but very different form is W. A. Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps, with special reference to Synthetics Volumes 1&2.  I have the 6th Edition from 1959, which is excellent but I’m told by people who have more recent editions that they are not nearly as good.  My copies are stuffed full of fascinating information, formulae for accords, descriptions of materials and scent notes and much more besides.  Excellent stuff.

If you are planning on learning to make fragrances of your own then a great starting place is Tony Curtis and David G WilliamsAn Introduction to Perfumery which gives you much the same range of information as Poucher, but slightly better structured and vastly more up to date.  In addition you get a well structured learning plan and a series of exercises to build your skills.

For an overview of the reality of fragrance creation and the way fragrance companies work, as well as a dip into the cultural history of fragrances and a wealth of information more obviously associated with the title I can recommend The Chemistry of Fragrances: from Perfumer to Consumer, edited by Charles S Sell.  This volume includes essays by a number of other authors so you get a few different perspectives, but Charles’s own work is a real highlight as he’s such a readable author even if, like me, you don’t have a degree in organic chemistry.

If you are looking for something to help you understand how one fragrance is related to another then you could do worse than to invest in Michael Edwards' Fragrances of the World 2012 which catalogues all the great fragrances of the world according to type.

I could doubtless go on, but for the moment at least I’m going to stop there and publish this post.  Please feel free to add your own comment on these books or to make other recommendations of your own.