The Science and Art of Perfumery by Edward Sagarin was originally published in 1945. The picture to the left is a copy that you can get at Amazon as a reprint. I have an original copy that I was able to acquire a while back.
This is a fascinating little book so don’t let the age of it fool you into thinking it is of absolutely no value. Now if you are extremely well versed in the history and scientific nature of perfumery then I guess this is not going to help you overly much. But if you are not then you will find it rather interesting indeed I would bet.
The book begins with a concise history of perfumes from thousands of years in the past until the semi modern times, around the time of the invention of Eau de Cologne. I enjoyed the bit history since usually you don’t get it in many other books about perfumes.
As we move forward into the second chapter Sagarin discusses perfumes and the Bible. Anybody who has read the Old Testament will remember all the incense and resins mentioned. Nice to see someone elaborating on that very thing.
Chapter three explores the perfumes that nature created. Terms like essential oil, volatile and flower oil are described. Major growing centers around the world and their particular products are elaborated upon and then finally the chemical nature of the oils of plants are looked at.
One in particular, Geraniol (named from the geranium flower) caught my interest and is found in oil of citronella, gingergrass, palmarosa, attar of rose and many other plant oils in differing amounts. It makes it interesting to see the combinations one can work with to enhance a scent with complementary scents. Isoprenes, terpenes are also described.
Chapter five leads us into the major methods of extraction. Oldest and least expensive method is steam distillation. Reserved mainly for twigs, woods, leaves and hardier parts of plants. A few flowers like rose, orange blossom, and ylang ylang can be done also. “Enfleurage” which is expensive, is cold extraction with fat. Vacuum distillation removes the alcohol from the oil used in cold extraction. Enfleurage is used for two flowers now, jasmine and tuberose. Maceration uses hot fats instead of cold and are immersed. Expression (pressing) is particularly used for the peels of lime, lemon, bergamot and orange. The oils that are rich in terpenes are then treated to remove them. They are then low boiled which increases the scent and stability.
So many methods for the naturals and very fascinating to think that many of these methods could be still done in the household with a little tinkering around.
The next few chapters deal with animal byproducts, and gums and resins from trees. Giving you a good grounding in all these products. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about Musk and all the different animals it can and cannot be gotten from.
In chapter seven we start really getting into the modern science of scent. This chapter explores organic chemistry and its replication of natural chemicals. Coumarin by William Henry Perkin, Vanillin by Ferdinand Tiemann, Indole (jasmin) by Bayer to name a few. By the late 1800s the groundwork had been laid for a revolution in perfumery.
One of the things I did enjoy was Sagarin gives us a look in the lives of the perfumer and the flavorist in two different chapters. Two scientists with different jobs using the same materials. Both making our lives more pleasurable.
In between the two chapters of the perfumer and flavorist we get to explore an actual formula for a perfume, a Chypre to be exact. Now anybody who would like to know how much of different oils go into making something this chapter is essential reading to get an understanding. He describes each chemical in the formula. Love this chapter.
The later part of the book consisting of many chapters takes a look at the science of scent and its classification by odor or chemical breakdown. How it affects us on personal and psychological levels. As well as how essential oils and perfumes were used in healing in the past.
The last chapters are a breakdown of the amount of consumption and production in the United States of essential oils and perfumed items up until the time of the publication of the book. Now this is probably the most dated section of the book as well as the most boring.
He also gives an amazing appendix of books to read, many probably dated indeed, but for the historical aspect of learning probably still worth looking at.
Overall I really liked this book. The section about the formula is probably the one thing I will reread many times in the future and the appendix I will explore as time gives me the opportunity to find some of the books in it that interest me.
You can find this at Amazon here, The Science and Art of Perfumery, this is a paperback version and you can also find a kindle version there as well.