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Historyofperfume1877
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January31,2015

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Abriefhistoryoftheperfume.FromthebookPerfumeandKindredArts,byRS.CRISTIANI.Publishedin1877.
Theoriginofperfumery,likemostoftheancientarts,isshroudedinobscurity.Arabiahaslongenjoyed,andstillretainsthenameofthelandofperfumes.
Thefirstmentionofperfumesisoftheiruseasincense,asman,infirstdiscoveringtheirnature,inhisfirstemotionsofpleasureandgratitude,offeredup
theirfragranceinworshiptohisdeityhencethederivationoftheword,per(through)fumum(smoke),clearlyindicatingthatperfumerywasfirst
recognizedbyburningaromaticwoods,spices,andgums.PerfumesseemtohavebeenfirstimportedfromPersia,andwereveryimportantarticlesof
commercebetweenthatcountryandEgypt.Thecaravansthattraversedthegreatdesertscarriedgreatquantitiesofgumsandspices,astheEgyptians,
themostcivilizedandcultivatedofancientnations,usedthemingreatprofusion,bothintheirsacredritesandforprivatepurposes.
FromtheEgyptianstheuseofperfumeswastransmittedtotheJews,thencetotheAssyrians,theGreeks,theEomans,theArabs,andtheTurks.The
HolyScripturesfurnishuswithabundantdetailsoftheuseofperfumes,asMoseswascommandedtospeaktotheChildrenofIsraelthattheirofferingsto
thetemplesshouldbespicesandgumsandanointingoils.
Inthoseancientdays,thepriestsaloneseemtohavepossessedtheartandmysteryofcompoundingperfumesforprivateusesaswellasforincensefor
theiraltars,andtheirusebecameverygreat,andsomethathavebeenexcavatedwiththemummiesretaintheirodorafterthelapseofnearlyfour
thousandyears.
Atfestivals,publicorprivate,perfumesandflowerswereusedingreatprofusion,andincensewasburned,andmusiccharmedtheearshowingthegreat
luxurianceandrefinementofthatperiod.TotheEgyptiansisduetheinventionofthesystemofbathsthatwashandeddowntoallEasternnations,and
imitatedbyGreeksandRomans,asalsothecustomofembalmingthedead,whichwasalsopracticedbytheJews,astheGospelmentionsthat
Nicodemusbroughtamixtureofmyrrhandaloesaboutanhundredweight,thentooktheythebodyofJesusandwounditinlinenclothswiththespices,
asthemanneroftheJewsistobury.
TheAsiaticsacquiredtheuseofperfumesandpracticeditingreatprofusion,andflowerswereextensivelycultivated,aswereadofNinevehandBabylon
amongthewondersoftheworld,anddescriptionsoftheirgardens,theiraltarsonhighplaces.And,accordingtoHerodotus,theconsumptionofperfumes
wassogreat,thatbesidestheproductionoftheirowncountry,theyreceivedfromArabiaathousandtalentsoffrankincense,andhetellsusofthegreat
consumptionofaromaticsandperfumes,andofthegreatcostofmanyofthesescents,andoftheiruniversaluse.
Allthesenationspaidgreatattentiontothehairandbeard,whichwereusuallylavishlyperfumedandcurled.Manyworewigsinsteadoftheirnaturalhair
asaprotectionagainsttheheatofthesun.Thecustomofanointingthewholebodywithoilafterbathingwasdue,nodoubt,tothesamecause,asthis
customisyetpracticedbythenativesofAfricaasaprotectionagainsttheextremeheatoftheclimate.
TheGreeks,whosedeitieswereasnumerousasthestars,almostalwaysassociatedperfumeswiththepresenceofthegodsandgoddesses,and
attributedskillinthecompoundingofperfumestothemarvellous,andgavethenameofmagicianstothosewhopreparedthem.Venusisdescribedas
sprinkledwithperfumes,andPallas,thegoddessofwisdom,anointedwithoilwhenpractisingtheexercisesofthepalastra,andtotheiruseisattributed
thegreatbeautyofHelenofTroy.
Perfumesweregenerallysupposedtopossessgreatmedicinalvirtues,somuchsoastocausetherecipesformanyofthemostcelebratedessencesand
cosmeticstobeinscribedonmarbletabletsinsomeoftheirtemples.Theroseinthosedayswasconsiderednolessbeneficialthanbeautiful,andformed
thebasisofmanyremedies.
TheRomansastheyadvancedincivilizationadoptedtheluxuriesandhabitsofthenationstheyconquered,andusedperfumesinthesameprofusionas
theGreeks,fromwhomtheyseemtohaveacquiredtheuse,astheywereofthesamegeneralnature.Theyusedthematpublicfestivals,andforprivate
andreligiouspurposes,andafterburningtheirdeadmixedperfumeswiththeashesinthefuneralvase.Sogreatanduniversalwasthisuseofperfumes
thattheirgeneralswhengoinguponamilitarycampaigncarriedessencesandcosmeticstoadorntheirpersons,andamongthespoilsinthecampof
Darius,Alexanderfoundquantitiesofthesesubstanceswithalltheluxuriousappliancesofthetoilet.

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IntheruinsofPompeiihavebeendiscoveredhandsomebottleswithperfumesandointments,andalltheappurtenancesofthetoiletandbathwhichtend
toshowtherefinementoftheancientRomans.RomanperfumerscalledUnguentarioccupiedacertainpartofthecityintheVelabrum,andinCapua,a
citynotedforitsluxury,theyoccupiedawholestreetofthetowncalledSeplasia,andsomeoftheirproductsaredescribedasexceedinglycostly.The
customofusingflowersandperfumesattheirfeastswasverycommon,andnobanquetwasconsideredcompletewithoutthem,andthedecorationwith
flowersisdescribedasveryprofuse,andeventheirdrinkingcupswereadornedwithflowers.
DistillationissaidtohavebeendiscoveredbyanArabiandoctornamedAvecinna,whowasalsothefirsttoapplytheprinciplesofchemistrysoimperfectly
knowntoearliernations.Tohimalsoisascribedtheinventionofrosewater,whichwasconsideredagreatdiscovery,andwasatthesametimeusedasa
remedyfornearlyalldiseases,aswellasaperfumeandcosmetic.Itwascustomarytousethisperfumetosprinklethefloorsofapartments,andbottles
wereformedforthepurpose,whichwerealsousedtosprinkleguestswhentheyarrivedatafeast.Mahometencouragedtheuseofperfumesamonghis
followers,andmakesfrequentmentionofthemasapartofthemanyattractionsofhisparadise,andmuskisoftennamedbyhim.Thisperfume,somuch
admiredbyallorientals,isthestrongestandmostlasting,anditseemssingularthatthewarmertheclimatethegreateristheloveofstrongperfumes,for
wereadofamosquewiththemortarofwhichthisperfumewasmixed,whichgaveoutitsperfumewheneverthesunshoneuponit.
Theorientalladiesusegreatquantitiesofcostlyperfumesandcosmetics,andthedutiesofthetoiletaretheirmostimportantoccupation,nodoubttending
topreservetheirpersonalcharms.Livinginanatmosphereoffragrance,theyarekeptinastateofdreamylanguor,whichtothemmaybethenearest
approachtohappiness.Theyarenotedfortheirskillinretainingtheircharmsbythesevariousmeans.
LadyMaryWortleyMontague,wholivedmanyyearsineasternlands,givesusmanyinterestingdetailsofthehabitsandcustomsoftheOrientals,oftheir
costumesandmodeofdressingthehair,andtheusesofcosmeticsandperfumes.~JivIndiaperfumesareusedintheformofincenseinsacrifices
offeredintheirtemplesandupontheiraltars,andtheprivateuseofunguentsandperfumesisverygreatamongthewealth,andtheirpriestscolortheir
faceswithanointmentofsaffron,andwhenthesutteewasinvogue,widowsperishedonpilesofburningaromaticwood.Tothatcountryweareindebted
formuchofthecelebratedottoofrose,asatGhazepore,situatedontheGanges,nearBenares,thefloweriscultivatedforthemanufactureofthis
universallyadmiredperfume.
Amongthecelestialsperfumeshavebeeninusefromtheearliesttimes,andifitbetrueastheyclaimthattheirhistoryextendstothousandsofyears
beforeourown,theymayhavebeeninuseforcountlessages.Josssticksandtinselpaperareburnedasincensetotheirgods,andtheconsumptionis
verygreat,asCantonaloneissaidtohavetenthousandmanufactories.Morningandeveningtheyburnthembeforetheiridols.Notedfortheirmany
ceremonies,theyarealsocelebratedfortheirprofuseuseofperfumesinnearlyalltheirobservancesofapublicorprivatenature.
TheChinesehaveanalkalineearthcalledKeei,whichtheyuseasasubstituteforsoap,ofwhichtheymakebutlittlebuttheyusevariouscosmetics,
andshavetheirheadsexceptatuftonthetop,givingoccupationtoagreatmanybarbers,whoalsocombinebleedingandothersurgicaloperationswith
theircalling.
InJapanthecustomsaresimilartothoseofChina,andtheirperfumesaremuchthesame,although,beingamoreprogressivecountry,theyare
graduallyadoptingtheproducts,aswellasthemannersofforeigncountries,andnowimportfromEuropemanyarticlesofperfumeryandcosmetic.The
exhibittheymadeatourCentennialattractedgreatattention,andhelpedtodemonstratetoourcountrymenthegreatadvuflcewhichtheyhavemadein
artsandmanufactures.
TheuseofperfumesbecamealmostobsoleteinEuropeafterthefalloftheRomanempire,butonlyfor31briefspaceoftime,foraftertheCrusadesit
againrevivedandsoonbecameingeneraluse.Thegallantknightsbroughthometotheir1allylovesthefarfamedperfumesoftheEast,andspecimens
ofthewonderfulcosmeticsbymeansofwhichthebeautiesoftheharemswereenabledtopreservetheircharms.
PerfumerscameintoprominentnoticeinthetwelfthcenturyinFrancewhenPhilipAugustusgrantedthemacharterwhichcontinuedinforceforseveral
centuries,andwasrenewedandenlargedbyLouisXIV,in1658,andthecraftbecameaveryimportantone,andwereadoftheuseoftheirproductsin
vastquantities.
TheArabs,whentheyconqueredSpain,introducedtheirnumerousperfumes,andalsothegeneraluseoftheircelebratedsystemofbaths.Alcoholic
perfumesandessencesdonotappeartohavebeenknownbeforethefourteenthcentury,whenElizabeth,QueenofHungary,inventedthecelebrated
Hungarywater,andissaidtohavebyitsuseretainedherbeautyuntilshewaspastseventyyearsofage.
InItaly,withtherevivalofthefineartsinthefifteenthcentury,luxurieswerecommonamongthemerchantprinces,andperfumeswerelargelyconsumed,
andwereadoptedbyallpeopleoffashion,andthefirstbookonthesubjectwaswrittenatthistime,whichcontainedmanycuriousrecipes.Catherincde
MedicisbroughtwithhertoFranceaFlorentinenamedRene,whoestablishedthefirstperfumeryshopinParis,whichwasagreatresortforthebeaux
andbellesofthatperiod.
DuringthereignofHenryIII.,theuseandabuseofperfumeswasdenouncedbythesatiristsoftheday,andabookpublishedatthattimegivesmany
curiousrecipesforperfumingglovesandvariouscosmetics,withrecipesforaspecificperfumeagainsttheplague,andamarvellouswaterwarrantedto
maketheladieswhouseditbeautifulforever.PerfumesinEnglandwerenotingeneralusebeforethereignofQueenElizabeth,whentheyseemtohave
beenbroughtfromItaly,andsoonbecamefashionable.Duringtheplagueperfumeswereextensivelyusedasapreventive,andtheprophylacticproperty
ofscentscannotbedoubted,forwhenthecholeraprevailedinParisandLondonthosewhoworkedintheperfumerylaboratorieswereexemptfromits
ravagesnorhasitbeenverylongsincemedicalpractitionersusedtocarryonthetopsoftheircanescassolettesfilledwitharomatics,whichtheyheldto

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theirnoseswhenvisitingcontagionscases.PerfumeswereingreatfavorinthereignofCharlesII.,themerrymonarchandthefashionofwearing
patchesonthefacewascommonamongtheladies,asitwassupposedtogivepiquancytothefeaturesandtheuseofhairpowderwasfirstintroduced
aboutthistime,andcontinuedforovertwohundredyears.
LouisXIVissaidtohavehadastrongdisliketoallperfumesbutitmaybedoubted,for,bysome,heiscalledthesweetsmellingmonarch,andtheywere
extensivelyusedbyhisfamilyandbyallhiscourtiers.Inthereignofhissuccessor,LouisXV.,theywereusedingreatextravagance,asfashionordained
theiruseinevervaryingroutine,eachdayhavingitsparticularodors,theapartmentofthepalacebeingonedayperfumedwithtuberose,andthenext
withmuskandsaffronnorweretheyconfinedtothefairsex,forthegallantsgloriedinallthefavoritescentsoftheirmistresses,andthuswereoften
recognizedbysmellingofthefavoriteperfumesofthefaironeswhoenslavedthem.
Italy,inthosedays,excelledinthefinenessofitsproducts,andsuppliedtherestofEuropewiththebestperfumestheninuseandwereadoflargesums
beingexpendedforItalianperfumeryandcosmeticsbytheCourtofFrance.
DuringthesanguinarydaysoftheFrenchKevolution,theuseofperfumeswasverymuchinterrupted,butrevivedwithotherluxurieswiththeadventof
NapoleonandtheEmpressJosephineissaidtohavebeenpassionatelyfondofthem.Aboutthistimethevendersofperfumeryalsosoldvarioussortsof
medicinesandcurealls,andwereusuallystrollingcharlatans,ingorgeousapparel,inelegantequipages,whoaddressedagapingmultitudeextollingthe
virtuesoftheirnostrumsbutwhentheybecameobnoxioustheyweresuppressed.Thecallinghassinceassumedgreaterconsequenceandimportance,
until,atpresent,itisinpointofrespectabilityexcelledbynone.
Theuseofperfumesisnotconfinedtocivilizedandrefinedcountries,butisextensivelypracticedamongbarbarousandsavagenationsthoughof
perfumesofsweetscenttheymayknowbutlittle,yettothemarancidsmellmaybethemostpleasant.TheAfricanchiefanointshishairandwholebody
withoil,oftenperfumedwithherbsthoughthispracticemaybeintendedasaprotectionagainsttheraysofascorchingsun,andhiswellpolishedskin
maybewithhimasfashionableasourshiningboots.Dr.LivingstoneandotherAfricanexplorersgiveveryinterestingaccountsofthemannersand
customsofthatcountry,andoftenspeakoftheuseofcosmeticsandthefantasticalmodesofdressingthehairorwool,towhichtheyseemtodevote
muchcareandattention.
ThenativesofAustralia,thoughtheyhavemanyandrareperfumesandflowers,seemtopreferabadsmelltoanyperfume,whichisalsosaidtobethe
casewiththeEsquimaux.Thecustomoftattooing,whichmaybecalledapermanentcosmeticispracticedbythenativesofNewZealandandbythe
Polynesians,whopridethemselvesupontheelegantarabesquesthatdecoratetheirpersons.
TheTahitianwomen,whoaregenerallyhandsome,devotemuchcareandattentiontotheirhair,whichisusuallylongandbeautiful,andusecocoanutoil,
withvariousscents,indressingit.TheSouthAmericanIndiansalsodecoratetheirheadsandhairwithflowersandribbons,andcutitstraightoffinfront,
somethinglikethecustomnowprevalentamongthevotariesoffashion.
InourcountrytheIndiansuseagreatvarietyofpaints,thatmaybecalledcosmeticsandthevariouscolorshaveacertainsymbolism,asreddenotesjoy,
whileblacksignifiesgrief.Thechiefgivesmuchtimeandtroubletothisornamentation,andendeavorstomakehimselffrightfultohisenemiesorlovelyin
theeyesofhissquaw.
Ofthefashionsandperfumeryofourowntimeitwereneedlesstowrite,astheyarefreshinthememoryofallnorcanweventuretogiveanopinionof
theirmerits,asladiesalonearethebestjudgesofwhatisfashionableandbecoming,aswellastowhatisingoodtasteasaperfume.Atthepresentday
perfumeshavebecomeanecessitytoallcivilizednations,andtheartofperfumeryhas,withtheaidofchemistry,attainedaleadingrank,andthe
constantlyincreasingdemandforfineodorstestifiestotheirusefulnessandefficiency.
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