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D3266 Perfume containers (2), Otto of Rose, copper / paper / cork / rose oil residue, maker unknown, Turkey, used by perfume company Piesse and Lubin, London, England, acquired 1893. Click to enlarge.

Round Otto of Rose perfume bottles

The Museum acquired this perfume flask in 1893 as part of a collection of botanical specimens sent from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, in London. However this flask's journey did not begin in London, as the label reveals, the flask was used as a vessel for the importation of 'Otto of Rose', otherwise known as 'attar of rose' or rose oil. Rose oil is the essential oil extracted from the petals of roses generally of the variety Rosa damascena, which is the basis for the industry in Eastern Europ...


Object No.


Object Statement

Perfume containers (2), Otto of Rose, copper / paper / cork / rose oil residue, maker unknown, Turkey, used by perfume company Piesse and Lubin, London, England, acquired 1893

Physical Description

Round hammered copper flask with small spout and cork stopper. Records housed in the Economic Botany Department at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London, state that the object is a "Copper flask in which 113 ounces of Turkish Otto of Rose valued at 169 pounds 10 shillings was imported. Second flask No. 632 in wadding."

Acquired by the Museum of Applied Arts and Science in 1893 from the Museum of Economic Botany ? Kew, London


Written on a paper label on one side of the flask are the words "Turkish Otto of Rose / Copper, Contained 44 ounces, Market value / £66,"0"0.D3266 / Messers Piesse & Lubin".



75 mm



Acquired in 1893, indicating date made was before this time.This flask was designed to hold rose oil, otherwise known as otto or attar of rose. Rose oil is the essential oil extracted from the petals of roses generally of the variety Rosa damascena, which is the basis for the industry in Eastern Europe, Turkey and Syria and Rosa centrifolia, which is the basis of the industry in Morocco, Egypt and Western Europe. Yields of oil vary widely and it can take between 1500 and 10 000 kilograms of rose petals to make one kilogram of rose oil. Though the price of rose oil is high and its manufacture process is labour intensive, it remains one of the most widely used essential oils in perfume and cosmetics.

The flask itself is made out of hammered copper and has a capacity of approximately 113 ounces of liquid (3.34 litres). Copper is a soft, malleable and ductile metal and an essential element with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. It is found in ore deposits around the world and was first worked by crafts persons around 10,000 years ago and as alloyed in bronze (copper-tin alloy) about 5000 years ago. Today some of copper's uses include automotive applications, antimicrobial uses, heating, cooling and refrigeration, electrical wiring, electronics, power generation and transmission.



George William Septimus Piesse was the chemist and perfumer behind the Piesse & Lubin Company. Fascinated by the role of perfume in society and intent on sharing techniques for the furtherment of his industry, Piesse wrote many scientific texts about the manufacture of perfume, including a seminal text named 'The Art of Perfumery' (1857), which went on to ten editions.

'The Art of Perfumery' is an interesting text as it emphasises the concept that scent must be taught, refined and developed, in the same manner as the other senses. As Piesse wrote, "The patrons of perfumery have always been considered the most civilized and refined people of the earth. If refinement consists in knowing how to enjoy the faculties which we possess, then must we learn not only how to distinguish the harmony of colour and form, in order to please the sight, the melody of sweet sounds to delight the ear; the comfort of appropriate fabrics to cover the body, and to please the touch, but the smelling faculty must be shown how to gratify itself with the odoriferous products of the garden and the forest." The text also describes scientific techniques for the exact replication of specific scents, like a recipe book for perfumes, providing insight into the development of perfume manufacture and its long history.

As Piesse expressed, perfume has a long history dating back thousands of years. The first recorded perfumer was a Mesopotamian chemist named Tapputi-Belatekallim, mentioned on a cuneiform tablet dating to circa 1200 BC. An overseer of the Royal Palace, Tapputi created perfume products out of flowers, oil, Acorus calamus, cypress, myrrh and other aromatic resins, which she purportedly distilled using her own methods. Following on from this tradition, perfume became a widely used product in Egypt and glass perfume bottles have been discovered that date to around 1000 BC. The methods and ingredients used in the manufacture of this perfume are described in Book 13 of Pliny the Elder's 'Naturalis Historia'. Although critical of perfumes, which he stated were 'the most superfluous of all forms of luxury (?)' Pliny lists a number of cosmetic and medicinal uses for rose oil, including its use as a complexion enhancer and as a cure for earache.

Perfume came into its own in Europe under the reign of King Louis XV of France (1710 ? 1774), reaching its peak in England around the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As with industry and the arts, perfume manufacture underwent a profound change in the 19th century as alchemy gave way to chemistry and new fragrances were created. Under the post-revolutionary government people once again dared to express a penchant for luxury goods, including perfume, and the development of modern chemistry laid the foundations of perfumery as we know it today.


Credit Line

Acquired by Exchange with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1893

Acquisition Date

7 August 1893

Cite this Object


Round Otto of Rose perfume bottles 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 31 March 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Round Otto of Rose perfume bottles |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=31 March 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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