NotesGeorge 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.