|Cothenet, Eric. “A New bibliography of perfume books,” in Private Library, 5th series, Vol. 5:4, 2002, pp. 179-95.|
'We are aware that much has been written on the subject of Perfumery, and large works on the subject are not at all uncommon...' This is how the preface to the American Perfumer's Manual starts, written and published anonymously in 1876. Well, if you ever have tried to collect perfume books, you might have found it very easy at the beginning, but have soon discovered one important obstacle to this honest occupation: the lack of good bibliographies.
The most recognized example has been published in the Journal de la Parfumerie by C. J. Wiggishoff, and its exact title is: 'Essai de bibliographie des parfums et des cosmétiques'. If this was just a 'trial run', this 'essai' was indeed a masterpiece, as nobody managed to publish a better one later — I am aware of only one other specialized bibliography which is part of the too little know Pays des Aromates by the Count Robert de Montesquiou, published in 1900. Less descriptive that a full bibliography, this catalogue of the personal collection of V. Klotz, chief perfumer of the Pinaud House, rapidly lists and describes 111 items, but without giving any precise detail.
For amateurs (like me...), here is now good news: I consider Ben Kinmont's catalogue 'Number 5' (April 2002, New York) as the third and maybe the best bibliography on perfume books.
Ben Kinmont is known mostly for his catalogues on gastronomy ('cookery, nutrition, domestic economy, drinking and the history of taste', as he would describe it), and this diligent work has led him to devote his catalogue 'Number 5' (surprising coincidence, isn't it?) to 'scents, cosmetics, and beauty in the history of chemistry, technology, medicine and women'.
All 104 items listed in this catalogue are of an exceptional quality: three quarters of them are 'first editions', the remainder being second or third editions at the most; this level of quality is extremely rare, when you take into account that only fifteen of the books were printed after 1900. Kinmont's catalogue registers six books and manuscripts from the sixteenth century, eleven from the seventeenth century, twenty-two form the eighteenth and the majority (50 out of 104) from the nineteenth century, linking it to the development of chemistry in the history of perfume.
Prices of the recorded books therefore are relatively high: the average is approximately $1,700 but eight books are valued at over $5,000 each. We have very little basis for comparison, since few auctions include this category of books. The only one which can be found regularly is Rimmel's Book of Perfume, generally sold in its 1870 French edition: offered in June 1990 for the equivalent of €533 in a perfume bottles auction (Corbeil-Essonnes), it was available in June 2001 for €320 and€335 (two different copies) in the excellent Modes et Parfums catalogue form the Librairie Chrétien in Paris. Its last recent presence in an auction was in May 2002 (Nantes) at the price of €600. Ben Kinmont offers his copy of the French edition (but with an 'hommage respectueux de l'auteur' written by E. Rimmel himself) at $900 and the first English edition (1865) at $600.
Let me refer to Rimmel's Book of Perfumes as one example of the quality of descriptions given by Ben Kinmont in his catalogue. The English 1865 edition is described as: '8vo. Frontispiece, twelve plates (one of which is in color), and numerous illustrations in the text. xx, 266 pp. Original gilt-stamped purple cloth, spine sunned, slight wear overall, all edges gilt'. The French edition is listed as: 'Ornate cloth binding, stamped in gilt, blind, blue, and red, upper joint worn, edges gilt, all of the original tissue guards retained, clean and crisp throughout'. As another example, let me quote the description of item 69, the 1672 edition of Pellegrini's collection of perfumes and cosmetic recipes: 'Contemporary red morocco, richly gilt, gaufered gilt edges, marbled pastedowns, light marginal dampstaining in the preliminary and final leaves, occasional spotting'. (Plate1.)
In edition to these precise and often poetic description, Kinmont generally indicates the origin or the history of the book (see item 62: 'the work is based on experiences had by Father Maurice de Toulon (d. 1668) during the plague in Genoa in 1656-57'), or a short biography of its author, when necessary (see item 103:
Wedel (1645-1721) was a professor of anatomy, surgery, botany and theoretical medicine at the University of Jena. He 'was a remarkably prolific author but it was primarily teaching at one of Germany's largest universities that he influenced a whole generation of physicians, including Hoffmann and Stahl.' - D.S.B., XIV, p 212.Furthermore, what is most precious for all book lovers, Kinmont uses all means of location for his listed books: item 1 is 'not in OCLC, Montesquiou, or Wiggishoff'; for item 2, 'OCLC lists two locations only: the National Library of Medicine and Colonial Williamsburg; Wiggishoff p. 21. Not in Montesquiou, Pays des Aromates, who does list the Paris edition of the same year; etc. Kinmont uses mostly OCLC, NUC, ESTC and RLIN but often adds some indications emanating from famous bibliographies such as Oberlé (item 84), Vicaire (item 30) or Fergusson (item 11). Future generations of perfume book collectors will find such detailed work invaluable.
Nevertheless, it is important to be objective and to indicate to our readers the main weakness of this catalogue: too many items are not books! From numbers 72 to 80, a collection of perfume advertisements, perfume price lists, and perfume sachets may be very interesting for collectors, but is a little too far from our favourite subject. Here we discover that most frustrating part of loving perfumes: it is an endless world, and links between perfume and plants, perfume and fashion, perfume and glass bottles, perfume and chemicals, or perfume and seduction are so numerous, that it is almost impossible to establish real borders. Ben Kinmont has chosen to focus on 'scents, cosmetics and beauty in the history of chemistry, technology, medicine and women', and nobody will blame him for is intrusion in the real life of perfume houses: his item 76 (c. 1790 - c. 1862 'a lovely small collection of perfume makers' calling cards, each beautifully illustrated and suitable for framing') is so amazing. (Plate 2, page 183.)
The second most expensive book of this catalogue therefore (valued at $10,000) is a 'perfume manufacturers' sample book of original photographs of perfume bottles and mounted chromolithographed labels'. This unique object (item 81) is absolutely wonderful, and I do not doubt that many collectors have dreamed of including it in their passionate collection - but I would rather favour the perfume books, and rediscover with you, what I consider to be: 'the 15 best books ever published on perfume'.
Let's start with 'the First Book on Perfume', as Kinmont claims: item no. 98, Theophrastus, Libellus de Odoribus (Paris, 1556). This first separate edition is a Latin translation fro Adrien Turnèbe (1512-1565) and OCLC records only three locations for this exceptional masterpiece, but both will have most certainly been sold, by the time you read this article. (Plate 3, opposite.)
However, the Theophrastus is not the oldest edition you will find in the Kinmont catalogue, since item 51 is dated from 1531. It is not a 'first edition', but 'the extremely rare Second Edition of Le Fournier's early guide to beauty (first edition, Paris: 1530) and possibly the only known copy', entitled La Decoratio[n] dHumaine Nature, et a Ornement des Dames (Lyon, 1531). Kinmont mentions a reprint, which appeared in 1992, but this version (Klinsieck) is based on the 1541 edition (Lyon), which the 'Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Pharmacie' takes for the original one. (Plate 8, page 194.)
Now, I would like to draw the attention of our readers to a group of three splendid Italian books, the most famous of which is item 91: G. V. Roseto, Notandissimi Secreti de l'Arte Profumatoria, for which Kinmont details the second edition (first edition: 1555), published in Rampazetto, in 1560. I would add to the comments included in the catalogue (seven locations recorded by OCLC, recorded in Wiggishoff and not in Montesquiou) that a reprint was published in 1973, and again in 1992 by Neri Pozza, in Vicenza. This book is particularly interesting because it does not only comprise secret perfume ingredients but also 'make-up to whiten a woman's complexion', etc. At that time hygiene, the art of cosmetics and perfumery had no borders, and 'in a time when man seemed capable of achieving the noblest endeavors, ... study and care of his body and a frank delight in adorning it' was 'one of his chief pastimes'. This comment is quoted by Kinmont from The History of Perfume (F. Kennet, 1975), writing about our next favourite: item 61, G. Marinello's Gli Ornamenti delle Donne Tratti dalle Scritture d'una Reina Greca. This wonderful first edition was published by Francesco de' Franceschi, in Venice in 1562. Recorded by Montesquiou and Wiggishoff, located in six different places by OCLC, this piece of work has never been seen (as far as I know) in any auction or any other catalogue in France. The third Italian book on perfume, which for me belongs to the category of the 'Top 15' is item 69, from Pellegrini, Secreti Nobilissimi dell'Are Profumatoria, about which we have already detailed the catalogue description (see illustration above, page 180). I would just like to point out that, on top of this rare 1672 edition, Kinmont also offers a copy of the second edition (1678), issued in Venice by S. Curti (the first one being printed in Bologna by Recaldini).
A few years later, at the end of the seventeenth century when Italy ad lost its primacy in perfume production, France became the country of excellence for perfume books. The first major book issued at that time in France is Simon Barbe's famous work, item 2, Le Parfumeur François. (Plate 4, opposite.)
Kinmont's catalogue offers three editions of this 'classical' piece of work: the first edition for Thomas Amaulry in Lyon (1963), the third edition issued by Paul Marret in Amsterdam (1696, item 3) and the first English edition, issued by Buckley in London (1696, item 4). A Paris edition is 'Extremely rare in the market; in fact, we waited to issue the current perfume catalogue until we had found a copy' (Kinmont, p. 8). His 'Perfume N° 5' was issued on 22 April 2002 (1200 copies printed by the Antinomian Press) and, to my knowledge, the only other appearance of Simon Barbe's original edition was in September 2001, in a small catalogue from a very reputable bookseller in 'Les Arcs' (any other information will be welcome).
The case of Kinmont's item 5 is even more interesting, since 'the work by Simon Barbe... In 1693, he issued a classic of perfumery Le Parfumeur François; in 1699 his second book appeared Le Parfumeur Royal, which was written more for the trade and less directed to the court and the gentry'. Kinmont offers the edition of 1761 (Paris: Saugrain), 'nouvelle e'dition, revue, corrigée et considérablement augmentée', but still mentions the name of S. Barbe with a questionmark. This edition has already been found in 2001, in the small catalogue mentioned above, but the 1699 edition was also available in the delightful catalogue Modes et Parfums from Librairie Chrétien (Summer 2001), described as 'premiére èdition parisienne trés augmentée'. We should also mention he 1992 reprint (Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Paris), and can conclude from all these sources that this excellent book is indeed the work of Simon Barbe.
Item 49 Abdeker ou l'Art de Conserver la Beauté (1754) is 'the very rare FIRST EDITION of Le Camus'... guide to beauty ... The date 1168 on the imprint refers to the Islamic calendar'. (Plate 5, opposite.) This copy is 'the first of several editions with translations appearing in English (1754) and Italian (1787) as well'. (Wiggishoff lists a 'nouvelle edition', Paris, 1763.) In addition to this, with his item 50, Kinmont offers an exceptional Italian edition (not recorded?), for which NUC and OCLC list only one location (NN) but for a different edition of the same year (Venice: Fomaleoni).
One year later, in 1755, the first edition of item 84 from Polycarpe Poncelet, Chimie du Gout et de l'Odorat was published in Paris (Le Mercier). This edition has be recorded in many bibliographies; our readers may refer to: 'Cole, p. 433; Ferguson I, 134; Montesquiou, no. 86; Mueller p 169; Oberlé 1088; Poggendorff II, col. 496; Simon Gastronomica 1212; Vicaire col. 171; Wiggishoff p. 22'. Many editions of this 'popular work on the distillation of liquors and perfumes' have ben printed from which Kinmont's catalogue offers: item 85, second edition (Paris: Pissot, 1761); item 86, third edition (Paris: pissot, 1766); item 87, first Italian edition (Florence: Bonducciana, 1792) and item 88, a very much expanded edition (Paris: Delalain, An VIII, 1799/1800). I can only add that, here again, a reprint has been published in 1992 by the B.I.P. (Plate 6, opposite.)
Poncelet was not the only one in his time to write on 'perfume and various cosmetics', and to explain the difference between 'perfumes to be evaporated in a room versus those to be burned'. In 1753 Dejean's first study on distillation appeared, soon to be followed by the second edition in 1759 of Traité Raisonné de la Distillation (item 26). But the author (Dejean? Hornot? see hereafter) became famous with the first edition in 1764 (Paris: Nyon, Guillyn & Saugrain) of Traité de Odeurs, Suite du Traité de la Distillaiton (item 27).
Kinmont also offers the third edition (item 28, 1788, Paris: Didot) but does not mention the date of the second one: 1777 (Paris: Bailly). 'There is a long-standing debate as to the authorship', writes Kinmont, but we all now follow the recommendations of Duveen and Ferchl who proposed the paternity of Ferdinand Dejean for these books, 'a chemist who died in Vienna in 1797 [born in Bonn in 1728] and was of Huguenot origin'.
P. J. Buc'hoz was a physician to King Stanislas of Poland, and to the Count d'Artois. His books on tobacco (e.g. Différentes Manières d'Appréter le Tabac) are wanted by specialists, and his manuals on the use of botanicals are much better known than his manuals on the use of botanicals are much better known than his Histoire Naturelle de la Lorraine or Histoire Naturelle de la France. In 1778, G. de Bure published the catalogue of Buc'hoz's library, 'one of the most beautiful ever composed', but Buc'hoz wrote up until his death in 1807 (some editions have been issued 'chez la dame Buc'hoz', at his wifes home). With item 12, Kinmont offers the very first French edition of Toilette de Flore (Paris: Valade, 1771), but also with item 13 an English edition from 1787, knowing however that 'Several English editions appeared beginning in 1772'.
We can end this list of famous French perfume books of the eighteenth century with the publication early in the nineteenth century, in 1809, of the first edition (item 7) of C. F. Bertrand's Le Parfumeur Impérial. Monglond (VIII, 105) suggests that the author of César Birotteau (H. de Balzac himself) 'could have found in this unknown book useful information' and Kinmont quotes the following comment from Morris (Fragrance, p. 173): 'There was no longer a royal perfumer, but the actual substance of Bertrand's book contained material similar to that discussed by eighteenth-century handbooks'. No other edition but this has been recorded.
There were no longer royal or imperial perfumers, and the art of perfumery was more and more linked to medical surveys on the 'sense of smell'. A new word appeared: Osphrésiologie (item 19, Paris: Méquignon-Marvis, 1821), and J. J. Cloquet (1787-1840) issued 'This enormous, sometimes excessive, and much-pillaged compilation' (A. Corbin). (Plate 7, opposite.) Kinmont has been exceptionally lucky to find a copy of this book (vi + 758 pages) since no other catalogue I know has been able to locate this one and only edition. G. Morton calls it 'an exhaustive work', Sagarin 'the classic in the medical literature'. It is cited as authoritative on my phases of the problem of this day, and A. Corbin refers to it as 'the reference work until the beginning of the twentieth-century'. To understand better the importance of H. Cloquet's work, I cannot resist the urge to advise our readers to discover A. Corbins magnificent study The Foul and the Fragrant (in French: Le miasme et la Jonquille), sub-titled: 'Odor and the French social imagination' (issued in 1982 in Paris, and in 1986 in English by Harvard University Press).
The second key perfume book of the nineteenth century is G. W. S. Piesse's The art of Perfumery (item 82, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855), 'The FIRST EDITION of Piesse's popular work on perfume'. Many editions of this book have been printed (1862, 1879, 1891 in London, 1865, 1877 in Paris, but also in Germany and in America), and the success of Piesse's other masterpieces has also been undisputed: see item 83, Chimie des parfums (Paris: Libr. Baillière) or Histoire des parfums (not included in Kinmont's catalogue).
We can now end our list of the 'Top 15' best perfume books with the one already described at the beginning of this article: Rimmel's The Book of Perfumes (items 89 and 90). This fine book can be easily found in specialized auctions (see Drouot, Nov. 1987 or April 1988; Chrétien's catalogues: Sept. 1999 or June 2001; Nantes, May 2002; etc.) and I would recommend starting your perfume book collection with this milestone.
To conclude, we should come back to Ben Kinmont's catalogue and ask ourselves whether, despite its omissions, we now have the 'ultimate' bibliography on perfume books. I would suggest that it is almost perfect, and I have been working hard to find what could be missing in this catalogue that I so admire. Some amateurs will take the challenge to find the very first edition (1753) of Dejean's Traité de la distillation or, even better, the 1530 first edition of Le Founier's guide to beauty (of which the second edition of 1531 is shown opposite). But I would prefer to find the 1740 edition (published in Rouen) of Nicolas Le Cat's Traité des Sens; I have personally only the 1744 Amsterdam edition.
And, last but not least, a small weakness of Kinmont's 'Number 5' is his being unable to offer anything at all by Jean Liebaut: his Trois Livres de l'Embellissement et Ornement du Corps Humain, first issued by Jacques du Puys in Paris in 1582, then in Lyon (Benoist Rigaud) in 1595 is one of the most beautiful books ever printed on cosmetics and perfumes from the Renaissance. My Ben Kinmont forgive me: we are waiting for his new catalogue on perfume books, and perhaps, one day, an even more formal bibliography.
Our thanks are due to Mr Ben Kinmont (www.kinmont.com) for suggesting that M. Eric Cothenet should write this piece, as well as for his generosity in allowing us to use the scans from his catalogue to illustrate it.