To give abrief history of perfume is probably to give a brief history of humancivilisation during which references to aromatic oils perfumes and fragrancesabound. One can only speculate on their uses during the prehistory of humanity,but there is little doubt that they played important parts in religious andpolitical rituals. The Sumerian Queen, Schubab, was found to have cosmetics andperfume bottles in her grave indicating the importance of perfumes to that veryancient culture.
The word perfume used todayderives from the Latin "per fumum",meaning through smoke.Perfumery, or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Mesopotamiaand Egyptand was further refined by the Romansand Persians.Although perfume and perfumery also existed in India, much of itsfragrances are incensebased. The earliest distillation of Attarwas mentioned in the Hindu Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita. The Harshacharita,written in 7th century A.D. in Northern India mentions use of fragrant agarwoodoil.
The world's first recorded chemist is considered to be a woman named Tapputi,a perfume maker who was mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the secondmillennium BC in Mesopotamia. She distilled flowers, oil, and calamus withother aromatics then filtered and put them back in the still several times.
Recently, archaeologists have uncovered what are believed to be the world'soldest perfumes in Pyrgos, Cyprus. The perfumesdate back more than 4,000 years. The perfumes were discovered in an ancientperfumery. At least 60 stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles werefound in the 43,000-square-foot (4,000 m2) factory.In ancienttimes people used herbsand spices,like almond,coriander,myrtle,conifer resin,bergamot,as well as flowers.
The Arabian chemist, Al-Kindi(Alkindus), wrote in the 9th century a book on perfumes which he named Book of the Chemistry of Perfume andDistillations. It contained more than a hundred recipes for fragrantoils, salves, aromatic waters and substitutes or imitations of costly drugs.The book also described 107 methods and recipes for perfume-making, and eventhe perfume making equipment, like the alembic, still bears its Arabic name.
The Persian Muslim doctor and chemist Avicenna(also known as Ibn Sina) introduced the process of extracting oils from flowersby means of distillation, the procedure most commonly used today. He firstexperimented with the rose.Until his discovery, liquid perfumes were mixtures of oil and crushed herbs orpetals, which made a strong blend. Rose water was more delicate, andimmediately became popular. Both of the raw ingredients and distillationtechnology significantly influenced western perfumery and scientificdevelopments, particularly chemistry.
Knowledge of perfumery came to Europeas early as the 14th century due partially to the spread of Islam. But it wasthe Hungarianswho ultimately introduced the first modern perfume. Made of scented oilsblended in an alcohol solution, the first modern perfume was made in 1370 atthe command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and was knownthroughout Europeas Hungary Water.
The art of perfumery prospered in RenaissanceItaly,and in the 16th century, Italian refinements were taken to France by Catherine de' Medici's personal perfumer, Renele Florentin. His laboratory was connected with her apartments by a secretpassageway, so that no formulas could be stolen en route. France quicklybecame the European center of perfume and cosmetic manufacture. Cultivation offlowers for their perfume essence, which had begun in the 14th century, grewinto a major industry in the south of France. During the Renaissanceperiod, perfumes were used primarily by the wealthy to mask body odorsresulting from infrequent bathing. Partly due to this patronage, the westernperfumery industry was created. By the 18th century, aromatic plants were beinggrown in the Grasseregion of Franceto provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials. Even today, Franceremains the centre of the European perfume design and trade.