Perfume, a term applied to the scent arising from odoriferous bodies, and also to these bodies themselves when they are prepared especially for the sake of their agreeable odor. The art of preparing them is called perfumery, and by the French is made to include the compounding of a great variety of articles for toilet use, as pomades, hair powders, oils, depilatories, cosmetics, dentifrices, soaps, etc, all of which are scented by the introduction of perfumes. From the most ancient times perfumes of various sorts have been held in high estimation. Solomon (Prov. xxvii. 9) remarks that "ointment and perfume rejoice the heart." They were prescribed as medicines by Hippocrates, Crito, and other ancient physicians. It is affirmed that after the destruction of the clove trees by the Dutch in the island of Ternate, the colony suffered from epidemics unknown before; and in times when the cholera has prevailed in London and Paris, those employed in the perfumery factories have escaped its ravages. The Egyptians prepared perfumes for different purposes, as for embalming the dead, as offerings to the gods, and for domestic uses. They anointed their bodies with oil, and it was the custom to pour sweet-scented oils upon the heads of newly arrived guests.
In their tombs are found boxes of alabaster, onyx, glass, ivory, etc, in which the ointments were kept. One of these now in Alnwick castle contains an ointment of which the scent is still retained. The perfumes employed in embalming are also preserved in the mummies. The Egyptians obtained the materials of their perfumes, such as bitter almonds and origanum, from their own soil, and also imported perfumes from Arabia and India. In the Bible frequent reference is made to the use of perfumes by the Hebrews. The sweet incense burned upon the altar was a perfume; and "the art of the apothecary," or as some read it " perfumer," is distinctly named in Exod. xxx., where Moses is directed to prepare the oil of holy ointment from the principal spices, myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and olive oil; and also to prepare a perfume of other spices named near the close of the same chapter. Other nations of antiquity, as the Phoenicians, Assyrians, and Persians, are known to have made great use of perfumes. - The art of perfumery was practised to an extraordinary extent by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The odor of perfumes was an offering to the gods, and the apparition of these was always represented as accompanied by an ambrosial fragrance.
Oils, pomatums, and other perfumes were made in great profusion and most lavishly used. After bathing and in their athletic exercises the Greeks used them liberally, and it was their custom to anoint themselves twice or even thrice a day. To such an extent was this carried, that Solon enacted a law forbidding the Athenians to use them. Their wines were perfumed by infusing in them roses, violets, and hyacinths; the first step, perhaps, in the preparation of alcoholic perfumes. Capua was especially celebrated for its perfumes. One of its principal streets, called the Sepla-sia, was made up entirely of shops devoted to this trade; and it was also largely carried on in several other towns of southern Italy and Greece. Pliny in his " Natural History " has given a very full account of the extraordinary varieties of perfume in use by the Romans under the emperors. The perfumers (unguen-torii) were mostly Greeks, and occupied a special quarter of the city. Their shops were supplied with aromatics from all parts of the known world, and were a favorite resort for fashionable loungers. The same taste continued under the Greek emperors.
The Arabs introduced their use into Spain with many curious receipts, some of which are still preserved and are supposed to have been handed down from the Egyptians. In the middle ages France and Italy were most conspicuous for the manufacture and use of perfumes. Incense and fragrant tapers were consumed in the Catholic churches as early as the baptism of Clovis, the first Christian king of the Franks, in 496. Alcoholic perfumes are supposed to have been first made in the 14th century; and the first of these of which we have an account is Hungary water, distilled from rosemary in 1370 by Elizabeth, queen of Hungary, who obtained the receipt from a hermit, and by the use of it is said to have preserved her beauty to old age. Catharine de' Medici, when she came to France to marry Henry II., brought with her a famous Florentine perfumer named Rene, and from that time the French made great progress in the art; but from the receipts that have been preserved it appears that their processes were very rude and unscientific.
In England a taste for perfumes appears to have been prevalent in the time of Shakespeare; and in that of Dean Swift the shops of the perfumers were the resorts of loungers, as they were in ancient Rome. But their use afterward declined. - The manufacture of perfumes is now chiefly carried on in Paris and London, and in various towns near the Mediterranean, especially in the south of France. The fruits and flowers of those sunny regions afford the greatest variety of fragrant odors, and certain towns and districts are famous for their peculiar productions; as Cannes for its perfumes of the rose, tuberose, cassia, jasmine, and the neroli, extracted from the leaves of the bitter orange; Nimes for thyme, rosemary, aspic, and lavender; Nice for the violet and mignonette; and Sicily for the lemon, bergamot, and orange. In England some of the essential oils are prepared from native herbs on a large scale, as at Mitch am in Surrey, where a ton of peppermint and of lavender is sometimes distilled at once.
In the northern United States many of the essences and essential oils are also largely prepared, the woods furnishing the winter-green, sassafras, and other sweet-scented plants, and the gardens the peppermint, rose, etc. - Perfumes are derived from a great variety of flowers, fruits, seeds, woods, and other vegetable products; and by the skilful combining of different scents, some are obtained that imitate the odor of flowers which are not themselves used in perfumery. But it is not from plants alone that perfumes are obtained. The delicate scent of flowers has been traced to certain oils and ethers, which can be elaborated from substances associated only with the most disgusting odors. The fetid fusel oil by different methods of treatment produces oils not to be distinguished from those of various fruits; the noisome oils of gas tar are made to yield the nitro-benzole, known as the oil of bitter almonds or essence of mirbane, which is now extensively used for perfuming soap, and is even preferable for confectionery and culinary uses to the genuine article (unless this is distilled over potash), as it contains no prus-sic acid; and from the drainage of cow houses is extracted an essential ingredient in the famous eau de mille fleurs.
The perfumes derived from animal sources are musk, civet, ambergris, hartshorn, etc. Ambergris, though having little scent itself, imparts a most ethereal and delicate odor to other perfumes. In an elaborate paper upon perfumery furnished by Mr. Eugene Rimmel to the society of arts of London, and published in No. 391 of their "Journal," scents in general use are classified in 18 groups, and the vegetable products used in this art are arranged in 10 divisions, as follows: 1, the floral series, viz., jasmine, rose, orange flower, cassia, tuberose, violet, jonquil, and narcissus; the attar or otto of roses (see Attar of Roses) is the most valuable product of this division; 2, the herbal series, comprising all aromatic plants, such as lavender, spike, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, geranium, patchouli (see Patchouli), and winter-green, which yield essential oils by distillation; 3, the andropogon series, a genus of plants of this name in Ceylon, which furnish the lemon grass, citronella, and ginger grass oil; 4, the citrine series, comprising the bergamot, orange, lemon, cedrat, and limette, from whose rinds an essential oil is obtained by expression or distillation; 5, the spice series, including cinnamon, cinnamon leaf, cloves, mace, nutmeg, and pimento; 6, the wood series, consisting of sandalwood, rosewood, rhodium, cedar, and sassafras; 7, the root series, comprising orris root and vetiver, of which the latter, called by the Hindoos Jcus-kus, the root of the anatherum rnuricattim, is made in India into mats and blinds, which being often watered and exposed to the sun shed a most agreeable and lasting perfume; 8, the seed series, composed of aniseed, dill, and caraway; 9, the balm and gum series, including balsam of Peru, balsam of Tolu, camphor, myrrh, benzoin, styrax, and other gums; 10, the fruit series, including bitter almonds, Tonquin beans, and vanilla.
The artificial preparations, above referred to, and the animal perfumes, make two more series. The greatest number of the materials, amounting to 28, is obtained from the south of France and Italy, which is the chief centre of manufacture for perfumery materials. The East Indies and China furnish about 21, Turkey 2, Africa 2, North America 6, South America 6, and England 4. The only articles named from the United States are peppermint, sassafras, and wintergreen. The manufacture of perfumes in the south of France is extensively carried on in the towns of Grasse, Cannes, and Nice. In Grasse about 70 establishments are engaged in this business and in distilling essential oil, and in the other two towns about 30 houses more. The principal materials used are orange and jasmine flowers, roses, violets, cassia, and tuberose. The manufactured articles consist of scented pomades and oils, rose water, and orange flower water. These do not include the essential oils, some of which are very valuable, the neroli, for instance, being worth about $50 a pound. - Several methods are in use for extracting the odoriferous properties of plants, and imparting these to spirits or oily bodies.
Some of the processes are noticed in the articles Eau de Cologne, and Essential Oils. In the preparation of pomades the best fat employed is the marrow of the ox; but a cheaper fat is often substituted for it, or a mixture of beef or veal fat and lard. These are beaten in a mortar, melted in a water bath, and then strained. Before the mixture cools the essential oil selected for the perfume is stirred in; or the flowers themselves are thrown in and left to digest for several hours, when they are taken out, the fat is again heated and strained under pressure, and fresh ones are put into it; and this is continued for several days, when it is strained in cloth bags. This process is called maceration. Inodorous oils, such as the oil of behn, described by Piesse in his work on perfumery, are well adapted for taking up the perfumes of flowers by this process. Pure olive oil is largely used in the south of Europe. But for delicate plants, such as the jasmine, tuberose, and cassia, the odoriferous principle of which would be injured by the heat, the process in use is that of absorption or enfleurage. Square wooden boxes are provided having bottoms of glass plate.
Upon these is spread a layer of purified lard and suet mixture, and upon this freshly gathered flowers are spread every morning, as long as the flower is in bloom. The boxes are kept shut, and the grease finally acquires a very strong odor. To saturate oil in the same way, the boxes have a wire bottom upon which cotton cloths soaked in the oil are laid, and the boxes or frames are piled upon each other to keep them close. When a number of cloths are charged with the perfume, they are subjected to the action of a press for recovering the oil. Spirits are scented by maceration or by digesting them with essential oils in a water bath and agitating them at times for several days. The eau de mille fleurs is prepared on this plan in Paris with the following ingredients and proportions: alcohol, 9 litres; orange flower water, 4 litres; balsam of Peru, 60 grammes; essence of bergamot, 120 grammes; essence of cloves, 60 grammes; essence of neroli, 15 grammes; essence of thyme, 15 grammes; essence of musk, 120 grammes. The last named essence is prepared by digesting in the heat of the sun for two months 15 grammes of civet and 75 grammes of musk in 2 litres of alcohol perfumed with ambergris. Scented vinegar is prepared in a similar way, vinegar being substituted for alcohol.
Another method was discovered and introduced by M. Millon, a French chemist. He found that the aromatic principle of vegetable matters might be extracted together with some fatty or waxy matters by treating them with purified ether or sulphuret of carbon; and that by evaporating the volatile solvent at a temperature below that of the surrounding atmosphere, the perfume is retained and fixed in the residuum without undergoing any change. The substance deposited by the treatment of different plants is variously colored; it is sometimes solid, or oily or semi-flnid, becoming solid after some time. The solvent may be collected as it condenses in the distillation, and the same may be used several times over; but it should always be for the same flower, and with the same apparatus. The choicest parts of the plants or flowers are used exclusively, by which mode much more delicate results are attained than by the ordinary mode of distillation. A remarkable peculiarity of the perfumes thus prepared is that they may be kept open to the air without being dissipated and lost.
They may be separated from the waxy matter by alcohol, which dissolves them together with a little of the oily and coloring matters; and in this state they may be conveniently mixed with fats and oils. - Pastilles are articles of perfumery made when set on fire to consume slowly and give out the odor with which they are charged. They are composed of charcoal finely pulverized, saltpetre, and the odoriferous substances, chiefly gum resins, the whole moulded into little cones, which are made to adhere together by the addition of mucilage. The pastilles du serail consist of 24 grammes of olibanum, 24 of sto-rax, 16 of nitre, and 124 of pulverized charcoal. For rose pastilles there are added to the above 32 grammes of rose leaves and 2 of essence of rose; for orange flower pastilles, 24 grammes of galbanum, 32 of dried pulverized orange peel, and 2 of essence of neroli; for vanilla, 24 grammes of galbanum, 16 of cloves, 32 of vanilla, 1 of essence of cloves, and 16 of essence of vanilla. Odoriferous spirits for burning are prepared in a similar way, the vanilla being generally replaced by gum benzoin. - The powdered almond paste used in perfumery is prepared from the residue of the bruised kernels of apricots or almonds, sweet or bitter, after the oil is pressed out.
This is ground and sifted. The paste is variously prepared from the powder. One process is to mix together 250 grammes each of the powder and of honey, with 500 grammes of the oil of bitter almonds and the yolks of four eggs. Perfumed soaps are prepared by substituting pomade for the grease in mixture with soda lees. - See Mme. Celnart, Nouveau manuel complet du parfumeur (Paris, 1845; translated into English by O. Morfit, Philadelphia, 1847); Septimus Piesse, "The Art of Perfumery and the Methods of obtaining the Odors of Plants" (London, 1855); Dr. A. B. Lunel, Guide pratique du parfumeur: Bic-tionnaire des cosmetiques et parfums (Paris, 1864); Pradal and Malpeyne, "A Complete Treatise on Perfumery," translated by H. Dus-sauce (Philadelphia, 1864); and Eugene Rim-mel, "The Book of Perfumes" (London, 1865).