Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume

Front Cover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Apr 1, 2011 - Health & Fitness - 272 pages

An artisan perfumer reveals a lost art and its mysterious, sensual history.

For centuries, people have taken what seems to be an instinctive pleasure in rubbing scents into their skin. Perfume has helped them to pray, to heal, and to make love. And as long as there has been perfume, there have been perfumers, or rather the priests, shamans, and apothecaries who were their predecessors. Yet, in many ways, perfumery is a lost art, its creative and sensual possibilities eclipsed by the synthetic ingredients of which contemporary perfumes are composed, which have none of the subtlety and complexity of essences derived from natural substances, nor their lush histories. Essence and Alchemy resurrects the social and metaphysical legacy that is entwined with the evolution of perfumery, from the dramas of the spice trade to the quests of the alchemists to whom today's perfumers owe a philosophical as well as a practical debt. Mandy Aftel tracks scent through the boudoir and the bath and into the sanctums of worship, offering insights on the relationship of scent to sex, solitude, and the soul. Along the way, she imparts instruction in the art of perfume compositions, complete with recipes, guiding the reader in a process of transformation of materials that continues to follow the alchemical dictum solve et coagula (dissolve and combine) and is itself aesthetically and spiritually transforming.


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User Review  - thewalkinggirl - LibraryThing

I picked this up for the history of perfume part. Content-wise it was interesting, but I found Aytoun Ellis's "The essence of beauty : a history of perfume & cosmetics" a more enjoyable read. If I had ... Read full review

Excellent Book!

User Review  - barfield84367 -

Excellent book very informative....provides the history of perfume perfume blending guidelines and recipes for blending your own fragrances. Fast shipping too! Read full review


Title Page
The Spirit of the Alchemist A Natural History
Prima Materia Perfume Basics
The Calculus of Fixation Base Notes
Aromatic Stangas Heart Notes
The Sublime and the Volatile Head Notes
An Octave of Odors The Art of Composition
Hacon de Seduction Perfume and the Boudoir
Perfumed Haters The Reverie of the Bath
Aromatics of the Gods Perfume and the Soul

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About the author (2011)

Mandy Aftel, founder of Aftelier, creates one-of-a-kind perfumes for individuals and private labels, and is also a counselor who specializes in working with artists and writers. The author of three previous books, she lives in Berkeley, California.

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