Book Reviews
Book 15

Perfumery With Herbs by Ivan Day


Pub. Darton, Longman & Todd (in association with The Herb Society) London 1979
218 pages. ISBN 0-232-51414-3

This is the second time I have reviewed this book the first review mysteriously disappearing off this site! A few years on, I still value it as one of the best introductory books for the beginner to early perfumery. After a historical introduction and a guide through the various classes of aromatic materials, we have a 30-page chapter on pomanders and perfumed beads, a short (10 page) chapter on incense, and even shorter chapter on washballs, and chapters on sachet powders and pot-pourris. The final chapter, which takes approximately one third of the space of the book, is a glossary of scented plant materials. The book is excellently illustrated with 16 line drawings by Margaret Tebbs.

The chapters describing perfumed articles are sprinkled with recipes, hints and tips, so, as indicated in the introduction, the long neglected aromatic resources can once again be employed in the purpose of making scented articles, just as in Elizabethan times. Many of the recipes are strewn with unfamiliar terms and ingredients and these are helpfully explained. Not only that but the precise origin of many of the recipes is indicated.

Several things are apparent for the would-be beginner here. The procurement of certain of the items is going to be something of a challenge, to say nothing of an expense! The safety and ethical procurement use of ingredients is really not covered, although obviously the world has moved on since the date of publication. As an example, ambergris and musk are featured in many formulas, which are not considered in either legitimate or ethical use today.

Nevertheless this book is one of the few detailed practical guides we have to making fragrant items, and contains quotes, research and reports from early publications which are difficult to find easily. Although it may be difficult to find the book second-hand, you may be able to obtain the book through inter-library loan in the UK at least.

Copyright Tony Burfield May 2002.