Perfume & Aromatics Timelines

  • The world’s first-recorded perfume maker is considered a woman named Tapputi  mentioned in a cuneiform tablet from the 2nd millennium BCE in Mesopotamia.
  • In India, perfume existed in the Indus Civilisation  (3300 BCE – 1300 BCE)
  • Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula for more than 6,000 years, and is commonly used in incense and perfumes.
  • In the 9th C the Arab chemist Al-Kindi wrote the book  Chemistry of Perfume and Distillations, with more than a 100 recipes for fragrant oils, salves, and waters.
  • The Persian chemist Avicenna in the 10th C introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers by means of distillation, the procedure most commonly used today.
  • The Muslims introduced perfumery into Spain and at the great fetes in Cordoba, Granada and Seville the air was always impregnated with the sweetest odours.
  • The art of perfumery was known in Western Europe from 1221, source: Monks recipes.
  • In the 16th C the personal perfumer to Catherine de’ Medici took the Italian perfume formulas to Paris.
  • In England perfumes were at first imported from Italy and France and came into fashion during the reign of QE I. Shakespeare often mentions musk civet, pomanders.
  • Amber known as Sea Resin by the Baltic facing countries where it was washed ashore, and as Tiger’s Soul in China,  has been used as a perfume  and aromatic since at least the 1st millennium BCE. It gained popularity from the 10th to 15th C when it was sent in tribute to the Chinese court.
  • In the Tang dynasty there was little differentiation between aromatics, incense, medicine and spices.
  • Civet  secretion was a  characteristic perfume of the 16th C from Amsterdam to Delhi. Civet first appears in Chinese and Arabic sources from around the 8th C.
  • In the mid 19th C Britain was importing: musk from China, Tibet, Vietnam and Siberia; Civet from India; Ambergris from the Baltic Sea; Rose water and oil from the Mediterranean and East India;   Sandalwood from India, China and Western Australia; Camphor from China and Japan, Myrrh from the East Indies and Balsam and Vanilla from Peru and Mexico.
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