Books: 36 posts

Books for perfume lovers

Patricia de Nicolai Book : Perfume, Thoughts, Inspirations

Parfums de Nicolaï is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, Patricia de Nicolaï and her husband Jean-Louis Michau, the founders of the perfume house, have published a book about their work. Titled Nicolaï, Parfumeur créateur: un métier d’artiste, this 145 page volume covers the story of the collection and their creators.

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Patricia de Nicolaï is part of the Guerlain family, a granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, Jacques Guerlain‘s brother. She grew up in the world of perfumery and quickly found her way into the lab. In her book, she describes her childhood, her apprenticeship and her thoughts on creation in general.

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Mrs Dalloway and Perfumes of 1925

I’m a latecomer to Virginia Woolf’s writing. Mrs Dalloway was the first Woolf’s novel I read, and its prose, such as the excerpt below demonstrates, is so hypnotizing, I look forward to discovering more of her work.

“There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. Ah yes–so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking to Miss Pym who owed her help, and thought her kind, for kind she had been years ago; very kind, but she looked older, this year, turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness.

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And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale–as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower–roses, carnations, irises, lilac–glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!

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Perfume and Poetry: The Book of Scented Things Review

Patricia on perfume and poetry.

For me poetry first meant the limericks and nursery rhymes in The Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermeyer and containing lovely illustrations by Joan Walsh Anglund. The pages of this book became dog-eared and torn over the years, and the cover finally fell off. Once I could read, I graduated to the longer poems within, such as “The Highwayman” and “Paul Revere’s Ride.” But it wasn’t until high school, when I was introduced to a wider range of poetry, especially modern verse, that I felt the power of poetry to take one on an incredible journey within the space of only a few verses. As a teenager, the poems of e e cummings were early favorites, and I still have a copy of Poems 1923-1954, my name written on the flyleaf in loopy handwriting I hardly recognize.

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The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume, edited by Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby, is a collection of one hundred original poems about fragrance written by American poets. These poets were sent perfume vials, all different and carefully chosen by the editors, and asked to “…write a poem that engages with or responds to the fragrance that we have sent you.” The editors go into detailed explanation of the book’s inception in the Introduction, and Alyssa Harad, author of Coming to My Senses, provides her thoughts on scent and literature in a well-written Preface. A very useful Contributors’ and Matchmaking Notes section appears at the end of the book and gives biographical information on each poet as well as the name of the assigned perfume.

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Rare Perfumes by Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Férat : New Perfume Book

Rare Perfumes (Parfums Rares in its French edition) is a new book that takes a close look at the niche/artisanal fragrance movement. Written by Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Férat, it starts its journey in the 1980s and encompasses a wide range of lines, from L’Artisan Parfumeur and Annick Goutal to État libre d’Orange and Comme des Garçons. In the words of perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï, “Rare Perfumes underlines a major breakthrough for our profession: the arrival for more than 20 years of several brands having all the desire to create differently. This other perfumery shakes up a market dominated by big international groups and it is the best thing that could ever happen to the perfume industry!”

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The book features 152 pages and more than 300 photos (take a look inside). The publication date is March 2014, but it’s currently available in both French and English at the Osmothèque website. Via press release

Price: 39 €
ISBN 13: 9782909953182
Diffusion Puf – Distribution : UD

Things That Makes One’s Heart Beat Faster

I would love to have shared a cup of tea with Sei Shonagon, a 11th century Japanese court lady and author of The Pillow Book. What a character she must have been! It is rare that a personage removed by so many centuries feels so modern, but I can just imagine her doling out choice comments and sharing some court gossip. Of course, I would be worried that this aesthete might find either my conversation too dull or my attire too plain, since her diary is evidence enough of her strong opinions.

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Besides anecdotes about court life, The Pillow Book is full of poetic vignettes and observations. It’s a world where the first snowfall can be cause for celebration and where lovers send each other incense perfumed letters. Sei Shonagon’s rapier-sharp wit and appetite for life shine through her compilation of stories. That she is not all charm and sweet manners makes her even more fascinating.

The Pillow Book was written during a particularly trying period of Sei Shonagon’s life. Emperor Ichijo had recently taken on another consort, sidelining the writer’s patron, Empress Teishi, to a secondary role. Incidentally, the biggest rival to Sei Shonagon’s literary skill served the new Empress Shoshi. It was Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the first modern novel, The Tale of Genji. With the declining fortunes of Empress Teishi, Sei Shonagon’s future was likewise troubling, and she probably found solace in writing.

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