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Historical Perfumery in the West. Late Medieval And Renaissance Recipes

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Supplementary material for the class taught on April 17th 2020 as part of online activities within SCA Virtual Classroom and Artisan Display group on Facebook.

The history of perfumery covers over 6000 years so I decided to divide the class into several blocks. This part is dedicated to the western world and covers High Medieval period and Renaissance.

General use – fragrances are still considered as both luxury item and as medication.

•Religious ceremonies (oils, incense)

–individual saints are associated with oils curing/preventing disease

•Fumigation of enclosed spaces (air purification)

•Medication (including antidotes)

•Body and clothing scenting

  1. Added to laundry
  2. Pomanders
  3. Storage of linens
  4. Perfumed gloves.

•Art of seduction

–spiced wine and food.

Sources for recipes – extant texts dedicated to perfumery (book of secrets) or medicine (materia medica)

Full texts of Renaissance beauty recipe books

1. Notandissimi secreti de l’arte profumatoria by Giovanventura Rosetti

https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_-LTT7FQZNSIC

2. I secreti de la signora Isabella Cortese : ne’qvali si contengono cose minerali, medicinali, arteficiose, & alchimiche, & molte de l’arte profumatoria, appartenenti a ogni gran signora : con altri bellissimi secreti aggiunti by Cortese, Isabella

https://archive.org/details/isecretidelasign00cort

3. Manual de mugeres en el qual se contienen muchas y diversas reçeutas muy buenas.

http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/01371074322363763092257/p0000001.htm#PagFin

http://www.larsdatter.com/manual.htm (English translation though the names of ingredients have to be carefully checked)

4. Liébaut / Liébault, Jean. Trois Livres de l’embellissement et ornement du corps humain, pris du latin de M. Jean Liebaut… et faict François. A Paris, chez Jacques Du Puys, 1582.

http://www.biusante.parisdescartes.fr/histoire/medica/resultats/index.php?do=livre&cote=88095

5. Gli ornamenti delle Donne. Marinello, Giovanni. 1574. Gli Ornamenti Delle Donne. Venice.

https://archive.org/details/McGillLibrary-rbsc_gli-ornamenti-delle-donne_TP983M42M31574-15978/page/n5/mode/2up

6. Ruscelli, Girolamo, and William Ward. 1595. The Secrets of the Reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont: Containing Excellent Remedies against Diverse Diseases, Wounds, and Other Accidents, with the Maner to Make Distillations, Parfumes, Confitures, Dying, Colours, Fusions, and Meltings. London.

https://archive.org/details/secretsofreveren00rusc/page/n4/mode/2up.

7. Partridge, John, and Johnna Holloway. 2010. The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits,  & Hidden Secrets, and May Be Called, The Huswiues Closet, of Healthfull Prouision. 1573. http://eebo.chadwyck.com/about/about.htm#chron

http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/treasurie.pdf

Links to other texts (not available for free download)

1. Delightes for ladies to adorn their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories: with beauties, banquets, perfumes and Waters. (1608) by Hugh Plat

2. Ricette d’amore e di bellezza di Caterina Sforza, signora di Imola e di Forlì

3. Ricettario galante del principio del secolo XVI by Olindo Guerrini

4. Ricettarrio fiorentino 1498 (and later version of the Ricettario). Crocetti, Luigi, ed. 1968. Ricettario Fiorentino, 1498. Collana di. Biblioteca Nazional Centrale.

5. Magistro Gasparino da Venezia, and Carlo Castellani. 1959. Secreti Medicinali Di Magistro Guasparino Da Vienexia: Andidotario Inedito Del XIV-XV Secolo. Athenaeum Cremonense.

https://books.google.com/books/about/Secreti_medicinali_di_magistro_Guasparin.html?id=siVPQwAACAAJ.

Fragrance types

•Scented oils and ointments

•Distilled waters

  • Homemade distilled rose water made from soured dried petals (Water, soured rose petals (Rosa centifolia).
  • Homemade rose water (distilled) (Water, red rose petals (Rosa gallica), benzoin styrax (Styrax benzoides)).

•Alcohol based perfumes (distilled and infusions)

•Incense

•Powders (like ciprino – powder of Cyprus)

*Distillation apparatus made of glass, lead, pewter and pottery. Sometimes choice of distilling or not is left to the choice of person using the recipe “distill or not, as you like.”

Aromatics in use

•Basil, pellitory (Spanish chamomile),  Roman and German chamomile,  rosemary, marjoram, savory, sage,  coriander, mint, costmary, borage, myrtle, laurel bay, melilot, wild thyme (serpyllum), sweet flag, nut grass, asarabaca (Asarum europium), hyssop, rue, Syrian rue, wormwood, pennyroyal, winter savory, rhodiola.

•Roses and rosehip, lavender, elderflowers, crocus (saffron), roses, lily, iris, meadowsweet, violets, yarrow, broom, carnations.

•Grapes (wine and raisins), citrons, quinces, pomegranates, lemons, oranges.

•Cedar, fir, cypress, savin, Pistacia trees (for terebinth and mastic), juniper, ivy (for resin), oak (gall oak and oak bark), pine (pine nuts and bark), chaste tree, willow charcoal (used to make fragrant carbone di salice or carbone dulce).

•Sweetgum, styrax (Styrax officinalis), labdanum, balsam (?), scammony, southernwood.

•Honey, bee glue (propolis), beeswax.

•Almond oil, laurel bay berry oil, olive oil.

*Balsam of Gilead appeared regularly in materia medica recipes and in some books of secret. Since balsam was not widely cultivated (the last orchard was in Alexandria and seemed to stop operating by 12th century), the question remains what was traded and sold under the name ‘balsam.’

Aromatic substances –  imported

•Costus, valerian, Indian nard, Indian valerian, galangal, cinnamon, cassia, black and green cardamom, long pepper, cubeb, betel nuts (Areca catechu), cassamum (plai), ginger, zedoary, turmeric, lemongrass, pepper (black and white), grains of paradise, nutmeg, mace.

•Bdellium, frankincense, myrrh, Smyrna, Borneol camphor, galbanum, gum ammoniac, amber resin (succinum), Siam benzoin, styrax benzoin.

•Arabian and royal jasmine.

White and red sandalwood, agarwood.

Deer musk, civet, castoreum, ambergris.

•Oak moss, camel grass, rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo), sweet cane sugar, elecampane, cassia fistula, cloves, black myrobalan (Terminalia chebula).

•Tragacanth gum from Astragalus, gum Arabic.

*I use real civet tincture, castoreum macerate in sandalwood oil, muskrat tincture and musk mallow seeds (musk replacement), Ambergris essence (IFF). In US, even possession of raw ambergris is prohibited (prison sentence and/or fine).

Selected bibiography

Messinis, Anna, and F. (Frederick) Lauritzen. 2017. The History of Perfume in Venice. Lineadacqua

Orta, Garcia. 1913. Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India. Edited by Clements Markham. London: Henry Sotheran and Company. https://archive.org/details/colloquiesonsimp00orta/page/n8/mode/2up.

Pointer, Sally. 2005. The Artifice of Beauty: A History and Practical Guide to Perfumes and Cosmetics. Sutton.

Treccani, Elisa., and Michelangelo. Zaccarello. 2012. Recipe …: Pratiche Mediche, Cosmetiche e Culinarie Attraverso i Testi (Secoli XIV-XVI). Cierre grafica

The survey of perfume and incense

Travel in time and place starts here…

Late 14th century Italy

Magistro Guasparino’s recipe # 155

Magistro Guasparino’s recipe # 138

Ricettario fiorentino  1498

Olio nardino cioe di spigonardi di Mesue et usasi (recipe copied/inspired by Arabic text of Mesue or Yuhanna ibn Masawaih)

Olio di Gugliemo Piacentino il quale si usa in lugo di balsamo (the way to replace true balsam oil)

16th century Italian recipes

Secreti di Isabella Cortese (16th century Italy) recipe # 187 – ‘’Perfect royal oil’’

Perfumed water from 16th century Venice (Giovanventura Rossetti, Notandissimi secreti de l’arte profumatoria, 1555)

Extant scent bottle

16th century French recipes

Monsieur Liebaut recipe from page 379 ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century), to be used as 1:12 dilution in rose water

Monsieur Liebaut recipe from page 381 (middle one) from ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century)

Monsieur Liebaut recipe from page 380 (lower recipe) from ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century)

Monsieur Liebaut recipe from page 381 (‘lower recipe’) from ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century)

Monsieur Liebaut recipe from page 379 (‘lower recipe’) from ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century) – distilled

Monsieur Liebaut damask (musk) water recipe from page 379 (‘top recipe’) from ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century) – distilled

Monsieur Liebaut damask (musk) water recipe from page 379 (‘top recipe’) from ‘’On beautification of human body’’ (France, 2nd half of 16th century) – cooked

Late 16th century English recipes

Hugo Platt’s ‘’Rosa solis’’ or ‘’Aqua Solis” (recipe #6 in Distillation chapter) (early 17th century, 1604)

Hugo Platt’s ‘’Stevens Aqua Composita” (recipe #8D in Distillation chapter) (early 17th century, 1604)

My pomander replicas.
Replica based on pomander from Germany, dated to ~1580.
Replica based on pomander from Germany, dated to ~1600.

Italian incense

Incense shaped like small birds from 16th century Venice (I secreti de la signora Isabella Cortese: ne’qvali si contengono cose minerali, medicinali, arteficiose, & alchimiche, & molte de l’arte profumatoria, appartenenti a ogni gran signora: con altri bellissimi secreti aggiunti by Cortese, Isabella, 1565)

Uccelletti – incense shaped like ”ugly ducks” instead of small birds.

I hope you have enjoyed the journey!

For more information, please visit my website at www.kasiagromek.com

Or contact me by email at murcielago53@hotmail.com

An ongoing perfumery course on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/807436473052978/

For perfume samples or customized products: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TreasuresofTrecio?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=655226216


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