The Handbook of Great Italian Perfumery.
Fifty Years of Exceptional Scents
by Marika Vecchiattini, Silvana Editoriale 2020
original version in Italian:
Manuale della Grande Profumeria Italiana.
Cinquant’anni di essenze straordinarie
Being a perfume lover but also a book lover, I could not miss this recent publishing release. The book is a combination of three winning elements, whose result is a must-have for multiple reasons.
Marika Vecchiattini is a world-known expert of fragrances and History of fragrances, journalist and writer of many books devoted to our fantastic world of smell. Her books are a must-read not just for beginners but also for connoisseurs.
I was lucky enough to meet her a couple of times at Pitti Fragrance in Florence, and be in touch with her several times. She’s not just incredibly erudite, but a person whose passion is literally sparkling and contaminating her surroundings, with no possibility of escape.
Silvana Editoriale is one of the leading Italian (but also International) publishing houses whose core business is Art, Photography and Design. Before releasing my first perfume creations, I had been working in the art and illustrated publishing world for a long time, and I am familiar with the players in the field. This house has released so many sophisticated books, touching the most refined and interesting topics, with top-notch authors, appealing photographic selection and a printing quality which is crucial for this kind of product – differently from fiction books, for instance.
Italian Perfumery: a topic which has been forgotten for too long a time, is finally in the spotlight. During the past 50 years all the greatest Italian designers released one, or more, or many perfumes, embodying their spirit, their vision, their sense of femininity or masculinity, in short, their style. French Perfumery, to whom so many writings have been devoted to, has looked to its Italian cousin with great interest, thanks to their different approach and specific style.
Here we finally have the combination of these elements: a great writer, a great publishing house, a great subject!
When I received this book, I was immediately impressed by the beauty of pictures. This is an aspect that might go unnoticed to an inexperienced eye, as most of us expect that images are good, but we don’t know where they come from. Many illustrated books rely on databases of existing pictures, where high-quality images are available to buy, and you can do a good book out of it (well, of course by paying some good copyrights too!). This is not possible if you need to illustrate Italian Perfumery: there was little or no good quality images available, so the publisher made a campaign of ca. new 200 images of bottles – and you can tell by the polished quality of them.
The search for bottles was not easy: the book features also perfumes which are discontinued today, so it was a hard job for Marika to find precious and rare bottles among collectors.
The book is such an amazing display of knowledge with an easy approach, that you cannot stop reading it.
It starts from a concise yet exhaustive history of Italian perfumery (Perfume in Italy) – and let me point out the part where in 1533 the Florentine Catherine de’ Medici goes to Paris, bringing with her Renato Bianco, then renamed René Le Florentin, perfumer and poison maker, thus contributing to the birth of French perfumery –, with a big focus on the past century and the development of industrial perfumery.
Then five large sections are following, the core of the book: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s. Every decade is introduced in details then a wide selection of fragrances are fully and individually explained and illustrated.
Interviews with the protagonists provides a wide range of interesting, ‘insider’ information by involving the real protagonists of the last 50 years: perfumers, brand owners, glassmakers, etc. As a very useful appendix, you can also find a list of perfumes released by Italian brands in alphabetic orders.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in perfumery, not just because of the above-explained qualities but also because you cannot find anything similar in the market.