The end of the 17th century marked a decisive turning point for therapy and already foreshadowed modern pharmacy.
The dreams linked to alchemy disappeared, and experimentation took a growing place in scientific research.
We are witnessing the birth of chemistry. Botany developed with the same speed thanks to the facilities of communication which will allow many explorers to enrich the medical material of all the products brought back from the Americas and the Far East.
A new era began, an essentially artisanal orientation will succeed an industrial activity which will not slow down.
Undoubtedly, this industrial development will be extremely slow in pharmacy and rare are the apothecaries who manufactured specialties. These products, prepared in advance by developers who jealously guarded the formulas, were really secret remedies that could in some cases be harmful to health.
It is important to point out, moreover, that they were most often sold without control. In his History of Pharmacy in France, Mr. Bouvet confirms that custodies were rarely established with apothecaries. Among the custodians noted at Versailles in 1789, we find: the musician of the Roy, a shoemaker, three grocers, a perfumer, a lemonade maker, two surgeons, a potter, various private individuals and exceptionally a few apothecaries.
However, it should not be believed that apothecaries had completely lost interest in beauty products and had been the victim of permanent and unfair competition. One of the most remarkable pharmacists of the second half of the 17th century and who ranks among the most eminent men of science of his time is Lemery, the inventor of Talc Oil for skin care. We find many beauty products in the prospectus of Feret de Dieppe, where we can find Honey Water from England, Spirituous Lavender Water, different essences, etc.
At the same time, Drapiez, at the end of the 18th century, sold Eau de Cologne, Virgin Milk, Opiate for Teeth and the Queen of Hungary Water.
Some, not the least, Eau de Cologne have seen the long list of their therapeutic virtues dwindle over the years, without losing their place in pharmacies since this preparation was still devoted to the penultimate edition of the Codex.
Not to mention all the beauty products, fruits of the fertile imagination of their authors, here are some of them that will provide a valuable argument to prove the important role played by perfumery in therapy. It will be necessary to wait for the Law of Germinal to witness the first serious attempt to delimit the boundaries of pharmacy.
If it is certain that the influence of cosmetic art on pharmacy does not date from the 18th century, it is beyond doubt that for the first time since the Roman Empire, the most favorable conditions were met around a brilliant court, where beauty played as important a role as health. It is not surprising to note the growing favor of products which offer themselves both as remedies and as beauty aids.
He also remarks that most of these products were manufactured alongside more medical-looking specifics and that the pharmacists of the time themselves participated in the preparation of beauty panaceas.
The first mention is that of a work by M. Buchoz, doctor of medicine: “Toilette de Flore, ou Essai sur les Plantes et les Fleurs qui peuvent servir d'ornements aux Dames" (1771)
It contained the different ways of presenting essences, ointments, lipsticks, powders, make-up and scented waters.
In July 1772, the recipe for an odoriferous powder, intended for fumigation, appeared.
These are used as an antiseptic, as much as an element of hygiene and perfumery, here is this recipe:
“Take the root called Calamus aromaticus cut into small pieces, 3 pound
“coarsely ground incense 1 pound
“storax and rose leaves 1/2 pound
“of Smyrnaean scammony or myrrh 1 pound
“pounded common saltpetre 1 pound 1/2
“and sulfur 1/4 pound
“Mix it all together and you get 6 3/4 pounds of a scented powder”
In February 1777 we find in the Journal a recipe for Eau de Cologne
“Take rectified wine spirit 24 pounds
“of the spirit of rosemary 6 pounds
“melissa water made up 4 1/2 pounds
“4 ounces bergamot essence
“neroli 3 gros
“cedrat essence 1/2 ounce
“lemon essence 4 gros
“rosemary essence 4 gros
“We put all these drugs in a big bottle, we shake the mixture and the water is made. If you want it to be more delicate, you have to rectify it in a bain-marie, over a low heat, to extract all the liquor, to within two pints.”
The use of Eau de Cologne for internal use as well as for external use encourages us to make a somewhat more complete study of it; it seems that it was not until the Renaissance that alcohol was used as a vehicle for beauty products. Although alcohol was known to the Chinese and Arabs, the principles of distillation were mainly applied to aromatic distilled waters.
It is undoubtedly the Water of the Queen of Hungary which first enjoyed immense fame among alcohol-based scented waters.
It was considered a very active remedy for many diseases. In his history of drugs published in 1694, Pomet indicates that many specialists were engaged in its manufacture.
“They distilled eau-de-vie on which they sprinkled a little white oil of rosemary, and then put it in bottles of different sizes, sealed with their stamp, with an inscription molded in front of the bottle, which is usually titled: True Water of the Queen of Hungary, made by such, at such a place."
It was recommended to use it in epidemics of plague, but it was above all a great remedy against gout. It ends up being promoted to the rank of official remedy: it will be found in the Parisian Codex.
The formula of the real Eau de Cologne would be that of Jean-Paul Féminis, of Domodosola, invented around 1650. He would have entrusted his formula to the Farina Brothers whom he had known in Cologne. They joined forces and exploited the recipe under the name of Eau Admirable de Cologne.
Originally Eau Admirable and its imitations were secret remedies, used as medicines for internal as well as external use. They were said to be specific for many diseases and, later, they became alcoholic preparations with various flavors, having stimulating and tonic antiseptic properties.
Without going into the details of the virtues of this EAU (water), we can point out that:
“It can be used internally and externally. If used internally, the dose is 50 to 60 drops in wine, fountain water, or broth or other suitable liquor.”
“If we wanted to detail all the evils to which this liquor are similar, and specific, it would be necessary to detail almost all the infirmities to which the human body is subject, because we can almost call it universal medicine.”
“It is a sovereign remedy against all diseases of the body or brain and a marvelous antidote against all sorts of venoms and an excellent preservative against the plague”….
The printed document ends with:
“There would be no end to it if we wanted to report all the evils that this incomparable WATER has the virtue of preventing, or chasing away. Suffice it to say, there are few against whom she does not wield her power with that admirable quality that she cannot cause the slightest injury or accident, not even to a child in the cradle.”
I don't want to describe all waters to you, but I can name the ones that could be found in pharmacists' books:
- Eau Admirable de Cologne by the Rossi Brothers,
- Eau de Cologne by Sieur Geroville,
- True Inimitable Eau de Cologne by Durochereau rue Neuve St-Eustache 32 in Paris,
- Eau de Cologne by Vourloud,
- Eau Duchesne, a “medico-cosmetic, antispasmodic”. It is the pharmacist, Mette, 29, rue des Lombards, who prepares this water invented by Dr Duchesne. The leaflet indicates that it can be suitable for all diseases affecting the nervous system.
Part 3 coming soon !
If you want to learn more about the Perfume History, join Creezy Courtoy's World Perfume Heritage Master Class every first Monday of the month.