The Essence of Perfume (2008) by Roja Dove
Coffee table books are a funny genre. They may be the least read of all publications, because they serve functions quite distinct from those of other kinds of books. Coffee table books are primarily decorative in nature.
They sit in people's living rooms generally untouched along with a variety of other random objects. Often they are art related and may feature the name of their subject in bold type on the spine: Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Kandinsky, Warhol, Pollock, the list of immediately recognizable artists, even to people who never studied art history in school, goes on and on and on.
More sophisticated persons, who did study art history and perhaps have careers related in some way to art or design, may have stacks of coffee table books covering far more obscure subjects, featuring names unknown to the vast majority even of educated people. The books mark the owners as being a part of an elite cultural group rather far removed from the unwashed masses whose "coffee tables" serve as ottomans before televisions and are more likely to be littered with empty beer cans than covered with tastefully placed books.
With the advent of the internet, the boundaries between such groups have become far more fluid, since anyone can learn about even the most arcane of subjects simply by investing some time surfing the world wide web.
Which brings us back to the subject of coffee table books. Why? Because they may be the only surviving physical books in the decades and centuries to come. As devices become the primary source of printed books, making it possible to carry an entire library in one's briefcase or purse--or better yet simply access someone else's collection as needed--coffee table books may still persist, sitting in pretty stacks in living rooms rarely if ever to be read, but occasionally browsed through, provided that the images which they contain are sufficiently engaging.
Roja Dove's The Essence of Perfume, published by Black Dog in 2008, is just such a book--provided that one is a perfumista. In fact, the book is ideal as a perfumista's coffee table book because it is filled with fascinating information of little interest to anyone but perfumistas. Ask yourself how many people outside the internet fragrance communities (people, say, in your neighborhood), would be interested in a history of perfume decade by decade?
What about a list of common ingredients in perfume, along with their sources and facts about their particular manner of isolation and use?
How many people do you know who would be interested in finding out the precise distinctions between the various concentrations of perfume: extrait, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de fraîcheur and eau de cologne? Do you know very many non-perfumistas who care about the history of the major perfume-producing design houses, beginning with Chanel?
The Essence of Perfume offers all of this and more in a large format, beautiful coffee table book filled with information of interest to perfumistas--and only perfumistas! The black cloth binding embossed with gold lettering will make the day when the cover falls away in tatters after too much fondling a happy one indeed.