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Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell (Studies in Sensory History)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  28 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In this comprehensive and engaging volume, medical historian Jonathan Reinarz offers a historiography of smell from ancient to modern times. Synthesizing existing scholarship in the field, he shows how people have relied on their olfactory sense to understand and engage with both their immediate environments and wider corporal and spiritual worlds.This broad survey demonst ...more
Kindle Edition, 286 pages
Published March 15th 2014 by University of Illinois Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Jenny Boyce
http://bookreviewsbyme2.wordpress.com...

I hadn't previously thought much about the history of scents, so when I saw this book on NetGalley I decided on a whim to read it. I found the book to be interesting and informative.

This book chronicles the history of scent from religion to the perfume industry to the smells of our surroundings. Each chapter included a vast amount of information that, while technical, was still incredibly interesting to read about. The chapters seem to touch on most things
...more
Sylvester
3.5* It doesn't hurt that I love this topic. And even though this book was packed with interesting history (too densely at times), I could see that it was probably just scratching the surface - amazing, just amazing stuff. Smell. Just imagine what the past must have smelled like! Reinarz does a great job of describing how the world of scent has changed over time, how it has been perceived, and how it has differentiated cultures, classes, the sexes. The more I read, the more fascinated I got. Try ...more
Mandy
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compared to our other senses, smell has been little studied, and is perhaps something we don’t think much about – until we come across a bad odour! So this painstakingly researched, comprehensive and detailed study is particularly to be welcomed. It’s a relatively academic text, a serious one, but accessible to the general reader and so full of fascinating information that it will surely appeal to just about anyone. From literature to religion, the perfume industry to public health, medical hist ...more
Margaret Sankey
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since reading Corbin's Miasme et la Jonquille way back in a 19th century history class, I've been fascinated by attempted to capture the sensory past. Reinarz attempts this with scent, focusing on Europe, the colonized New World and parts of the trading Silk Road to illustrate ways in which, since ancient times, people have associated scents with sanctity, evil, sex, social status and power, the ways in which they've tried to reproduce them with perfume, and how those deep-rooted ideas permeate ...more
Jason
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
netgalley


“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
― Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Scrape out the humor of a Roach book, and you still get something that is approachable. This isn't one of those books. It reads more like a reference book. This isn't a terrible thin
...more
Li Or
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-books
*ARC copy provided courtesy of NetGalley*

- - -

Did you know that much of the perfume used in ancient Egypt smelled of Lotus? Or that ancient perfumes were more often thick pastes rather than liquids? Or that iris flower scent matures like a good wine, reaching its optimal smell point after 20 years? Or that the start of modern-day perfume industry began largely thanks to the need to get the stench of the tannery out of leather gloves by perfuming them? These are just some of the interesting nugge
...more
Molly
Mar 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-fire
(2.5) I read this book with the intention of publishing a review elsewhere, but I found the distant language difficult to plod through. There were moments that revealed a more textbook-ish manner ("In Chapter 1, I will explain..." "In conclusion,..."). Habits I'd try to nudge my comp students out of having.

Truly, this sounds like a fascinating book, and I think it could have been. But my curiosity simply needed less dry diction.
Laura Florand
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: perfume
Really fascinating, looks at changes in attitude toward scents etc, roles in perception of class, gender, urban smellscapes...very interesting.
Kendra
Dnf,Couldn't get into it and just found myself skimming through the pages not retaining anything. interesting concept, just not for me
K.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
one big footnote
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