I'm new here, but apart from the titles listed in other posts, I would suggest :
- (usable with minimum proficiency in French)
Rebecca Veuillet-Gallot, Le guide du parfum, Editions Hors Collection, 2004.
This handy and well-written book is just that : a real guide, with clear and relevant information, historical perspective and personal judgement in brief notes about what you can buy these days.
Veuillet-Gallot is 'artisan parfumeur junior', and her training is put to good use for beginners and more advanced amateurs. Only 170 pages long, small format. It comes as a relief after all the costly and spectacularly useless coffee-table books published around Christmas. I now take this book with me as a check-list when I go to the big stores and don't want to be drowned into the ocean of (short lived) new fragrances.
- (in French, unfortunately) THE reference for perspective and insight : Le parfum, Edouard Rounitska, Que Sais-je ?, Presses Universitaires de France, 1980 (very unexpensive)
Roudniska trained and inspired many contemporary perfume composers. He knows what he is talking about (he created Eau sauvage etc. - check your favourite database; FrÃ©dÃ©ric Malle's fans are familiar with Le parfum de ThÃ©rÃ¨se Roudnitska created for his wife) He was the first in France to define convincingly the composition of fragrances as an art form and a serious intellectual topic, drawing heavily on Bergson, the early 20th century philosopher.
The book is often dated : Roudnitska has no taste for 'violent' fragrances, he is sometimes bitter in his efforts to be recognised as an author (such a legal status only came here in 1999 for perfume designers). But the man's passion, intelligence and competence may be felt intact.
I recently read an interview of a very young designer and she said that this very small book (130 miniature pages !) had determined her decision to start a career, even though her family had no connexions with the Grasse Ã©lite or Paris couturiers. Edouard Roudnitska (not his son Michel) also wrote L'esthÃ©tique en question (shamefully out of print even in French !) and Une vie au service du parfum.
And also, but more for background, a novel (In English translation), Â*: Perfume, the Story of a Murderer by Patrick SÃ¼skind (a huge success back in 1985/6) -widely available in paperback. A pleasant way to learn or refresh your memory about the traditional way of making perfumes. SÃ¼skind cleverly integrates the technical details into his narrative about a quest for a deadly perfect perfume before the age of Jicky.