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The Osmothèque
Exterior of the Osmotheque.jpg
EstablishedApril 26, 1990;29 years ago (April 26, 1990)
Location36 Rue du Parc de Clagny
78000 Versailles
Coordinates 48°49′02″N2°08′30″E / 48.817178°N 2.141558°E / 48.817178; 2.141558
Type Scent archive
President Patricia de Nicolaï
Public transit access Gare de Versailles-Rive-Droite
Website osmotheque.fr

The Osmothèque (from Greek osmē "scent" patterned on French bibliothèque "library") is the world's largest scent archive, a leading international research institution tracing the history of perfumery, based in Versailles with conference centers in New York City and Paris. [1] [2] Founded in 1990 by Jean Kerléo and other senior perfumers including Jean-Claude Ellena and Guy Robert, the Osmothèque is internationally responsible for the authentication, registration, preservation, documentation and reproduction of thousands of perfumes gathered from the past two millennia, archived at the Osmothèque repository and consultable by the public. [1] [3]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Archive institution responsible for storing, preserving, describing, and providing access to historical records

An archive is an accumulation of historical records or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of that person or organization. Professional archivists and historians generally understand archives to be records that have been naturally and necessarily generated as a product of regular legal, commercial, administrative, or social activities. They have been metaphorically defined as "the secretions of an organism", and are distinguished from documents that have been consciously written or created to communicate a particular message to posterity.


Exclusive to the collection are countless rare masterpieces elsewhere discontinued or reformulated, including François Coty’s Chypre (Coty), Paul Parquet’s Fougère Royale (Houbigant) and Aimé Guerlain's Jicky (Guerlain) as well as numerous personalized fragrances worn by historical figures such as Elizabeth of Poland, Napoleon and Eugénie de Montijo. [4] [5] Since 2008, Patricia de Nicolaï has served as the institution's president. [6]

François Coty French perfumer,  businessman and newspaper publisher

François Coty was a French perfumer and businessman. During World War I, he became one of the wealthiest men in France. He gained control in 1922 of daily newspaper Le Figaro. To check the growth of French socialism and Communism, he founded two other daily papers in 1928. In later years his wealth was much reduced. The company he founded in 1904 is now Coty, Inc., based in New York City.

Chypre is the name of a family of perfumes that are characterised by an accord composed of citrus topnotes, a middle centered on cistus labdanum, and a mossy-animalic set of basenotes derived from oakmoss. Chypre perfumes fall into numerous classes according to their modifier notes, which include but are not limited to leather, florals, fruits, and amber.

Coty, Inc. company

Coty Inc. is an American multinational beauty company founded in 1904 by François Coty. With its subsidiaries, it develops, manufactures, markets, and distributes fragrances, cosmetics, skin care, nail care, and both professional and retail hair care products. Coty owns around 77 brands as of 2018.


The founding of the world's first international scent archive was initially proposed to the Société Française des Parfumeurs in 1976 by Jean Kerléo, then head perfumer at Jean Patou, in an effort to formally record and preserve the history of perfumery. [7] Kerléo envisioned reconstituting various discontinued classics according to their original formulae, working in collaboration with the world's foremost perfumers and perfume houses. [8] An advisory committee was thus assembled, composed of experts Jean-François Blayn, Raymond Chaillan, Jean-Claude Ellena, Yuri Gutsatz, Jeannine Mongin, Raymond Pouliquen, Guy Robert and Henri Sebag. [7]

Jean Kerléo is a French perfumer who worked in-house of Jean Patou and is also the founder of the Osmothèque, a scent archive in Versailles. Kerleo was born on 24 February 1932 in Brittany, France. At age 22, he began making perfumes for a New York City company, Helena Rubenstein. He received the Prix des Parfumeurs de France in 1965, served as the president for the Society of French Perfumers from 1976 to 1979, and was awarded the Prix François COTY in 2001

Jean Patou French fashion designer

Jean Patou was a French fashion designer and founder of the Jean Patou brand.

Jean-Claude Ellena perfumer

Jean-Claude Ellena is a French perfumer and writer.

After successfully reproducing the discontinued perfumes of Jean Patou, Jean Kerléo and his team were entrusted in 1986 with the formulae of the defunct F. Millot, among them the 1925 classic Crêpe de Chine by Jean Desprez. [9] Kerléo's reconstitution, completed a year later with perfumer Aimable Duhayon, impressed many within the industry, a major catalyst for the launch of the proposed scent archive. When in 1988 the project won the support of both the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Versailles and the Comité Français du Parfum, a repository facility was provided on the premises of the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de l'Aromatique alimentaire. [9] There the Osmothèque was officially founded on 26 April 1990 with an initial collection of 400 perfumes, both those reproduced by the Osmothèque and those supplied by external perfumers at houses such as Chanel, Guerlain and Lanvin. [9] [10]

Jean Desprez, was a comedian, journalist, writer, and director in radio and television. She was known as a Quebecois radio personality and dramatist.

ISIPCA School for post-graduate studies in perfume, cosmetics products and food flavor formulation

ISIPCA is a French school for post-graduate studies in perfume, cosmetics products and food flavor formulation, with an apprenticeship period in the industry. It was founded in 1970 by Jean-Jacques Guerlain as ISIP. It became Groupe ISIPCA in 1984 when the CCIV backed up and sponsored the school with significant capital.

Chanel French fashion house

Chanel S.A. is a French privately held company owned by Alain Wertheimer and Gérard Wertheimer, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who was an early business partner of the couturière Coco Chanel. Chanel S.A. is a high fashion house that specializes in haute couture and ready-to-wear clothes, luxury goods, and fashion accessories. In her youth, Gabrielle Chanel gained the nickname Coco from her time as a chanteuse. As a fashion designer, Coco Chanel catered to women's taste for elegance in dress, with blouses and suits, trousers and dresses, and jewellery of simple design, that replaced the opulent, over-designed, and constrictive clothes and accessories of 19th-century fashion. The Chanel product brands have been personified by male and female fashion models, idols and actresses, including Inès de La Fressange, Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Vanessa Paradis, Nicole Kidman, Anna Mouglalis, Audrey Tautou, Keira Knightley, Kristen Stewart, Pharrell Williams, Cara Delevingne and Marilyn Monroe.

The collections

Paul Parquet's Fougere Royale (Houbigant) - 1884 Fougere Royale by Paul Parquet - Bottle.jpg
Paul Parquet's Fougère Royale (Houbigant) - 1884

The Osmothèque is the world's largest scent archive, storing over 3,000 perfumes from the past and present, all preserved at a constant temperature under argon gas. [11] Perfumes accepted into the collection are either those reconstituted using archived formulae by the Osmothèque's internal perfumers (known as osmocurators) or those supplied by external perfume houses. [12] As a legal deposit archive, the Osmothèque receives a supply of all new perfumes produced in France and much of the world, in addition to those obtained through its program for content acquisitions. [13] The role of chief archivist is currently filled by Patricia de Nicolaï, having assumed the presidency of the Osmothèque from Jean Kerléo in 2008. [14]

Legal deposit is a legal requirement that a person or group submit copies of their publications to a repository, usually a library. The requirement is mostly limited to books and periodicals. The number of copies varies and can range from one to 19. Typically, the national library is one of the repositories of these copies. In some countries there is also a legal deposit requirement placed on the government, and it is required to send copies of documents to publicly accessible libraries.

Patricia de Nicolaï is a French perfumer who works as the head of her own perfume company Parfums de Nicolai. She is also a member of the technical committee of the French Society of Perfumers and the president of the Osmothèque scent archive.

Fragrance materials

The institution also maintains a substantial reference library of fragrance bases and aromatic sources, both natural and synthetic, historical and contemporary, as well as a vault inaccessible to the public containing historical perfume formulae, many unusable due to a lack of corresponding raw materials. [15]

Perfume formulations

Rarities from the Osmothèque's collections include examples of ancient perfumery, such as the Parfum Royal of the Parthian kings as described by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century, medieval toilet waters such as the 14th century Eau de la reine de Hongrie of Elizabeth of Poland and 18th century powders such as the Poudre de Chypre. [9] [16]

Equally unique is a major collection of 19th century perfumes from leading houses such as Farina, Guerlain, Houbigant, Lubin, F. Millot, L. T. Piver and Roger & Gallet. [9] [17] Also from the period is the eau de cologne made for Napoleon in 1815 during his exile on Saint Helena. [4] [18]

The largest portion of the Osmothèque's archives is devoted to modern perfumery (beginning in the late 19th century), presenting innumerable original masterpieces now discontinued or reformulated, including: [19] [6] [20]

1882 Paul Parquet Fougère Royale Houbigant
1889 Aimé Guerlain Jicky Guerlain
1900 Paul Parquet Le Parfum Idéal Houbigant
1901 Paul Parquet Peau d’Espagne Houbigant
1916 Henri Alméras Le Fruit Défendu Rosine
1917 François Coty Chypre Coty
1925Jean DesprezCrepe de ChineMillot
1921 François Coty Emeraude Coty
1944 Germaine Cellier Bandit Robert Piguet
1946-47Vincent RoubertIris Gris Jacques Fath
1949Edmond RoudnitskaDiorama Christian Dior
1981Jean-Yves LeroyNombre Noir Shiseido
1999 Jean-Michel Duriez Yohji Homme Yohji Yamamoto

Other services

The Osmothèque maintains an active website, including an online database detailing the institution's collections. [21]

Various conferences for professionals, researchers, students and members of the public are regularly offered at the Osmothèque's headquarters in Versailles, as well as at conference centers at the Galerie de Nicolaï in Paris and the Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics in New York City. [22] [23] In addition, the Osmothèque frequently organizes partner exhibitions and conferences with museums around the world, including the Carrousel du Louvre, the Palace of Versailles and the Smithsonian Institution. [13]

The Osmothèque also publishes books on the subject of perfume, in addition to a bilingual periodical titled Les Nouvelles de l’Osmothèque, available online and at the Osmothèque's bookshop. [24]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Luca Turin, and Tania Sanchez. The Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 Classics. London: Profile, 2011. Print.
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  4. 1 2 [Stamelman, Richard Howard., and Michael Freeman. Perfume: Joy, Obsession, Scandal, Sin : A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 2006. Print.
  5. Rowe, David J. Chemistry and Technology of Flavours and Fragrances. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Print.
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  13. 1 2 Colton, Sarah, "L’Osmothèque—Preserving The Past To Ensure The Future", Beauty Fashion Archived 2010-06-15 at the Wayback Machine
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