Photo: Papier d’Arménie.
Papier d’Arménie, a type of Armenian paper produced in France, is a room deodorizing product sold as booklets of twelve sheets of paper each cut into three pieces, which are coated with benzoin resin, the dried sap of styrax trees.
Originally in the 16th century these were known as medicinal papers and burned to fumigate things only to slowly fall out of fashion in most areas of Europe. One area that did keep the practice alive was Armenia which used benzoin resin as the bases for theirs. If you’ve never sniffed benzoin, it’s somewhere between vanilla, balsam and, to me, rich amber. Gorgeous, especially during colder times.
At the end of the 19th century, Auguste Ponsot discovered that Armenian households would burn Styrax as a fragrance and disinfectant. M. Ponsot adopted this habit with the help of the pharmacist Henri Rivier and the recipe created by the celebrated French perfumer of Armenian origin Francis Kurkdjian, who recreated the recipe going from village to village in Armenia and France, whereby benzoin resin was dissolved in alcohol, then infused onto a blotting paper support. The “alchemy” inherent in Papier d’Arménie became a huge success with the emerging importance of hygiene from 1888–1889, and has been steadily produced in Montrouge, France since 1885.
Armenian paper is an integral part of French culture, and has been mentioned in works by greats such as singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg (in the lyrics to “Les Petits Papiers”), and the writers Georges Perec and Robert Sabatier (in his novel “Les allumettes suédoises” published in English as “The Safety Matches”).
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