Article by: Perry Romanowski

While answering a reporter’s question about the hisotry of cosmetics, I came across the name Johann Bartholomaeus Trommsdorff. He lived from 1770-1837 and according to the source, he is considered the first cosmetic chemist.

This is primarily because of a book he published in 1805 called “Kallopistria, or the art of the toilet for the fashionable world”. It is “…a guide to perfumes and toilet preparations, harmless formulations, powders, pomades, face painting, pastes, aromatic baths and of all the relevant funds, which serve to enhance the beauty…”

Johann seems like he would’ve fit right in with Chemists Corner and the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. In 1795 he founded a pharmaceutical studies institute in Germany where he taught people to become pharmacists (and to make cosmetic products). Over the years he trained 300+ students in the subject and wrote 34 books.


Google has actually made a copy of the book available online for free. You can see Kallopistria here.

Unfortunately, I do not know any German so the contents of the book is completely baffling to me.

Anyone speak German out there that can translate? Mostly, I want to read just one of the formulations that he has published. But I can’t even tell where the formulas are or what they are for.


  1. Harald

    “Mostly, I want to read just one of the formulations that he has published. But I canโ€™t even tell where the formulas are or what they are for.”

    Hello Perry, I am a german native speaker from Austria and would like to help. Which formulation(s) are you interested in?


      1. Harald

        On page 74, he describes the process of distilling the essential oil of rose leaves. It starts like this: “One takes 24 pounds of rose leaves that are rid of chalices and crushes them in a stony mortar, then mixes this pulp with 48 pounds of water and leaves it in a retort for 24 hours.”

        1. Perry

          Quite amazing. I don’t know how you can even read the characters. A great skill to have. How did you develop it?

          1. Harald

            It is an old form of writing the same latin characters in a different font – to speak in computer terms. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Since it is not the usual font used for german texts nowadays, I also needed some time to adapt my eyes to it. But due to my love of language, I like to read old dictionaries and some of them are only available in their original writing – which is the reason why I refreshed my knowledge of it. And it is only recalled knowledge and not a newly acquired one because, in my generation (but I am only 35), everybody had to read at least one book with those letters in it during his or her german class at school.

  2. Kelly

    There’s also Galen, who is credited with the first documentation of a beeswax and borax emulsion in the 2nd century AD. Thanks for sharing this post, would love to see a translation!

    1. Perry

      Your comment piqued my curiosity so I did a little searching and found that Galen wrote two books that had cosmetic formulas including “De Decoratione” and the 1st of his 10 book series “Local Remedies”.

      I couldn’t find either in Google books but I did find this book from the mid 1800’s that talked about it. He gives treatments for hair loss, hair coloring, perfumes and “…other personal and domestic applications…”

      I wonder what museum has the book. hmmm.

      There’s some latin?
      “In his quatuor libris Crito diligentissime omnia ferme exornatoria pharmaca scripsit, appositis etiam comptoriis quae spuriam pulchritudinum non veram inducunt, quapropter etiam ego ea relinquam” …whatever that means.

      1. Harald

        I am an ancient language enthusiast and not a latin scholar but I will try to give you an approximate translation:
        “In these four books, Crito has written diligently about almost every decorating drug, even about the ones applied for hairdressing which induce not true but spurious beauty, and therefore indeed I shall ignore them.”

        1. Perry

          Incredible! Thanks Harald!!

          1. Harald

            With pleasure. ๐Ÿ™‚

            Actually, I made a mistake. It has to read “Crito has written most diligently” because “diligentissime” is the superlative form of the adverb.

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