Simply Great Soap

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

simply soap

I have started a new series, which I hope you will find interesting.


The word soap, or sope, from the Greek sapo, first occurs in the works of Pliny and Galen. Pliny informs us that the Gauls, that it was composed of tallow and ashes, and that the German soap was reckoned the best, first discovered soap.

According to Sismondi, the French historian, a soapmaker was included in the retinue of Charlemagne. At Pompeii (overwhelmed by an eruption of Vesuvius A. D. 79), a soap-boiler's shop with soap in it was discovered during some excavations made there not many years ago. (Starke's Letters from Italy.)

From these statements it is evident that the manufacture of soap is of very ancient origin; indeed, Jeremiah figuratively mentions it - "For though thou wash thee with natron, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me." (Jer. 2 22.)

Mr. Wilson says that the earliest record of the soap trade in England is to be found in a pamphlet in the British Museum, printed in 1641, entitled "A short Account of the Soap Business."

It speaks more particularly about the duty, which was then levied for the first time, and concerning certain patents which were granted to persons, chiefly Popish recusants, for some pretended new invention of white soap, "which in truth was not so."

Sufficient is said here to prove that at that time soap-making was no inconsiderable art. It would be out of place here to enter into the details of soap-making, because perfumers do not manufacture that substance, but are merely -" remelters," to use a trade term.

The dyer purchases his dye-stuffs from the drysalters already fabricated, and these are merely modified under his hands to the various purposes he requires; so with the perfumer, he purchases the various soaps in their raw state from the soap-makers, these he mixes by remelting, scents and colors according to the article to be produced.
The primary soaps are divided into hard and soft soaps: the hard soaps contain soda as the base; those, which are soft, are prepared with potash. These are again divisible into varieties, according to the fatty matter employed in their manufacture, also according to the proportion of alkali.

The most important of these to the perfumer is what is termed curd soap, as it forms the basis of all the highly scented soaps.

This will be continued on the next posting.

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