A Perfect Red

A Perfect Red

Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire

Book - 2005 | 1st ed
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sources of the elusive dye, the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans tried to crack the enigma of cochineal. Did it come from a worm, a berry, a seed? Could it be stolen from Mexico and transplanted to their own colonies? Pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies - all joined the chase for cochineal, a chase that lasted more than three centuries."--BOOK JACKET.
"A Perfect Red recounts the colorful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world's most precious commodities. Treasured by the ancient Mexicans, cochineal was sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune." "Desperate to find their own
Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, c2005
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0060522755 (acid-free paper)
Branch Call Number: 667.26 GRE
Characteristics: viii, 338 p. ; 22 cm


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Oct 17, 2016

I picked up this book while in a small mountain town in Bolivia, volunteering and learning to do some simple weaving. Weavers in the area are working to reclaim some of the traditional knowledge they've lost, including dying from natural dyes. For their reds, pinks, and lavenders they use cochineal, so the woman I was staying with gave me this to read. It's a very informative, narrative account of just how we get reds, and the extraordinary lengths people have traditionally gone to to get it. It's of particular interest again now, as cosmetic companies have discovered that by using cochineal they can label their products "organic." All well and good, except that now it's leading to an international shortage of cochineal (echoes of the 16th century here), and so traditional weavers in Bolivia and Peru and elsewhere will begin to have difficulty purchasing it.

All of which is to say - the history of a color that continues to be written and impact diverse societies! My only caveat is that you can tell that it was written by an academic, in that it can occasionally be a bit dry in places.

Jan 18, 2016

More than you wanted to know, a little too boring.

Jul 14, 2015

Again, only small print.


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