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Poisonous Green Books

from National Geographic

These green books are poisonous—and one may be on a shelf near you

A toxic green pigment was once used to color everything from fake flowers to book covers. Now a museum conservator is working to track down the noxious volumes.

BY JUSTIN BROWER

still life of green books stacked
After bookcloth became a popular and affordable alternative to leather for bookmaking, publishers began releasing volumes in a range of colors, including emerald green. PHOTOGRAPH BY REBECCA HALE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Libraries and rare book collections often carry volumes that feature poisons on their pages, from famous murder mysteries to seminal works on toxicology and forensics. The poisons described in these books are merely words on a page, but some books scattered throughout the world are literally poisonous.

These toxic books, produced in the 19th century, are bound in vivid cloth colored with a notorious pigment known as emerald green that’s laced with arsenic. Many of them are going unnoticed on shelves and in collections. So MelissaTedone, the lab head for library materials conservation at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Delaware, has launched an effort dubbed the Poison Book Project to locate and catalogue these noxious volumes.

To date, the team has uncovered 88 19th-century books containing emerald green. Seventy of them are covered with vivid green bookcloth, and the rest have the pigment incorporated onto paper labels or decorative features. Tedone even found an emerald green book on sale at a local bookstore, which she purchased.

[ click to continue reading at Nat Geo ]

Posted on April 28, 2022 by Editor

Filed under Culture Music Art, Literary News, Weirdness | | No Comments »