- Lead poisoning from cosmetics used to make skin whiter may have been in part responsible for the collapse of the Shogun regime in Japan in 1868. On the other hand the use of Kohl as an eye liner results in a 240% boost to the production of nitric oxide by the surrounding skin which might significantly reduce the risk of skin infections.
- Vermilion was once as costly as gold when it was used as the red in mediaeval illuminated manuscripts; "it was glazed with a revolting mixture of egg yolk and ear wax." Meanwhile the use of minium for red applied by miniators onto early mediaeval manuscripts led to our word miniature."
- Neanderthals have been found with ginger hair.
- No one really knows how Indian yellow used to be made; there is a tale that it comes from the urine of cows fed only on mango leaves and water in Mirzapur, Bengal.
- Beige "could be the concept-colour of the bourgeoisie: conventional, sanctimonious and materialistic." Khaki (from the Urdu word for dusty) was invented by Sir Harry Lumsden in Peshawar, Pakistan, for the uniform for a corps of guides to make them "invisible in a land of dust".
- Despite being up to 2,500 times cheaper than the real thing, artificial ultramarine was initially resisted by artists: "Because the particles were the same size and reflected light in the same way, it lacked the depth, variety and visual interest of the real thing."
This book works both as a reference work and as a dip-in-for-pleasure book. June 2019; 285 pages