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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 14 June 2019

"The Secret Lives of Colour" by Kassia St Clair

This is one of those books which are heaven for the determined trivia collector like myself. Seventy-five different colours from beige to acid yellow, from nude to shocking pink, from dragon's blood  to mauve to Prussian blue to celadon to khaki to pitch black, are included. You learn about their history, how they are made, and their properties such as how well the dye material and whether they are good in oil and if they fade. But best of all you learn the fascinating facts:

  • 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

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