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A Perfect Red Empire, Espionage And The Quest For The Colour Of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield

A Perfect Red Empire, Espionage And The Quest For The Colour Of Desire

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A Perfect Red Empire, Espionage And The Quest For The Colour Of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield

A Perfect Red recounts the colourful 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 sources of the elusive dye, the English, the French, the 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 for more than three centuries. A Perfect Red tells their stories - true-life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable colour on earth.


Greenfield is at her best ... such gaudy and vaunting stories ... would make a great movie Independent on Sunday In a flexible, multifaceted narrative ... Greenfield spins out, in clipped prose, a unique story ... well stocked with colourful characters ... gripplingly related TLS An eye-opener Literary Review A Perfect Red gives you a new respect for what you might have thought was just another colour New York Times Book Review Superbly researched history of cochineal red, full of angles and tangents, curiosities and arcana ...sprightly and charming Washington Post

About the Author

AMY BUTLER GREENFIELD studied Spanish medieval history at Harvard and Oxford. She is descended from a family of textile dyers and is a member of the dyers guild in London.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st October 2011


Amy Butler Greenfield

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Black Swan an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd


432 pages


Social & cultural history
Pigments, dyestuffs & paint technology



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