A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (Anglais) Broché – 25 avril 2006
Descriptions du produit
Revue de presse
“Fascinating...Greenfield has given us a superbly researched history of cochineal red, full of angles and tangents, curiosities and arcana.” (Diane Ackerman, Washington Post Book World)
“With A PERFECT RED, she does for [red] what Mark Kurlansky in SALT did for that common commodity.” (Houston Chronicle)
“A fascinating story of greed and subterfuge, mixing fashion, folly and ingenuity in equal measure... Written with style and verve.” (J. H. Elliott, University of Oxford)
“A marvelous book... Meticulously researched, this saga will enchant lovers of historical mysteries, fascinating characters, and world economics.” (Mark Pendergrast, author of UNCOMMON GROUNDS and MIRROR MIRROR)
“A gem of accessible history.” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
“[An] intricate history...Greenfield paints a broad historical panorama, never neglecting the intimate, eccentric, and often absurd human details.” (Boston Globe)
“Greenfield does what the best historical authors do--follows the thread of a story through history without missing a stitch.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Présentation de l'éditeur
In the sixteenth century, one of the world's most precious commodities was cochineal, a legendary red dye treasured by the ancient Mexicans and sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors. 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. As the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans joined the chase for cochineal -- a chase that lasted for more than three centuries -- a tale of pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies unfolds. A Perfect Red evokes with style and verve this history of a grand obsession, of intrigue, empire, and adventure in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.
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FORTY MILES WEST OF FLORENCE, IN A fertile Tuscan valley not far from the Mediterranean Sea, lies the serene and sunlit city of Lucca. Known throughout the region for its trade in olive oil, flour, and wine, modern-day Lucca is not much more than a provincial market town, but its great piazzas, Romanesque churches, and medieval towers bear mute witness to a more illustrious past. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
Commentaires en ligne
Meilleurs commentaires des clients
Mrs. Greenfield starts out in her book with justification for why she's following the color red. Some of these justifications are very thin. But once you get into the details of the book you will be absorbed and as much as you think you know about history, commerce, agriculture, botany, and politics there is always something new to be learned. Somehow I lived my whole life without ever hearing about cochineal (a type of red dye) and variants.
This book is so well written in such detail that you almost want to go out and try some of the experiments with your own creating of the color red.
If you enjoyed this book and the many adventures that Amy Greenfield carries you through then you will also enjoy reading "Green Cargoes" by Anne Dorrance.
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
There were reds before the New World was discovered. Dyers and artists were able to make plants and minerals yield russets and orange-reds fairly easily, but real red cloth was hard to manufacture. A more vivid red could be made from insects, like oak-kermes, that could be killed with vinegar and steam, and packed up to sell to dyers the world over. The dyers didn't know it, but these insects contain what is now known as carminic acid, a powerful red dye. It is this dye that the cochineal insect has, too, but it is far more powerful and less fastened to troublesome lipids. The conquistadors saw the colors that were produced in cloth in the new world, and brought back the dye to Spain starting in 1519. By 1580, kermes reds were out and cochineal reds were in. Spain profited from many New World finds, but the new dye was a chief one. Even pirates were glad to rob Spanish galleons for it. Commercial espionage was involved in trying to transplant it to other colonies. Cochineal provided naturalists with a problem in classification. As they did with other New World novelties, Europeans tried to find categorical guidance from the Bible, but the book did not help settle the question of whether the little pellets from which the dye was made came from plants, animals, or even something in between (a "wormberry"). Classic writers didn't help, either. Greenfield discusses the microscopy of Leeuwenhoek and others which eventually helped settle the issue in a scientific way.
The cutthroat competition in cochineal ended when William Perkin invented his famous mauve dye from coal tar products in 1856, leading to a revolution in dye chemistry. The market for the insects collapsed, but never vanished. There are those who favor "natural dyes" (although this group has a subcategory of people who would not countenance killing even insects for them). Bakers used to use cochineal "to make the apple and the gooseberry outblush the cherry and the plum," and it still is used in candy, ice cream, lipstick, and much more. (Perhaps we are only squeamish about eating insects if they are whole.) The main supplier these days is Peru, but there is competition from other countries, among them the ones where the cloak-and-dagger operations had transplanted the cactus and insects centuries ago. Greenfield's detailed study casts a welcome rubicund light on in biology, history, fashion, chemistry, and world economics.
It is difficult to accept that until relatively recently red was associated with wealth and power. Cost, and sometimes regulations, placed red clothing beyond the reach of most people.
In the 18th century the best red dye (cochineal) was a valuable and mysterious commodity - and a major import from the Spanish New World to Europe. Was cochineal a seed or an animal? The argument was finally settled as a result of a wager. Early microscopists such as Leeuwenhoek got involved on the side and the result was some of Leeuwenhoek's most exquisite drawings. These are reproduced in the book.
Another compelling story, with resonances in our own day, concerns the destruction of the cochineal industry by cheaper synthetic dyes in the 19th century. In 1870, Guatemala produced over 1.5 million pounds of cochineal a year, almost exclusively by small farmers using very labour intensive methods.
By 1890, Guatemalian farmers had virtualy ceased production. The same was true for the other major producers in Mexico and the Canary Islands. Such massive changes in an important industry led to major social and economic disruption. Modern trade practices often have similar effects in many poorer countries.
However, the story of cochineal does not end there, and has a slightly happier ending in the 20th century. But you will have to read the book to find out how.
I must admit to an addiction to this genre of books on the history of ordinary things. However, some of these books pad out a meagre story with marginally relevant material. "A Perfect Red" does not fall into this category.
Today the advertising industry still imbues red with a sense of power, unconsciously harking back to the days when cochineal was the most powerful red of them all.