Bitten by witch fever : wallpaper & arsenic in the Victorian home

by Hawksley, Lucinda,

Format: Print Book 2016
Availability: Unavailable 0 of 2 copies
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Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  Second Floor - Non-fiction
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Location  Northland Public Library
Collection  Nonfiction

Bitten by Witch Fever traces the arresting story of the manufacture, uses and effects of arsenic in the 19th-century home, in particular, the pigments ingrained in popular wallpapers. Lucinda Hawksley reveals how pigments, such as Scheele's green and Schweinfurt green, were created using arsenic to produce more vibrant and durable dyes, which became instant favourites with wallpaper designers and householders alike. Drawing on contemporary case studies and reports in the press, she highlights how, by the middle of the century, manufacturers were producing millions of rolls of arsenical wallpaper, with devastating consequences for those working in their factories and for those living in rooms decorated with the deadly designs.

The wallpaper sections display dazzling long-lost work from the great designers and printers of the age, including Christopher Dresser, Corbière, Son & Brindle, Charles Knowles & Co., and Morris & Co. - whose owner was famously dismissive of the fatal effects of living with arsenic-laden wallpapers.

Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Historian Hawksley (Queen Victoria's Mysterious Daughter) delivers an unnerving account of an unexpected killer in the elaborately decorated homes of Victorian England: arsenic-laced wallpaper. The use of arsenic-based pigments in wallpaper dates to the late 18th century, when a Swedish chemist invented an intense green pigment that was later made more brilliant and durable with arsenic. The book's gorgeous wallpaper facsimiles give no hint of their toxicity; they beautifully evoke Victorian style with their ornate patterns and rich, vivid colors, illustrating why these papers, and specifically their green shades, were so popular. Nineteenth-century urbanization and affluence spurred the demand for wallpaper with deadly consequences for factory workers and homeowners who were becoming poisoned by toxic vapors and dust. Physicians suspected that arsenical wallpapers were poisoning people; however, the highly profitable wallpaper business dismissed the claims and the British government never legislated a ban. In the end, it was the public who pushed for arsenic-free wallpaper. Hawksley notes the prevalence of arsenic in the Victorian home as rodent poison and in dyes, cosmetics, toy paint, and even beer, as well as its legendary use as a murder weapon. The book is lovely, with 275 stunning wallpapers spliced into an intriguing narrative about the lore of arsenic, often called the poison of kings. Color illus. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Wallpaper, Victorian.
Wallpaper, Victorian -- Health aspects.
Wallpaper, Victorian -- Pictorial works.
Arsenic -- Toxicology.
Publisher New York, New York : London, England :Thames & Hudson ;2016
The National Archives,
Language English
Description 256 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 9780500518380
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