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Mauve : how one man invented a color that changed the world

Garfield, Simon

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ISBN 10: 0393020053 / ISBN 13: 9780393020052
Published by W.W. Norton & Co, New York, 2001
Used Condition: Very Fine Hardcover
From Owl & Company Bookshop (Calvello Books) (Oakland, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Octavo in color-illus DJ; 222 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 22 cm; bibliographical references (p. 203-213) and index. Colors; Chemistry; Mauve. Dye industry -- Great Britain. Chemists -- England -- Biography. Mauve (Couleur) Colorants -- Industrie -- Grande-Bretagne. Chimistes -- Angleterre -- Biographies. Perkin, William Henry, Sir, 1838-1907. Perkin, William Henry, Sir, 1838-1907. As New / Mint (an unread copy); VERY FINE in same DJ; No remainder marks. Signed by author in title page. Bookseller Inventory # 10089

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Mauve : how one man invented a color that ...

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co, New York

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Mint

Book Condition:Very Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st American ed.

About this title


Offers a study of the color mauve--created in 1856 by eighteen-year-old English chemist William Perkin, who was working on a treatment for malaria in his home laboratory and accidentally discovered what became the most desired shade in fashion and ultimately led to the development of explosives, perfume, photography, and modern medicine.


In 1856, while trying to synthesize artificial quinine, 18-year-old chemistry student William Perkin instead produced a murky residue. Fifty years later, he described the event: he "was about to throw a certain residue away when I thought it might be interesting. The solution of it resulted in a strangely beautiful color." Perkin had stumbled across the world's first aniline dye, a color that became known as mauve.

"So what?" you might say. "A teenager invented a new color." As Simon Garfield admirably points out in Mauve, the color really did change the world. Before Perkin's discovery all the dyes and paints were colored by roots, leaves, insects, or, in the case of purple, mollusks. As a result, colors were inconsistent and unpredictably strong, often fading or washing out. Perkin found a dye that would always produce a uniform shade--and he pointed the way to other synthetic colors, thus revolutionizing the world of both dyemaking and fashion. Mauve became all the rage. Queen Victoria wore it to her daughter's wedding in 1858, and the highly influential Empress Eugénie decided the color matched her eyes. Soon, the streets of London erupted in what one wag called the "mauve measles."

Mauve had a much wider impact as well. By finding a commercial use for his discovery--much to the dismay of his teacher, the great August Hofmann, who believed there needed to be a separation between "pure" and "applied" science--Perkin inspired others to follow in his footsteps: "Ten years after Perkin's discovery of mauve, organic chemistry was perceived as being exciting, profitable, and of great practical use." The influx of bright young men all hoping to earn their fortunes through industrial applications of chemistry later brought significant advances in the fields of medicine, perfume, photography, and even explosives. Through it all, Garfield tells his story in clever, witty prose, turning this odd little tale into a very entertaining read. --Sunny Delaney

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