Bitten by Witch Fever

Bitten by Witch Fever

Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Victorian Home

Book - 2016
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In Germany, in 1814, Wilhelm Sattler created an extremely toxic arsenic and verdigris compound pigment, Schweinfurt green-known also as Paris, Vienna, or emerald green-which became an instant favorite amongst designers and manufacturers the world over, thanks to its versatility in creating enduring yellows, vivid greens, and brilliant blues. Most insidiously, the arsenic-laced pigment made its way into intricately patterned, brightly colored wallpapers and from there, as they became increasingly in vogue, into the Victorian home. As its use became widespread, commercial arsenic mines increased production to meet the near-insatiable demand. Not least of which was the UK's largest mining plant, DGC whose owner was William Morris, originator of the British Arts and Crafts movement and arguably the finest wallpaper designer of his generation.Bitten by Witch Fever (Morris's own phrase to dismiss arsenic- and- wall-paper-related public health concerns in 1885) tells this fatal story of Victorian home décor, building upon new research conducted especially for this book by the British National Archive, on their own samples. Spliced between the sections of text are stunning facsimiles of the wallpapers themselves.
Publisher: New York : Thames & Hudson, 2016.
ISBN: 9780500518380
Branch Call Number: 747.3 Haw
Characteristics: 256 pages : illustrations (chiefly colour) ; 26 cm


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Mar 16, 2018

I was hoping for actual witches, but this is still very interesting. This book exhibits beautiful wallpaper plates from the Victorian era and intersperses it with the sordid tale of how they poisoned people due to the ingredient of arsenic which made the colours brighter.

SnoIsleLib_AnneM Jan 23, 2018

You may be an admirer of William Morris design, but did you know that many of his and other designers' wallpapers of that time period were poisonous? Arsenic was widely used in tints and dyes utilized in home decor and clothing - despite known hazards! This visually beautiful book combines history and art, with short chapters about arsenic mining and use sandwiched between depictions of arsenic-laced wallpaper designs. Readers of this book will be both fascinated and horrified that so many people were taken ill - or died - in the name of style.

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