A Perfect Red

A Perfect Red A Perfect Red recounts the colorful 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 gr

  • Title: A Perfect Red
  • Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
  • ISBN: 9780060522766
  • Page: 128
  • Format: Paperback
  • A Perfect Red recounts the colorful 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, strongA Perfect Red recounts the colorful 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, French, 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 than three centuries A Perfect Red tells their stories true life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.

    • A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield
      128 Amy Butler Greenfield
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      Posted by:Amy Butler Greenfield
      Published :2019-08-21T12:10:41+00:00


    About “Amy Butler Greenfield

    • Amy Butler Greenfield

      Amy Butler Greenfield was a grad student in history when she gave into temptation and became a writer Since then, she has become an award winning author Amy grew up in the Adirondack Mountains and later studied history at Williams College, the University of Wisconsin Madison, and Oxford She now lives with her family in England, where she writes, bakes double dark chocolate cake, and plots mischief.



    766 thoughts on “A Perfect Red

    • Cochineal was the source of rich red color for centuries. What is it? A question for which Europe had no true answer for hundreds of years. This book tells the tale of the color red, how the color was viewed in society in various periods of time. (An indicator of class distinction, or of harlotry, for example) It is primarily a tale of adventure in which many attempt to locate the true source of this very valuable product, then try to steal it. Not only adventurers but scientists applied their s [...]


    • Since I seem to be on a roll talking about books that have to do with knitting, I'll add this one. Cochineal, who knew? Years out from reading the book, I still get pleasure thinking about it when I notice it on the bookshelf. Cochineal is a dyestuff derived from parasitic colonies of scale insects that are native to Mexican cacti. For centuries it was a commodity that drove empire and espionage worldwide, as the subtitle says. Before cochineal was available from the Spanish colonies, there was [...]


    • Extremely interesting chronicle of what was once a highly lucrative commodity that nobody really remembers today: a bug that produces a red dye that, at the time, couldn't be beat.We all know Spain mined the "new world" for its gold and silver but cochineal was an empire money maker for hundreds of years, mainly because it kept the insect a secret, exporting only the dye product to those willing to pay handsomely for it but never revealing its origin. Even after it was proved to be an insect ste [...]


    • This book reminds me of an optical illusion that looks like one thing when you look at it one way, but looks like something totally different when viewed another way – think of the ubiquitous Escher posters Viewed from one perspective, A Perfect Red is a quirky and witty, albeit highly selective, history of Western Civilization from 1500 to the present, with a special emphasis on the Spanish Empire. From another perspective, it is a 261-page history of the trade in a particular commodity that [...]


    • I'm afraid that A Perfect Red: Empire Espionage, & the Quest for the Color of Desire didn't do a whole lot for me. And I don't think it's Amy Butler Greensfield's fault. You see, I was kind of confused when I picked this up at my local library's used bookstore in July 2011. The kindly volunteers who manage the store had shelved it on the hardback fiction shelf and when I read the synopsis I thought that this must fictional history. I've read those before--heavy on the history, but still a fi [...]


    • I often enjoy histories of small or offbeat subjects. It can be a great way to learn obscure things and to think about "bigger" historical events in a different way. Amy Greenfield's history of cochineal - "Europe's premier red dyestuff" - is a terrific example of this genre. A Perfect Red weaves together the cultural history of the color red, particularly in textiles, has had in the West with the natural history of the insects and plants required to create cochineal and the political history of [...]


    • Fascinating! A beautifully portrayed, heartfeltly written, and impressively researched story about how the color red was sought after, and how the color red (along with competing colors) has and continues to affect past and present cultures. From botanists to spies, from industrialists to inventors, from politics to revolutions--this is a true action book, made all the more amazing because its true from history--a MUST READ for anyone who has ever dabbled in art, fashion, or fallen in love with [...]


    • I will never get tired of how interesting history can be, especially in the hands of a good author. I will also never get tired of the thrill that comes with focusing on one specific thing (in this case, cochineal - an insect-based red dye) and then realizing how this one thing is connected to so many other aspects of history. I adored this book - it taught me things I didn't know, added new layers and complexity to things I did know, and made me stop and think about something as ubiquitous and [...]


    • This is a story about the history of the development of the color red in the textile industry. It has some really interesting parts, and some really dry and boring parts. I listened to is on audio, and the narrator Suzanne Toren is fabulous and I think she made an at times dry subject matter come alive. Before the development of synthetic dyes, the quest for a natural source of red dye led countries to war, pirating, and espionage.


    • It’s amazing how interesting history can be in the hands of a talented author. Butler Greenfield weaves a fascinating tale of international espionage and fashion in this well crafted tome that is anything but dry. I especially love the tantalizing lead ends that join one chapter to the next. The amount of research this book must have taken is an impressive feat, but the talent to craft it into something so accessible, so enjoyable…man, I wish I could write like this.


    • What do we take for granted? So many things. Here's a book that tells us how the world was tipped sideways with the acquisition of just one of those things: an abundant and stable source of the color red. Who knew?


    • Amy Butler Greenfield’s A Perfect Red tells a two-fold story of human interactions with the color red. The novel traces the paths of development of red dye technology from its origins in ochre, used by Cro-Magnon, to madder to cochineal to modern synthetic dyes. The author specifically goes into great detail about the history of cochineal, a small insect originally from Mexico. The Spanish conquistadores found the natives cultivating it in New Spain. This insect yielded a brilliant red dye whe [...]


    • Did you know that “red” is the oldest color term in all languages (save black and white)? No? You aren’t an artist, say? Although creative genes are welcome, this book envelops catchy themes such as pirates, secrecy, espionage, social standing of colors and dyestuffs, etc; and isn’t merely for the artistic audience. A Perfect Red demonstrates the soap opera values of history and combines a valuable sweeping resource of art, history, and science.Having enjoyed and learned more in the four [...]


    • SHORT REVIEW: In medieval Europe, red textiles were available only to royalty because there was no reliable source of red dye. All of this changed when the Spanish Conquistadores discovered cochineal, a natural dye producing an intense shade of crimson, being sold in the Aztec marketplaces in Mexico. This discovery set off a global competition – complete with spies and pirates - to obtain the valuable material. Weaving together fascinating strands of social, political and economic history, Gre [...]


    • For obvious reasons, I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I am easily bored by political histories and the bulk of this book is just that. It’s really a history of the cultivation and use of the cochineal bug for red dyes, which is a story very similar to the cultivation and use of cacao, quinine, coca, sugar, coffee, bananas, and many other New World products that Europeans pillaged from the Americas, and that I have already read about. For me, the book didn’t get interesting u [...]


    • This was a fasctinating book - so much information that I knew the top layer of, but had no idea all the history that lurked beneath! I love reading about how some tiny event, object or person can shift the entire world history and this book is full of those lovely gems. A more in-depth look at the entire timeline would take many many books, as this covers everything from ancient red dyes through Cortez and Spanish rule of the Americas, and on into 20th century chemical dye creations. So while [...]


    • This book, a history of cochineal dye, was a well-told, fascinating story. As with any commodity history, the author gets a little too convinced of the importance of her pet commodity (see also, Salt), but it does not diminish the scale of the story. As with Salt, the book focuses a lot on Europe, a little on the Americas, and none on Africa. It is more justifiable, however, as cochineal is a Central American product that was exported pretty much exclusively to Europe. It would have been interes [...]


    • A Perfect Red was tres informative. Greenfield does a nice of detailing the background of cloth dying up through the Renaissance. Dyers were suspect in olden times because they "changed" things. Their use of putrid smelling solutions (including urine) didn't add to their social likability index. Formulae and techniques were guarded like nuclear secrets. Strong red was an ever-elusive hue. The conquest of the New World changed all that. The introduction of cochineal dye to Europe added to the fie [...]


    • I really liked this book.The entire book is about the history of the colour red. From it's biological origins, to how it has affected society and even history, to how we have synthetically manufactured it; allowing it to be widely available to us today.It really makes you think about how easily we wear/use or disregard/remove the colour yet in the past people would do anything for this colour, even kill.A very dense and thoroughly researched book, but it does not bore the reader.Would highly rec [...]


    • One of the best reads i've had in a long time. I did not expect this story to be so fascinating, informative and entertaining. It is rare to find a non fiction book so well written. ABG tells this specialized, focused history of "RED" and weaves it into ALL of world history making the history and the significance of red 'POP" out to be unforgettable. I will never wear red, see it in an old painting or on an American Indian person without thinking of the depth and breadth of the story as revealed [...]


    • Scholarly and historically accurate account of the economic significance, political intrigue and resulting upheaval surrounding the development of a brilliant "perfect" red. I greatly appreciated the excellent research evident in this account, and the fact that it is well written and edited is a true bonus. As a publisher of international policy research, this book was "A Perfect Match" for my reads.


    • I can't recommend this book highly enough! It is a great read. This story of a dyestuff weaves together European and North American history, the significance of the color red through time, dyeing and fashion history, and the tales of explorers and scientists. I wish I could learn about every historic period through such a meticulously crafted set of stories. The only weak spot is the final chapter: it seemed a bit added on and not as detailed or well crafted as the others.


    • I stumbled on this little gem at the exhibit about dyes at the DeYoung. Butler tells the story of the discovery of the first "perfect" red dye by putting it into a vast context: the histories of the new and old worlds and how they interacted, the development of science and technology, the fluctuations of fashion, the development of global markets, etc. She does a masterful job of making an arcane subject into a fascinating story.


    • There are many more books lately on the history of synthetic dyes, but this one focuses mostly on pre-synthetics, and almost exclusively on cochineal. The author kept the topic interesting, and while mostly chronological, it was organized more thematically than a dry retelling of history. I would have loved to learn more about the other natural dyes she mentions, but that's simply because I liked her treatment of cochineal so much. Recommended for fiber geeks and artists.


    • I read this book a million years ago but I still think about it. Red is my favorite color in a big big way (honestly I surprise myself even with how strongly attracted to it I am). The story of the worldwide chase for the perfect red pigment fascinates me and reminds me how lucky we are to have such a colorful world around us -- it wasn't always so.


    • This book traces the fascinating history of Cochineal--the legendary color of the Aztec markets. It is also a book about the color red. Butler's story is reminiscent of an old favorite book of mine, Victoria Finlay's book Colors: A Natural History of the Palette. Finlay's book is a wonderful history that I think I will re-read for the 3rd time. In it, the author follows in the footsteps of the major pigments that formed the Renaissance painter's palette--from lapis to ochre. One of her most memo [...]


    • This is a great way to learn a little about dyes, spanish conquest, European and "Mexican" political landscape in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, psycology of color and many other aspects related to "dactylopius coccus" more commonly known as grana cochinilla.It is superbly well documented and very interesting, although at some parts of the book it did felt like it was too much information that was barely related to the subject at hand.I recently attended a very good art exhibition at Palacio [...]


    • An easy to follow history of Cochineal with the perfect balance of historical fashion to ensure the context for each event is understandable. Each chapter pulls together a portion of the narrative as the world fell in love with the color red and through it's trials to remain our favorite. I enjoyed each adventure Amy Butler Greenfield led me down and would highly recommend this to anyone interested in natural dyes, fiber arts and especially for how we became so reliant on synthetic dyes as a cul [...]


    • This genre of book, nonfiction that reads like fiction, is my favorite. The author weaves fascinating stories full of intrigue and well-researched history related to the desire for the color red, with a special focus on the cochineal red aka "the perfect red". It is an education in how one commodity affected the world economy and the social, environmental, financial consequences of decisions based primarily on greed and the thirst to dominate, made by men in power. I cannot speak highly enough o [...]


    • This should have more stars, as the subject matter is very interesting, it is well written, and covers the material well - throughout history cochineal has had an effect on much more than just fashion and clothing. But, and this is a huge issue, the paperback edition has been badly let down by cost-cutting. The illustrations have been included, but in black and white, and not on glossy paper - giving the impression of very poor photocopies. So, when you are referred to them by the text, you can' [...]


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