A Dictionary of Arts: Verdigris.

A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines; containing A Clear Exposition of Their Principles and Practice

by Andrew Ure, M. D.;
F. R. S. M. G. S. Lond.: M. Acad. M. S. Philad.; S. PH. DOC. N. GERM. Ranow.; Mulh. Etc. Etc.

Illustrated with nearly fifteen hundred engravings on wood
Eleventh American, From The Last London Edition.
To which is appended, a Supplement of Recent Improvements to The Present Time.

New York: D Appleton & company, 200 Broadway. Philadelphia: George S. Appleton, 148 Chestnut St.


VERDIGRIS. (Vert-de-gris, Fr.; Grünspan, Germ.) The copper used in this manufacture, is formed into round sheets, from 20 to 25 inches diameter, by one twenty-fourth of an inch in thickness. Each sheet is then divided into oblong squares, from 4 to 6 inches in length, by 3 broad; and weighing about 4 ounces. They are separately beaten upon an anvil, to smooth their surfaces, to consolidate the metal, and to free it from scales. The refuse of the grapes, after the extraction of their juice, formerly thrown on to the dunghill, is now preserved for the purpose of making verdigris. It is put loosely into earthen vessels, which are usually 16 inches high, 14 in diameter at the widest part, and about 12 at the mouth. The vessels are then covered with lids, which are surrounded by straw mats. In this situation the materials soon become heated, and exhale an acid odor; the fermentation beginning at the bottom of the cask, and gradually rising till it actuate the whole mass. At the end of two or three days, the manufacturer removes the fermenting materials into other vessels, in order to check the process, lest putrefaction should ensue. The copper plates, if new, are now prepared, by rubbing them over with a linen cloth dipped in a solution of verdigris; and they are laid up alongside of one another dry. If the plates are not subjected to this kind of preparation, they will become black, instead of green, by the first operation. When the plates are ready, and the materials in a fermenting state, on of them is put into the earthen vessel for 24 hours, in order to ascertain whether it be a proper period to proceed to the remaining part of the process. If, at the end of this period, the plate be covered with a uniform green layer, concealing the whole copper, everything is right; but if, on the contrary, liquid drops hang on the surface of the metal, the workmen say the plates are sweating, and conclude that the heat of the fermented mass has been inadequate; on which account another day is allowed to pass before making a similar trial. When the materials are finally found to be ready, the strata are formed in the following manner. The plates are laid on a horizontal wooden grating, fixed in the middle of a vat, on whose bottom a pan full of burning charcoal is placed, which heats them to such a degree, that the women who manage this work are obliged to lay hold of them frequently with a cloth when they lift them out. They are in this state put into earthen vessels, in alternate strata with the fermented materials, the uppermost and undermost layers being composed of the expressed grapes. The vessels are covered with their straw mats, and left at rest. From 30 to 40 pounds of copper are put into one vessel.

At the end of 10, 12, 15, or 20 days the vessels are opened, to ascertain, by the materials having become white, if the operation be completed.

Detached glossy crystals will be perceived on the surface of the plates; in which case the grapes are thrown away, and the plates are placed upright in a corner of the verdigris cellar, one against the other, upon pieces of wood laid on the ground. At the verdigris cellar, one against the other, upon pieces of wood laid on the ground. At the end of two or three days they are moistened by dipping in a vessel of water, after which they are replaced in their former situation, where they remain seven or eight days, and are then subjected to momentary immersion, as before. This alternate moistening and exposure to air is performed six or eight times, at regular intervals of about a week. As these plates are sometimes dipped into damaged wine, the workmen term these immersions, one wine, two wines, &c.

By this treatment, the plates swell, become green, and covered with a stratum of verdigris, which is readily scraped off with a knife. At each operation every vessel yields from five to six pounds of verdigris, in a fresh or humid state; which is sold to wholesale dealers, who dry it for exportation. For this purpose, they knead the paste in wooden troughs, and then transfer it to leather bags, a foot and a half long, and ten inches in diameter. These bagsa are exposed to the sun and air till the verdigris has attained a sufficient degree of hardness. It loses about half its weight in this operation; and it is said to be knife-proof, when this instrument, plunged through the leather bag, cannot penetrate the load of verdigris.

The manufacture of verdigris at Montpellier is altogether domestic. In most wine farm-houses there is a verdigris cellar; and its principal operations are conducted by the females of the family. They consider the forming the strata, and scraping off the verdigris, the most troublesome part. Chaptal says that this mode of making verdigris would admit of some improvements; for example, the acetification requires a warmer temperature, than what usually arises in the earthern vessels; and the plates, when set aside to generate the coat of verdigris, require a different degree of heat and moisture from that requisite for the other operations.

Verdigris is a mixture of the crystallized acetate of copper and the sub-acetate, in varying proportions. According to Vauguelin's researches, there are three compounds of oxide of copper and acetic acid; 1. a subacetate, insoluble in water; 2. a neutral acetate, the solution of which is not altered at common temperatures, but is decomposed by ebullition, becoming peroxyde and superacetate; and, 3. superacetate, which in solution is not decomposed, either at common temperatures or at the boiling point, and which cannot be obtained in crystals, except by slow spontaneous evaporation, in air or in vacuo. The first salt, in the dry state, contains 66.51 of oxyde; the second, 44.44; and the third, 33.34.

Mr. Phillips has given the following analyses of French and English verdigris; Annals of Philosophy, No. 21.-
- | French Verdigris. | English Verdigris.
Acetic acid | - 29.3 | 29.62
Peroxyde of copper | 43.5 | 44.25
Water | 25.2 | 25.51
Impurity | 29 | 0.62
- | 100.0 | 100.00

Distilled verdigris, as it was long erroneously called, is merely a binacetate or superacetate of copper, made by dissolving, in a copper kettle, one part of verdigris in two of distilled vinegar; aiding the mutual action by slight heat and agitation with a wooden spatula. When the liquor has taken its utmost depth of color, it is allowed to settle, and the clear portion is decanted off into well-glazed earthen vessels. Fresh vinegar is poured on the residuum, and if its colour does not become deep enough, more verdigris is added. The clear and saturated solution is then slowly evaporated, in a vessel kept uniformly filled, till it acquires the consistence of sirup, and shows a pellicle on its surface; when it is transferred into glazed earthen pans, called oulas in the country. In each of these dishes, two or three sticks are placed, about a foot long, cleft till within two inches of their upper end, and having these base of the cleft kept asunder by a bit of wood. This kind of pyramid is suspended by its summit in the liquid. All these vessels are transported into crystallizing rooms, moderately heated with a stove, and left in the same state for 15 days, taking care to maintain a uniform temperature. Thus are obtained very fine groups of crystals of acetate of copper, clustered round the wooden rods; on which they are dried, taken off, and sent into the market. They are distinctly romboidal in form, and of a lively deep blue color. Each cluster of crystals weighs from five to six pounds; and, in general, their total weight is equal to about one third of the verdigris employed.

The crystallized binacetate of commerce consists, by my analysis, of - acetic acid, 52; oxide of copper, 39.6; water, 8.4, in 100. I have prepared crystals which contain no water. There is a triple acetate of copper and lime, which resembles distilled verdigris in color. It was manufactured pretty extensively in Scotland some years ago, and fetched a high price, till I published an analysis of it in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal. It is much inferior, for all uses in the arts, to the proper binacetate.

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