Pigments and Dyes Used by the Ancients.

Harper's new monthly magazine 265, 1872

From a memoir by M. Rousset upon the pigments and dyes used by the ancients it would appear that the variety was very considerable. Among the white colors, they were acquainted with white-lead; and for the blacks, various kinds of charcoal and soot were used. Animal skins were dyed black with nut-galls and sulphate of iron. Brown pigments they made by mixing together different kinds of ochre. Under the name of Alexadria blue the ancients - Egyptians, as well as Greeks and Romans - used a pigment containing oxide of copper, and also one containing cobalt. Fabrics were dyed blue by means of pastel-wood (Isatis tinctoria). Yellow pigments were principally derived from saffron and other native plants. Vermilion, red ochres, and minium were known from a remote antiquity, although the artificial preparation of vermilion was a secret possessed only by the Chinese. Kermes was used in Egypt in the time of Moses. Among green paints the ancients knew only certain green-colored compounds of copper with the acetate of that metal. The celebrated Tyrian purple was obtained from a mollusk known as the Janthina prolongata, a shell abundant in the Mediterranean and very common near Narbonne, where Tyrian purple dye-works were in operation at least six hundred years before Christ.

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