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A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (Paperback)
In the sixteenth century, one of the world's most precious commodities was cochineal, a legendary red dye treasured by the ancient Mexicans and sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors. 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. As the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans joined the chase for cochineal -- a chase that lasted for more than three centuries -- a tale of pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies unfolds. A Perfect Red evokes with style and verve this history of a grand obsession, of intrigue, empire, and adventure in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.
About the Author
Amy Butler Greenfield's grandfather and great-grandfather were dyers, and she has long been fascinated by the history of color. Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in the Adirondacks and graduated from Williams College. As a Marshall Scholar at Oxford, she studied imperial Spain and Renaissance Europe. She now lives with her husband near Boston.
“Delightful, rollicking history . . . A fun read, well-supported by extensive research.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Fascinating...Greenfield has given us a superbly researched history of cochineal red, full of angles and tangents, curiosities and arcana.”
-Diane Ackerman, Washington Post Book World
“With A PERFECT RED, she does for [red] what Mark Kurlansky in SALT did for that common commodity.”
“A fascinating story of greed and subterfuge, mixing fashion, folly and ingenuity in equal measure... Written with style and verve.”
-J. H. Elliott, University of Oxford
“A marvelous book... Meticulously researched, this saga will enchant lovers of historical mysteries, fascinating characters, and world economics.”
-Mark Pendergrast, author of UNCOMMON GROUNDS and MIRROR MIRROR
“A gem of accessible history.”
-San Diego Union-Tribune
“[An] intricate history...Greenfield paints a broad historical panorama, never neglecting the intimate, eccentric, and often absurd human details.”
“Greenfield does what the best historical authors do--follows the thread of a story through history without missing a stitch.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer