Deadly Books, Manuscripts & Other Printed Matter

Discussion in 'General Forteana' started by EnolaGaia, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    I'm starting this new thread because I couldn't find an existing one that recommended itself for this story ...

    FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/63025-poisonous-books-coated-in-arsenic.html
     
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  2. Gizmos Mama

    Gizmos Mama Ephemeral Spectre

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    That's straight out of The Name of the Rose. Very cool!
     
  3. JamesWhitehead

    JamesWhitehead Piffle Prospector

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    I saw some of these poisonous pigments on some glorious old manuscripts in an exhibition earlier this year at the John Rylands Library. They were safely under glass! :cooll:
     
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  4. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    Here's another example of arsenic-laden biblio-riskiness - a book about, and containing, examples of 19th century wallpapers containing arsenic ...

    image.jpg

    SOURCE: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/shadows-from-the-walls-of-death-book
     
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  5. GNC

    GNC King-Sized Canary

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    Isn't there a story about Napoleon Bonaparte being killed by exposure to arsenic in his bedroom wallpaper? Doesn't explain why nobody else guarding him suffered the same effects, mind you.
     
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  6. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    Yes, there was arsenic in his lodgings' wallpaper, and the environmental conditions would have fostered exposure to airborne arsenic diffusing off that wallpaper.

    However ...

    Within the last decade it's been demonstrated that a notably high (by today's standards ...) level of arsenic had been present in Napoleon's body throughout his life - not solely during his final exile.

    IMHO the most reasonable conclusion is that the arsenic and other toxic substances ingested didn't help matters in general, but the demonstrable stomach cancer was the proximate cause of death.

    For example, see:

    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070117-napoleon.html
    https://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/on-exhibit-posts/poison-what-killed-napoleon/
    https://www.livescience.com/2292-napoleon-death-arsenic-poisoning-ruled.html
     
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  7. GNC

    GNC King-Sized Canary

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    With that in mind, I wonder if there were any figures collated on death by wallpaper? Could it actually happen?
     
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  8. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    As far as I know - no, there's no summary compilation of such figures ...

    One big reason is that the risk of arsenic poisoning was practically epidemic in the Victorian era, when arsenic was found in clothing, cosmetic items, and other household goods besides wallpapers and printed matter.

    There are isolated anecdotal reports of specific poisoning incidents (e.g., baby deaths from having been closely held by attendants / nannies wearing arsenic-dye-nifested clothing).but I haven't found any overarching summaries or analyses.

    There's a recent book on Victorian domestic arsenic poisoning, which has received good reviews:

    Bitten by Witch Fever
    Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Nineteenth-Century Home

    Lucinda Hawksley
    Thames & Hudson

    http://www.lucindahawksley.com/bitten-by-witch-fever/
    https://www.thamesandhudsonusa.com/...enic-in-the-nineteenth-century-home-hardcover
    http://bookshop.nationalarchives.gov.uk/9780500518380/Bitten-By-Witchfever/

    Here's an overview of the subject and an interview with the author:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/10/the-era-when-poison-was-everywhere/503654/

    Finally, here's an item from the (UK) National Archives describing what was discovered when they checked their archived wallpaper sample books for arsenic:

    https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/x-rays-wallpapers-hunt-arsenic/
     
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  9. escargot

    escargot Beloved of Ra

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    People at high risk of assassination by aresenic poisoning have traditionally taken small regular doses of it to build up resistance.

    Also, tiny amounts of arsenic used to be present in some cosmetics as it was believed to boost the appearance of the eyes and complexion.

    Dunno if Napoleon did this or not.
     
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  10. JamesWhitehead

    JamesWhitehead Piffle Prospector

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    Yes, it was central to the Florence Maybrick case, which is now most often mentioned because of its supposed connection with Jack-the-Ripper. Florence had bought arsenic for cosmetic reasons but her doomed husband is said to have been taking it as a stimulant! It was everywhere - in one household, at least! :nurse:
     
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  11. escargot

    escargot Beloved of Ra

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    James, you worry me sometimes. :eek:
     
  12. JamesWhitehead

    JamesWhitehead Piffle Prospector

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    Fly-papers, she soaked them, you know, to get the poison off them to make herself lovely.

    You can't get them now - it's like asking for a Coca-Cola with the Cocaine in!* :boozing:

    *They look at you funny.
     
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