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Poisonous books removed from the National Library of France

By April 25, 2024Culture, Libraries, News, The Classics

Four books, that may be laced with arsenic have been removed from the National Library of France.

The 19th century books, all printed in Britain all have emerald green covers, and it’s known that arsenic was commonly used to colour books at that time. The issue came light after being highlighted by University of Delaware researchers who put together a list as part of the Poison Book Project in collaboration with Delaware’s Winterhur Museum.

Staff at the National Library have put the works in quarantine and will allow a laboratory to analyse just how poisonous they are. The four titles are the 1862-1863 book of the Royal Horticultural Society, two volumes of Edward Hayes’ “The Ballads of Ireland” from 1855, and an 1856 bilingual anthology of Romanian poetry by Henry Stanley.

It was common for publishers to use arsenic during the Victorian era, and books likely to be affected will have bindings in one of three shades of green developed at the time, Emerald Green, Paris Green, and Scheele’s Green

The Poison Book Project has highlighted and tested hundreds of book covers since 2019 and drawn up a list of titles that are potentially dangerous, just four of these were on the shelves of the National Library of France.

A spokesman from the National Library of France said they would be reviewing its entire library beyond the Poison Book Project.

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