A Perfect Red recounts the colorful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world's most precious commodities. Treasured by the ancient Mexicans, cochineal was sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519. 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.
Desperate to find their own sources of the elusive dye, the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans tried to crack the enigma of cochineal. Did it come from a worm, a berry, a seed? Could it be stolen from Mexico and transplanted to their own colonies? Pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies -- all joined the chase for cochineal, a chase that lasted more than three centuries. A Perfect Red tells their stories -- true-life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.
“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 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
“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
“Delightful, rollicking history . . . A fun read, well-supported by extensive research.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
“With A PERFECT RED, she does for [red] what Mark Kurlansky in SALT did for that common commodity.”
“Greenfield does what the best historical authors do--follows the thread of a story through history without missing a stitch.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[An] intricate history...Greenfield paints a broad historical panorama, never neglecting the intimate, eccentric, and often absurd human details.”
“A gem of accessible history.”
-San Diego Union-Tribune