Posted by: bluesyemre | January 30, 2018

How a #Library handles a rare and deadly book of wallpaper samples

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SHADOWS FROM THE WALLS OF DEATH, printed in 1874 and measuring about 22 by 30 inches, is a noteworthy book for two reasons: its rarity, and the fact that, if you touch it, it might kill you. It contains just under a hundred wallpaper samples, each of which is saturated with potentially dangerous levels of arsenic.

The book is the work of Dr. Robert M. Kedzie, a Union surgeon during the American Civil War and later professor of chemistry at Michigan State Agricultural college (now MSU). When he came to serve on the state’s Board of Health in the 1870s, he set out to raise awareness about the dangers of arsenic-pigmented wallpaper. Though a lethal toxin, arsenic can be mixed with copper and made into beautiful paints and pigments, most commonly Scheele’s Green or Paris Green. This was no fringe phenomenon: near the end of the 19th century, the American Medical Association estimated that as much as 65 percent of all wallpaper in the United States contained arsenic.

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


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