By Amy Butler Greenfield
Doubleday, 2005, 389 pgs. Nonfiction
Red was once a color only worn by the aristocracy or the very rich. The difficulty of creating lasting red dyes made true red fabrics very, very expensive. The discovery of the new world brought a new source of red to markets in Europe. The source of the dye, the very small female cochineal insect, requires certain growing conditions and extensive hand labor. Nonetheless, the new world produced enough of it to drastically affect trade and social conditions. Spain’s cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune and triggered a hunt by the Dutch, the English and the French to find sources of the dye.
Cochineal’s saga is rich with intrigue, piracy and struggle. This book would be of interest to any one interested in history, fashion, botany or international trade.