Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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natural dyestuffs

A class of dyes extracted and processed from plant or animal sources, as distinguished from dyestuffs manufactured from derivatives of coal-tar. The use of natural dyes predates recorded history. Other dyestuffs were later developed in ancient Greece, Rome, and the Orient, while still others were used in medieval and Renaissance times. Although still used to a limited extent for specialized work or for reasons of economy, their use in archival work is now virtually obsolete.

Few, if any, of the natural dyestuffs are resistant to external influences, such as light; they do, however, fade at different rates. Upon fading, they either darken or undergo a change in hue.

Some of the natural dyestuffs are: blues—indigo, woad, chemic, and Prussian blue; reds—madder, cochineal, brazilwood, alkanet, annatto, and safflower; yellows—fustic, quercitron, dock, goldenrod, sassafras, and tumeric; browns—butternut, catechu, alder, and hemlock; purples—orchil and cudbear; blacks—logwood; and neutral colors—barks of various trees, including birches and oaks, galls and sumac. (4 )




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