Green: Ten Facts You Didn’t Know about the Color Green

Pastoureau Green book coverGreen is the color of cash, and also of protecting the environment. A green light means go, but a green-tinged emoji means someone is about to be sick. Where did these cultural meanings come from, and how have they developed and shifted throughout history? Michel Pastoureau’s book Green: The History of a Color takes readers from ancient times to the present day, exploring the role of green in Western societies over thousands of years.

Green is just one title in Pastoureau’s acclaimed series on the history of colors in European society! This National Color Day, don’t miss Red, Blueand Black.

How many of these facts about green did you know?

1. The ancient Egyptian god Ptah was depicted with a green face. In Egyptian painting, green was a beneficial color that protected against evil.

2. The Roman emperor Nero was known for eating a large amount of leeks he consumed, which was unusual for a high-ranking person at that time. Leeks were strongly associated with the color green, and even lent their name to one of the Greek words for the color, prasinos.

3. The Roman Empire’s chariot races featured two opposing stables: the Blues and the Greens. The Blues represented the Senate and the patrician class, while the Greens represented the people. Each stable was backed by a large, influential organization with a network of clientele and a lobby that extended far outside the racecourse.

4. The prophet Muhammad favored the color green. After becoming the dynastic color of the Fatimids, green came to be the sacred color of Islam as a whole.

5. During the Middle Ages, green was the color of hope for pregnant women in particular. Pregnant women in paintings were often shown wearing green dresses.

6. Possessing a green shield, tunic, or horse’s quarter sheet often meant that a knight was young and hotheaded. One well-known example of a “green knight” is found in the late fourteenth-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

7. In Gothic stained-glass windows, green was the color of demons, sorcerers, dragons, and the Devil himself.

8. Dyeing in green was difficult during the Middle Ages. Green dyes from plants produced faint and unstable color that grew even more faded when mordant, or fixative, was applied. Because of this instability, green came to represent inconstancy, duplicity, and betrayal. Judas, for example, is often shown dressed in green.

9. Another obstacle to dyeing in green was the way the dyeing trades were organized. Professional dyers were licensed to dye only in certain colors. This made mixing colors—such as blue and yellow, which make green—next to impossible. Even dyers who broke the regulations and used both blue and yellow dyes had to possess the then-rare knowledge that blue and yellow combined make green. This combination may seem obvious to us now, but in pre-Newtonian color classifications, green was never located anywhere near yellow.

10. Schweinfurt green was a shade developed in Germany in 1814 and made from copper shavings dissolved in arsenic. It was used to make paint, dye, and painted paper. When exposed to humidity, the arsenic evaporates and can be toxic. According to some theories of Napoleon’s death, he was poisoned by his wallpaper.

PUP News of the World — September 17, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


now 9.17

More Than You Wanted to Know

How much time do you take to read the iTunes terms you assent to, the doctor’s consent form you sign, or the pile of papers you get with your mortgage? Reading the terms, the form, and the papers is supposed to equip you to choose your purchase, your treatment, and your loan well. However, Omri Ben-Shahar & Carl E. Schneider’s More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure surveys the evidence and finds that mandated disclosure rarely works. But how could it? Who reads these disclosures? Who understands them? Who uses them to make better choices?

Omri Ben-Shahar discusses the purpose and shortcomings of mandated disclosures in two recent interviews with Chicago Tonight and NPR’s All Things Considered. Check out both interviews below. You may not read Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, but we bet that you will want to read the introduction to this timely and provocative book.

 

Green

Which color provides a link between luck, greed, poison, and life? Michel Pastoureau’s new book, Green: The History of a Color, demonstrates that the history of the color is, to a large degree, one of dramatic reversal: long absent, ignored, or rejected, green today has become a ubiquitous and soothing presence as the symbol of environmental causes and the mission to save the planet.

In this beautiful and richly illustrated book, the acclaimed author of Blue and Black presents a fascinating and revealing history of the color green in European societies from prehistoric times to today. Examining the evolving place of green in art, clothes, literature, religion, science, and everyday life, Michel Pastoureau traces how culture has profoundly changed the perception and meaning of the color over millennia—and how we misread cultural, social, and art history when we assume that colors have always signified what they do today.

Green is reviewed in the New York Review of Books, where Michael Gorra writes:

“[S]umptuously illustrated….These are books to look at, but they are also books to read….Individual colors find their being only in relation to each other, and their cultural force depends on the particular instance of their use. They have no separate life or essential meaning. They have been made to mean, and in these volumes that human endeavor has found its historian.”

Michael Glover at the Independent calls the book “…ceaselessly fascinating and erudite.” Preview the introduction of Green here.

The Age of the Vikings

Were the Vikings really invincible warriors who wore horned helmets? PUP author Anders Winroth dispels these and other rumors in The Age of the Vikings. The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by medieval and modern myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and developed a vast trading network. They traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships, not only to raid, but also to explore.

By exploring every major facet of this exciting age, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage. He shows how the Vikings seized on the boundless opportunities made possible by the invention of the longship, using it to venture to Europe for plunder, to open new trade routes, and to settle in lands as distant as Russia, Greenland, and the Byzantine Empire.

The Age of the Vikings is reviewed in the New York Review of Books. Eric Christiansen writes:

“[Winroth] has an impressive knowledge of the sources, the archaeology, and the modern historical literature….Winroth really knows what he is writing about, and has done the research….I recommend the work to anyone with little knowledge of the subject and a wish to learn more.”

For more on these infamous berserkers, check out Michael Kane’s review The Age of the Vikings in the New York Post. In an article entitled “Everything you thought you knew about the Vikings is wrong,” Kane reviews Winroth’s explanation of the Vikings’ reputation. Kane writes:

Winroth illustrates the barbarian misconception by noting two words in usage today with Old Norse roots are “berserk” (literally meaning “bear-shirts,” from the Vikings’ attire) and “ransack” (from “ranna” meaning house and “saka” meaning search). Guys in bear shirts looking around. Much nicer than berserk ransackers.

So, why do we think of Vikings as one-dimensional, casting them as nothing more than an ax-wielding invasion force pulling up to shorelines around Europe and the British Isles in longboats?

Winroth believes it’s because the frequent victims of their raids were those with “a monopoly on writing.” Who wrote and preserved the texts of the time? Ripped-off monks. It’s no wonder that in Latin scrolls from the era that Vikings got a bad rep as “a most vile people” and a “filthy race” hell-bent on slaughtering and laying waste to the innocents.

Be sure to take a look at the full review on the New York Post‘s website.

Lastly, The Age of the Vikings is reviewed in the Literary Review:

“This book should prove a fascinating and rewarding read for those seeking to deepen their understanding of the Viking world”

– Philip Parker, Literary Review