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Poison Book Project Outreach: Connecting with Booksellers and Librarians

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A glass case keeps antique books with dangerous pigments behind closd doors and wrapped in plastic.

​The Honey & Wax Booksellers “poison books" display at the 2024 New York Antiquarian Book Fair. By the time this photo was taken, all but one of the books had sold. Photo Credit: Allie Alvis. ​

The Poison Book Project continues to draw attention from bibliophiles across multiple spheres. At this year's New York Antiquarian Book Fair, booksellers Honey & Wax offered over half a dozen 19th-century bookbindings for sale as “poison books," notable not just for their texts or the beauty of their cover decoration, but because their vivid green hues come from arsenic-based emerald green pigment. Each book purchase included nitrile gloves for safer handling and a zip-top polyethylene bag for safer storage. The booksellers also distributed free Poison Book Project color swatch bookmarks, which can help with the visual identification of Victorian-era books that might be colored with the poisonous pigment. 

Coverage of the book fair in The New York Times gave a nod to the fledgling discipline of 'bibliotoxicology' and included a link to the Poison Book Project website, where bibliophiles can also request a bookmark through an online form. 

Project leads Dr. Melissa Tedone (Assistant Professor) and Dr. Rosie Grayburn (Winterthur Affiliated Associate Professor) were recently invited to share their research with professional librarians through the American Libraries Magazine podcast Call Number. Associate Editor Megan Bennett interviewed the team about their current work and future plans in Episode 94, “Preserving History," in celebration of the upcoming Preservation Week, April 28 – May 4, 2024

Attitudes about so-called 'poison books' continue to evolve, as research into their historical significance and safer management practices unfolds. The public conversations surrounding this research could have broad implications for other types of potentially toxic cultural heritage materials, as well. A focus on health and safety in cultural heritage work continues to be a key component of teaching, research, and outreach in the University of Delaware Department of Art Conservation. 

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Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
​The Poison Book Project continues to draw attention from bibliophiles​. At this year’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair, booksellers offered over half a dozen 19th-century bookbindings for sale as “poison books.”
 
 
4/17/2024
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