Library book gifted to child in 1885 was filled with ARSENIC dye

Library book is POISONED: Gardening manual from 1885 filled with ARSENIC dye is found on shelves

  • Librarians have stumbled across a rare book which is laced with deadly poison 
  • The guide to gardening for young people, was found at Leeds Central Library 
  • It was gifted to a little girl named Caroline Gott by her father William in 1855
  • Experts believe the arsenic was used to make the vivid green dye on the pages 

Librarians have stumbled across a rare book which is filled with the deadly poison arsenic – and an inscription on the first page reveals it was once gifted to a little girl by her own father. 

Leeds Central Library’s copy of My Own Garden: The Young Gardener’s Yearbook was published in 1855, the same year it was gifted to a child named Caroline Gott by her father William.

Experts believe the vivid green colour in the book is actually a dye which contains the toxic chemical.

The library said tests would be carried out on the book, which had been hidden from visitors, to assess how much arsenic it contains.

Arsenic can be lethal when ingested.

Leeds Central Library’s copy of My Own Garden: The Young Gardener’s Yearbook was published in 1855, the same year it was gifted to Caroline Gott by her father William. Pictured: Senior librarian Rhian Isaac with the toxic copy 

Experts believe the toxic chemical is within the dye in the text, and is the reason for the vivid emerald green coloured inscriptions

The toxin was responsible for more than 200 deaths in nearby Bradford in 1858 when sweets accidentally made with the toxin were sold from a market stall.

Senior librarian Rhian Isaac found the book while cross-referencing the library’s collection against a global database from The Poison Book Project.

The project, started by the International Institute for Conservation in America, aims to find editions of historic books made using hazardous compounds and heavy metals.

Rhian added: ‘As a librarian, it’s always incredibly exciting to discover any sort of rare, or unusual book in our collection.

‘But this project is also really important as it helps librarians across the world work together and understand how and when these books were made as well as what steps we can take to keep track of them and make sure they are safely stored and cared for.

‘Amazingly, heavy metals were once quite commonly used in the production of books as a way to achieve what was considered a very aesthetically pleasing shade of green.’

An inscription in the book, which contains tips for budding young gardeners, shows it was gifted to Caroline Gott by her father William in 1855

An inscription in the book, which contains tips for budding young gardeners, shows it was gifted to Caroline Gott by her father William in 1855.

Both were descendants of wool merchant Benjamin Gott, who once owned Armley Mills and whose family remained prominent local industrialists for generations.

It became part of the Leeds collection when Beryl Gott left a large part of her own library, mainly early botanical books, to Leeds Public Libraries.

Rhian added: ‘Whilst people at the time were certainly aware substances like arsenic were harmful, they probably didn’t understand the many different ways they could be accidentally ingested.

‘The fact that this particular book also once belonged to the Gott family means its story is also a part of Leeds’s history and, with some careful handling and storage, it can continue to be part of our collection for many years to come.’

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