Books That Kill: 3 Poisonous Renaissance Manuscripts Discovered in School Library

Live Science | 7/10/2018 | Staff
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If you plan on doing lots of summer reading this year, be sure to keep the safety basics in mind: Always keep your page-turning fingers hydrated; never enter an unfamiliar fictional world without a compass; and — most important — watch out for poisonous books.

Odd as it may sound, works on paper can actually be toxic — even deadly — if they're colored with the wrong pigments. A team of researchers at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) recently rediscovered this peculiar bane of bibliophiles when they pulled three Renaissance-era manuscripts from the school library's rare-book collection, put them under an X-ray microscope and found themselves face-to-face with glowing green arsenic.

Problem - Book - Covers - Layer - Paint

The problem was, all three book covers were caked in an "extensive layer" of green paint that made reading the underlying text impossible with the naked eye. So, Holck and Rasmussen used a technique called micro X-ray fluorescence to shine a pinhole-thin beam of light onto the manuscripts, hoping to highlight specific elements (like calcium or iron) baked into the underlying ink. Instead, they found arsenic.

Arsenic is a natural metalloid element found all over Earth's crust — however, when combined with other elements like hydrogen and oxygen, it becomes deadly poisonous. "This chemical element is among the most toxic substances in the world and exposure may lead to various symptoms of poisoning, the development of cancer and even death," Holck and Rasmussen wrote. "The toxicity of arsenic does not diminish with time."

Arsenic - Poisoning - Ingestion - Finger - Page

Arsenic poisoning occurs primarily through ingestion (say, by licking one's finger and turning the page of a contaminated book) but some...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Live Science
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