Poisonous books found in Danish university library

Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark examined three medieval books and accidentally discovered the paint covering the books contained poisonous arsenic.

    2018/07/11

NSFW    ODENSE, DENMARK — Researchers in Denmark accidentally discovered three books that were covered in poison.

Two researchers from the University of Southern Denmark were examining three medieval books to see whether any old Latin texts had been used in the binding.

The scholars, Josh Povl[g] Holck and Kaare[h][i][j] Lund Rasmussen wrote in the Conversation that the university library had previously found medieval manuscript fragments, such as copies of Roman law and canonical law, but they said this is normal as book binders in the 16th and 17 centuries used to recycle older parchments.

The X-ray result showed something surprising — the green paint covering the works contained poisonous arsenic.

According to Atlas Obscura, the use of arsenic-tinted green paint was common to be used for things like mail stamps, dresses, and ball gowns in the 19th century. And it wasn't until the early 20th century that scientists understood arsenic is actually dangerous when inhaled or when a person makes contact with it.

The researchers believed that the paint was used to protect books from insects and vermin. For now, each book of the three poisonous books they've found will be stored in a ventilated cabinet while specialists will digitize them so people won't have to physically handle them.
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