What a fascinating subject for a book! Yes, this is all about the color mauve. The story begins in 1856, when a young English chemist named William Perkin accidentally discovers a way to mass produce color in a factory. Before this, dyes were derived from natural sources such as insects, roots, and leaves — and coloring fabrics, creating paint, and making ink were laborious, haphazard (and expensive!) processes. While trying to concoct a treatment for malaria in his London laboratory, Perkin produced an oily substance that turned silk a beautiful light purple.

According to the book jacket for Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World by Simon Garfield, “Mauve became the most desirable shade in the fashion houses of Paris and London, but its importance extended far beyond ball gowns. It sparked new interest in industrial applications of chemistry research, which later brought about the development of explosives, perfume, photography, and modern medicine.”