The quest for the perfect colour red is an adventure into world history. For those who knew its secrets, red was a source of wealth and power. To obtain it, men sacked ships, turned spy, courted death. This is their story... For centuries after the conquistador Hernan Cortes spotted the vibrant cochineal dye in an Aztec marketplace and sent it on the high seas back to his Spanish king, this luminous luxury was the subject of war and intrigue. But few in Europe understood its true nature. Was it plant or animal?
Could it be transplanted from Mexico to other colonies? Encompassing the history of art and textiles, of natural philosophy and science, of engineering and empire, this tale is every bit as flamboyant as the colour itself.