The first book in John Edmonds' comprehensive series explores the most famous dye of all time: indigo. Throughout history, indigo has been virtually the only natural blue dyestuff. Woad was the source of the dye in Europe since Neolithic times, and it appears that the plant was introduced into Europe for this sole purpose at the same time as farming spread from the Middle East.
Blue dye is the most complex of all the natural dyes and, consequently, was one of the most valuable commodities in medieval international trade. Toulouse is the area which has become known in mythology as the ‘Land of Cockaigne’ or the land of plenty – the cockaigne was in fact the woad. As a result, woad was the second most important import into England in the 15th century. This booklet follows the rise in imports of woad as the English textile industry grew in the 15th century, before examining the decline in the woad trade with religious strife on the continent. Finally, the arrival of indigo from India changed the woad trade for good in the 16th century.
This booklet not only offers a fascinating glimpse into a little-studied medieval commodity market, but can also be used as a practical guide to the methods used to create natural indigo dye.
John Edmonds was a leading expert in natural dyeing techniques and history. This was recognised in 2003 when he was asked to appear in the Tudor Age series of 'Worst Jobs in History' with Tony Robinson demonstrating the dyeing process
using woad. The results shown on the programme speak for themselves. Watch the clip: here.