John Edmonds' profile: the man who rediscovered the imperial purple dye.  
line decor
View Cart ( - )
line decor



John Edmonds was a retired engineer who turned his hands, often quite literally, to rediscovering the arts of textile dyeing. Working from old manuscripts and practical experimentation he reconstructed many of the processes involved in natural textile dyes. Most famously, he rediscovered the Roman method of making Imperial or Tyrian Purple. Imperial Purple is one of the oldest dyes known to man, and was a symbol of status in ancient and medieval times. However, its manufacture was strictly monopolised by the Byzantine Empire and the knowledge of its manufacture was lost in the sack of Constantinople in 1453. After years of trial-and-error, John made the headlines in 2003 by cracking the problem that had eluded historians and dye-makers for more than 500 years and rediscovering the art of mass production of natural Imperial Purple.

His efforts also earned him a place in the spotlight of television making two appearances on "Worst Jobs in History" with Tony Robinson. First demonstrating theimperial purple process; and second, demonstrating indigo dyeing using woad. Click here to watch the clips.

John is also co-author of several scientific papers published by the Plant Sciences Dept. of the University of Reading, and several booklets on the history and practice of textile dyeing. He also translated the cokmplete words of Chaucer into modern English to make the first complete volume.

He was an active member of the Medieval Dress and Textile Society and was awarded the 2003 Open Prize for the Presentation of Heritage research by the British Association for the Advancement of Science at the Festival of Science at the University of Salford.

Mike Edmonds - 2009.


Daily Telegraph - Cleopatra's dye secret is revealed

BBC News Article - Supermarket molluscs reveal Roman secret

The Times: Engineer's Purple Patch

2003 Open Prize for the Presentation of Heritage research

Medival Dress and Textile Society



Historic Dyes Series No. 7 - The Mystery of Imperial Purple Dye
Discover the secrets behind the Roman's favourite dye...

Historic Dyes Series No.3 - Medieval Textile Dyeing
The series moves into the Medieval age...

Historic Dyes Series No.2 - The History and Practice of Eighteenth Century Dyeing
The Eighteenth century textile dyeing explored...

website by sam farrand | Copyright © 2009 Imperial-Purple home | profile | books | reviews | contact