What I Saw

03 Nov 2023

Giovanni Mariti

In his book The Island of Cyprus, written in the 1760s, Abbe Giovanni Mariti writes about the madder of Cyprus:

The root may be dug at any time of the year, but as it lies very deep in the ground it is generally collected in January and February when the rains have softened the soil. After extracting the roots, the holes are filled in again, and bits which remain propagate and spread, so that in two years the same quantity is found again, or even more if the winter has been unusually wet. As soon as it is dug up the root is set to dry, but not directly in the sun, which would affect the colour. Madder was formerly a capital article of commerce with Aleppo and Baghdad, whence it passed into Persia. But since the disturbances in that country, where arts and trade are on the decline, very little is sent there; but a new trade has been opened with France, which takes either directly or through Leghorn, the largest part of the crop. In the Levant, cotton stuffs are dyed red with a mixture made of this root and sheep’s blood. The tariff charges on madder are 5 piastres the cantar of 1000rotoli. The bales, like those of wool, must be thoroughly dry, or they are likely to catch fire on board.

The 'What I Saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

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