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In Europe the art of dyeing rose to new heights with the diversity of climate, culture and migration/invasion waves. This was further influenced by the direct impact of trade instigated by the Crusades and furthered by the growing cultural awareness of the Renaissance period - everyone in Europe wanted the exotic, colorful dyestuffs from the Orient, and later from the Americas. Caravans of camels would cross the Gobi desert for centuries bringing goods from China to the Mediterranean. By the 12th century the two main trade routes for imported dyestuffs headed through Damascus: the first led from Baghdad to Damascus to Jerusalem and Cairo, the other went to Damascus to Mosul to the Black Sea to Byzantium (Istanbul).
Venice was one of the major early centers for imported dyestuffs, supplying Brazilwood from the East, lac and indigo from India from the fifteenth century CE onward. Dyers of Italy soon became adept in their use, in 1429 the Venetian dyer's guild wrote a book for its members containing a number of different dye recipes, including Brazilwood and lac. The Plictho de Larti de Tentori by Venetian author Giovanni Ventur Rosetti in the 1540s lists instructions for using both lac and indigo, as well as 217 other recipes for dyeing cloth, linen, cotton and silk with many varieties of dyestuffs. It would remain the best source for dyeing instruction for the next 200 years.
From Venice the dyestuffs were traded by ship around the coast of France to Flanders, Southampton and London; in the Mediterranean at Florence, Pisa and Genoa; and northward on the continent to the distribution centers of Basle and Frankfurt. Basle was a noted center of trade for saffron, the expensive yellow obtained from certain species of crocus. In later years crocus were grown in that area directly, and the crop became such a vital part of the local economy that they crocus was featured on the city's coat of arms. Frankfurt housed trade fairs from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries that dominated the trade of many dyestuffs, but mainly that of locally grown woad, the only blue dyestuff available to European dyers before the coming of indigo. Many regions in Germany specialized in growing and processing the woad through its complex fermentation process, and strict legislation was placed on every aspect of the trade.
The government of Spain controlled the trade of cochineal, the red dye from the bodies of the Cochineal bugs of Central America. In 1587 approximately 65 tons were shipped to Spain, and from there northward throughout Europe . Italian dyers shunned cochineal in favor of the already established dye kermes, made from the dried bodies of the female shield louse or scale insect. It's use was first recorded in 1727 BCE and it was long the standard red dye for silk, wool and leather, but the intense colorific value and relative cheapness of cochineal soon eliminated most of the kermes use in England, so Spain hung on to control of their lucrative monopoly.
Chemists in many countries had found a means of extracting highly concentrated powders or pastes from traditional dyestuffs that made stronger colors, such as cochineal carmine and madder garancine. Other procedures were used to extract indigo that gave us sulphonated indigo and Saxon blue. A few novel dyes such as the yellow obtained from picric acid also made an appearance. Iinterest of Chemistry in the mid nineteenth century, several important innovations in dyeing came about. W.H. Perkin, a student of celebrated European scientist Wilhelm von Hoffman, accidentally discovered the first synthetic dye in an attempt to synthesize quinine. The 18-year old student's purple precipitate, later called mauviene, was quickly put into industrial application, allowing the young Perkin to start his own factory in London to commercially produce his dyestuff.
Two years letter a synthetic red dye called magenta or fuchsine was patented in France, and hardly a year passed until the end of the century without a new synthetic dye being patented.