Bitten By Witch Fever

Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Victorian Home


An entertaining – and beautiful – hybrid of Victorian social history and design resource book, which delves into the dark history of 19th-century arsenic-riddled wallpapers


ISBN: 9780500518380 Category:

Lucinda Hawksley


Bitten by Witch Fever traces the arresting story of the manufacture, uses and effects of arsenic in the 19th-century home, in particular, the pigments ingrained in popular wallpapers. Lucinda Hawksley reveals how pigments, such as Scheele’s green and Schweinfurt green, were created using arsenic to produce more vibrant and durable dyes, which became instant favourites with wallpaper designers and householders alike. Drawing on contemporary case studies and reports in the press, she highlights how, by the middle of the century, manufacturers were producing millions of rolls of arsenical wallpaper, with devastating consequences for those working in their factories and for those living in rooms decorated with the deadly designs.

The wallpaper sections display dazzling long-lost work from the great designers and printers of the age, including Christopher Dresser, Corbière, Son & Brindle, Charles Knowles & Co., and Morris & Co. – whose owner was famously dismissive of the fatal effects of living with arsenic-laden wallpapers.

Additional information

Weight 941 g
Dimensions 20.2 x 25.7 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 8 December 2016
Number of pages 256
Format Hardback
Dimensions 20.2 x 25.7 cm
Weight 941 g


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Lucinda Hawksley is the author of three biographies of Victorian artists: Lizzie Siddal, Kate Perugini (née Dickens) and Princess Louise. She also writes about art history, social history, literature and the life and works of her great-great-great-grandfather Charles Dickens. Lucinda is a Pre-Raphaelite and Aestheticism expert and a regular lecturer at the National Portrait Gallery in London.