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Poison pen
June 30, 2008 2:18 AM   Subscribe

Historical fact follows historical fiction. Lick your fingers to turn the page.

Possible historical fact, anyway: "Medieval bones from six different Danish cemeteries reveal that monks who wrote Biblical texts and other religious materials may have been exposed to toxic mercury, which was used to formulate just one of their ink colors: red."
posted by WPW (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Must have been mad as hatters.
posted by ghost of a past number at 3:28 AM on June 30, 2008


Huh. Reminds me of the armonica which supposedly drove musicians mad due to its eerie sound. Turns out they were using leaded glass. Video of it in action.
posted by zanni at 3:35 AM on June 30, 2008


it's certainly more stylish (not to mention less expensive) than the present-day popular way to poison oneself with mercury -- ie, sushi. at least these monks made some impossibly beautiful books, and didn't have to worry about finding a table at Nobu
posted by matteo at 4:16 AM on June 30, 2008


Done in by a hand job.
posted by three blind mice at 4:30 AM on June 30, 2008


Since the monks, who were buried in the cloister walk of the Cistercian Abbey at Øm...

so, what, they just left their bodies lying all over the ground?
posted by sexyrobot at 4:33 AM on June 30, 2008


Neat story. Of course we know better these days.
posted by stbalbach at 5:59 AM on June 30, 2008


I am using Aristotle's complete Poetics as the home base for my dancing Wall•E figure.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:20 AM on June 30, 2008


Another sad case of being done in by paintbrushes.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:25 AM on June 30, 2008


WPW: "monks who wrote Biblical texts and other religious materials may have been exposed to toxic mercury, which was used to formulate just one of their ink colors: red."

Well, maybe if Jesus "chatterbox" Christ didn't blather on so much, those monks wouldn't have gotten so sick.

Hey, God, I've got an eleventh commandment for you: Thou shalt not highlight thine words in an attention-whorish crimson, lest ye poison thy scribes with deadly quicksilver.

Jerk.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:53 PM on June 30, 2008


Calomel--mercurous chloride--was regularly given as medicine as late as the 19th century. It is reasonable to expect that the monks may have been given it as a purgative. It also would have been used in white pigment.
posted by rdone at 4:24 PM on June 30, 2008


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