Jump to main content
Jump to site search
Access to RSC content Close the message box

Continue to access RSC content when you are not at your institution. Follow our step-by-step guide.

Issue 6, 2004
Previous Article Next Article

The natural constituents of historical textile dyes

Author affiliations


The sources and structures of dyes used to colour Western historical textiles are described in this tutorial review. Most blue and purple colours were derived from indigo—obtained either from woad or from the indigo plant—though some other sources (e.g. shellfish and lichens) were used. Reds were often anthraquinone derivatives obtained from plants or insects. Yellows were almost always flavonoid derivatives obtained from a variety of plant species. Most other colours were produced by over-dyeing—e.g. greens were obtained by over-dyeing a blue with a yellow dye. Direct analysis of dyes isolated from artefacts allows comparison with the historical record.

Graphical abstract: The natural constituents of historical textile dyes

Back to tab navigation

Article information

05 Feb 2004
First published
05 Jul 2004

Chem. Soc. Rev., 2004,33, 329-336
Article type
Tutorial Review

The natural constituents of historical textile dyes

E. S. B. Ferreira, A. N. Hulme, H. McNab and A. Quye, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2004, 33, 329
DOI: 10.1039/B305697J

Social activity

Search articles by author