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The Poison Book Project:

Toxic Heavy Metals in Mass-Produced 19th-C. Euro-American Bookbinding


Dr. Melissa Tedone will discuss the discovery of arsenic in Victorian-era bookcloth and how this discovery influences our understanding of Euro-American bookbinding materials and manufacture. The Poison Book Project investigates the use of toxic heavy metals (including arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury) in mass-produced 19th-century books. Come learn how and why toxic compounds were used in bookbinding and how the Poison Book Project is using crowd-sourced data to enhance our understanding of this aspect of book history. Melissa will also share how to identify potentially ‘poison books,’ tips for safer handling, and how interested bibliophiles can contribute to this research.

Missed the Lecture? No problem, you can access a recording of the lecture.

About the Speaker

Dr. Melissa Tedone (she/her) is Conservator and Lab Head for Library Materials Conservation at Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, and Affiliated Associate Professor in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).

At Winterthur, Melissa cares for books in the museum collection and all materials in the library’s collections, including printed books and periodicals, manuscripts, ephemera, photographic materials, and machine-readable media.  As WUDPAC Affiliated Associate Professor, she teaches the first-year Library Materials Block and supervises Library & Archives Conservation Education (LACE) Fellows in their second and third years.

Melissa is the lead conservator of the Poison Book Project, an investigation of toxic colorants in nineteenth-century Victorian bookcloth, and a founding co-chair of the Bibliotoxicology Working Group. “BibTox” is an international cohort of conservators, conservation scientists, librarians, and health and safety professionals who are developing best practices for the identification and management of historical bookbinding collections with potentially toxic components.

In addition to AIC, Melissa belongs to the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers (GBW), the Philadelphia Area Conservation Association (PACA), and the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP).


  • November 18, 2023 11:00 am - 12:15 pm
  • 11:00 am - 12:15 pm