My fifth book, Fabric, was published by Profile Books in hardback in November 2021, and in paperback a year later. In the US it is published by Pegasus. It took more than five years to write and finish. By the end I was slightly exhausted but really happy. I haven’t yet worked out how many countries I visited, but it includes Papua New Guinea, France, India, China, Scotland, Guatemala, the USA, Norway, Italy and Spain. Oh, and Thailand, where I was visiting the library in Bangkok’s wonderful Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in the King’s Palace when suddenly everything went quiet and I realised I was the only reader there. I read rapidly for the last hour until the end of the day, but then I was sneaked out, running through various back corridors in the labyrinth of public and private royal buildings, and through a tiny door and out into a rainstorm. I was told as I ran that other visitors had left early to make space for an unscheduled royal visit, but that I’d looked so settled and intense in my reading about fabrics that they’d let me alone, and just asked somebody to mind me until I was done, and then let me out of a secret gate.
My fourth book A Brilliant History of Color in Art came out in November 2014. It was published by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and writing it included the extraordinary privilege of living in Getty scholars accommodation for five weeks and going every day up the hill to the museum and its amazing attached library the Getty Research Institute. It was intended as a book for teenagers, but also for adults. I worked out the structure after primary school students in Yorkshire wrote to me asking about the history of colours. They sent 20 questions and I answered most of them, and when they sent a thank you they suggested I write a book about paints for children. When it was published I went up to give a special talk to the class that inspired me. It has plenty of fantastic illustrations, many from the Getty itself.
The third book – and if somebody had a bet with me 10 years ago that this would be the title of my third book, I’d have lost some money – was Faith in Conservation. I wrote it with my husband, Martin Palmer, and it was published by the World Bank in 2003. They said it was one of their best sellers. The first five chapters are mostly his stories, and some of my own (e.g. the bedbugs were mine), about starting this work with HRH Prince Philip, and how religions can really have a huge impact on environment work. You can buy the original from amazon, or you can download the pdf free of charge.
Jewels was my second book. I went to 14 countries, including: Cleopatra’s (almost) lost emerald mines in the middle of Egypt’s desert; Burma’s ruby mines; the biggest amber mining town in Russia, which once was a gulag; the Australian outback for opals… even as I type this I’m caught up in nostalgia for those journeys, and the people I met.
Colour (in the US, Color) was my first book, published in 2002. The first journey, to Chile, was made in 1999 when I was helping friends with a documentary on Pablo Neruda and I just happened to bump, in the metro, into the man whose father had helped bring cochineal to Chile from Peru. This isn’t what started the book (that happened when I was eight, in a cathedral in France), but it is the coincidence that kicked me to actually write it rather than talk about it. It involved 17 journeys to places like Afghanistan, Iran and Mexico, as well as thousands of hours in libraries around the world. My favourite one in memory is the Calcutta library with the fans lazily drifting above, and the smell of old paper and warm grass. My favourite one in reality is the British Library. My husband says he is glad they close it at night, otherwise I would live there.
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Just finished reading Colour — Thank you soooooo much Victoria. I had such a wonderful time thru the paintbox. Now to find a copy of Jewels.
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Have read Color and Jewels which I found fascinating! Have you ever considered writing one on the history of spices? 🙂
I was given Colour years ago, and still venture into chasms for some textured wonder. Have just bought a copy for my sister in law.
What a fabulous book Colour is. I am envious of the travelling you undertook to complete the book and cannot wait to read your other boks.
Thats got to Be Lightning Ridge as your heading photo – haha- just looking for your book “color” and came upon one of my home places!
All the best!
enjoyed color! Look forward to your upcoming color in art book – keep me posted!
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I am reading Color for the 2nd time. As an artist, I feel like I’m walking through a painting in my mind. I savor each page, and make myself read slowly…I don’t want it to end.
This would make a fantastic documentary! Please!!!
We are in the process of reading Fabric aloud to each other. Fascinating how you build fibers into your prose. Metaphor and narrative are so blended. We are so enjoying traveling with you!
Hi Jennifer. I’ve just seen this – and what a lovely thing to do, read Fabric to each other. I feel honoured! Thank you for travelling with me, and most of all thank you for telling me!