Persian recipes: dyeing paper
An intricate mixing and dosing of organic dyes created a profusion of attractive colours. Yellows were obtained with saffron and turmeric; reds with kermes insects, madder roots, wood of trees like brazilwood and safflower petals. Indigo yielded blues whilst henna, with its antiseptic properties, was used to protect paper and add a warm tone to it. Minerals pigments such as verdigris, orpiment and white lead were also used, as well as other additives such as the juice of pomegranate or lemon.
Historical sources from the Timurid, the Safawid and the Qajar eras (15th to 19th century) reveal that books were generally made with dyed paper. Beyond its aesthetic appeal dyed paper was considered beneficial to the eyesight whilst white paper was deemed harmful.
In his famous treatise Golzār-e Ṣafā (16th century CE) Ṣeyrafī, a renowned expert of the Safawid period, writes:
'Dyed paper is better, for white surely harms the eyesight a hundred times; it is not favourable to hurt the eyes, to refrain from writing on uncoloured paper is wise. First, dye the paper to beauty, so that your hand and eyes remain fine; since I expect you to scale great heights in this art, I provided this short text for your sake.'
In his treatise Ṣerāt al-Ṣoṭur (1514 CE) Soltān Ali Mašhadi writes about the relation between the colour of the paper and the ink:
'Colours like red, yellow and white strike the eyes as if staring at the sun. For calligraphy, temperate colours shall be used because they relax the eyes. Coloured lines are good on dark paper. Write on red paper with white colour to make your writing elegant. On blue paper, writing with white is pleasant.'