The Ten Books on Architecture, 7.11

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

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Blue. Burnt Ochre.

11Methods of making blue were first discovered in Alexandria, and afterwards Vestorius set up the making of it at Puzzuoli. The method of obtaining it from the substances of which it has been found to consist, is strange enough. Sand and the flowers of natron are brayed together so finely that the product is like meal, and copper is grated by means of coarse files over the mixture, like sawdust, to form a conglomerate. Then it is made into balls by rolling it in the hands and thus bound together for drying. The dry balls are put in an earthern jar, and the jars in an oven. As soon as the copper and the sand grow hot and unite under the intensity of the fire, they mutually receive each other’s sweat, relinquishing their peculiar qualities, and having lost their properties through the intensity of the fire, they are reduced to a blue colour.

2Burnt ochre, which is very serviceable in stucco work, is made as follows. A clod of good yellow ochre is heated to a glow on a fire. It is then quenched in vinegar, and the result is a purple colour.

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