chapter  8
Inside the vat: the hunt for the dyestuff
Pages 9

THERE WAS more money to be made if more dyestuff could be extracted from what was discovered to be an increasingly complicated root. Chemists rushed to analyse the root, attacking different aspects of its composition. The incompliant roots were all slightly different. Research results were also slightly different. The process is still going on. Helmut Schweppe, the modern chemist, has got furthest with his uncompleted analysis of 25 colour components in madder (see Glossary-hydranthraquinones). The Russians, driven by the textile magnates who saw huge increased profits, were rightly curious and assembled all the existing knowledge about the composition of the root. The root contents varied considerably according to Dr John, or to Dr Buchholz (in brackets). After correct drying, the root contained:

43% (22.5%) wood fibre

20% (39.9%) readily extractable red dyestuff

dark-coloured glue

5% oxide of dyestuff

3% (1.2%) tar-based red dyestuff

1% (1.9%) dark-coloured waxy substance (soluble in hot spirit)

8% potassium and lime, ? potassium carbonate

7.5% phosphorus lime and magnesium, ? magnesium phosphoric carbonate

2% phosphorus and sulphuric acid and potassium, ? potassium phosphoric sulphate

1.5% ferric oxide

0.5% silica

Kuhlmann had also made another differing analysis. To Shtorkh this confirmed continuing uncertainty. This was either caused by inaccurate analysis or by a variety or combination of differences in the samples of root: their age, origin, soil composition and treatment and the subspecies of plant. Even from a single root, the thickness of root, skin and amount of skin analysed was not constant.